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Timeline: Life of Isaac Mayer Wise


Hebrew Union College Reports
Contributions to Books
Contributions to Periodicals
Selected Writings on Wise


Series I: CORRESPONDENCE (1847-1900)
Consisting of 504 items, the correspondence documents and highlights the life and work of Isaac Mayer Wise. No correspondence was located from the years before his arrival in the United States in 1846; thus, glimpses of Wise's early life are confined to a very few of his writings. However, this collection does provide a revealing composite of the man, his ideologies, his relationships with family, friends, colleagues, and opponents, and the accomplishments of a lifetime's work.

Wise corresponded in both English and German. Rough transcriptions are included with the English letters. A few of the German letters are translated (his correspondence with Selma Bondi Wise and Adolph Heubsch), but the majority of Wise's handwritten German letters are only available as a scanned image without translation or transcription.
The rough transcriptions indicate with [illigible] when certain words are questionable or unreadable and [Hebrew] or [Yiddish] when words are not translated. In these cases, the researcher should refer to the image of the original handwritten letter.

Original letters were scanned when available. For the remainder of the correspondence scans were taken from the microfilm edition.

This series contains 238 items, authored by Wise that document the history of Hebrew Union College during his twenty-five year tenure as President.

Issued monthly and annually, these reports detail the growth and activities of the College, its faculty and students; the development and month-by-month progress of academic programs; and events ranging from the mundane to milestones of the College's early history. The series also includes Wise's announcements to prospective students and speeches he delivered at special occasions, notably the opening of college sessions and several graduation and ordination ceremonies.

In format, these items are taken from the publication Union of American Hebrew Congregations Proceedings.

Of the vast amount of Wise's literary output, very little remains extant in manuscript form. Thus, this series consists of only seven items. Two are short commentaries and one is a lecture, all prepared for publication in Wise's newspaper The American Israelite. Three others are long essays on theological topics, perhaps based upon sermons and intended as book chapters. The largest amount of manuscript material is a collection of miscellaneous theological notes in English and Hebrew.

Most of the manuscripts are undated. Because works were originally untitled, items in this series have been given descriptive headings. Three of the manuscript items are currently included in the digital edition; more will be added over time.

This series consists of 16 items, primarily sermons and lectures delivered by Wise during the last twenty-five years of his life and published as his contributions to a number of monographic collections.

The majority of these pieces were included in three works: American Jewish Pulpit (1881), Judaism at the World's Parliament of Religions (1894), and Sermons by American Rabbis (1896). Other writings include a biography of Wise's close colleague Adolph Huebsch published in a memorial volume; Wise's address delivered at the installation of former student David Philipson as rabbi of Cincinnati's Bene Israel congregation; and a biting critique of noted Darwinian, Col. Robert Ingersoll.

During his life time, Wise wrote 35 books, ranging in length from a few leaves to more than 500 pages. A wide variety of material is represented: novels and plays first published in his newspapers and reprinted in volume form; individual and collected essays and speeches; lecture series; religious treatises and handbooks; prayerbooks; histories; and reminiscences.

Currently, 19 monographs are included in this digital edition; more will be added over time.

This series contains articles, primarily on theological subjects, written by Wise and printed in serial publications other than his own newspapers.

The majority of these writings fall within the period 1847-1854, when Wise contributed numerous articles to Isaac Leeser's journal The Occident and held the position of editor of the Theological and Philosophical Department of Robert Lyon's weekly, The Asmonean. During this early period, a number of his writings also appeared in the important German-Jewish periodical Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums.

From 1855 to 1900, when Wise's newspapers conveyed his theological, social, and political opinions, his contributions to other serials were sporadic, finding publication in The Menorah, Hamagid, Jeschurun, Hebrew Review, The H. U. C. Journal, The American Jews' Annual, and the Year Book of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Currently, 105 articles are available in this digital edition, mostly from the The Occident and The Asmonean . More will be added over time.

Between 1854 and 1900, Isaac Mayer Wise edited two weekly newspapers. The American Israelite (called The Israelite from July 1854 to June 1874) and the German-language Die Deborah. While he was always denoted editor on the masthead of these publications, Wise's frequent travels throughout the country and the increasing organizational responsibilities he undertook during his later years required the delegation of some editorial authority to his son and frequent publisher, Leo Wise. In addition Wise was aided during several early periods by associate, assistant, or junior editors, among them Max Lilienthal and H. M. Moos.

With The American Israelite his chief exponent, Wise spent less time and personal attention on Die Deborah, a paper smaller in both size and scope. This digital edition of the Isaac Mayer Wise Papers provides access to the editorials from The Israelite/The American Israelite (1854-1900). These give a broad view of the development of Wise's philosophies and concerns. He increasingly devoted his greatest energies to the editorial segments of his newspapers and relied upon outside contributions, advertisements, and "fillers" for the remainder of each issue.

Editorial writings were usually located on the fourth page of The Israelite/The American Israelite. This series therefore consists of those pages and any other containing editorial matter. Because Wise signed very few of his editorials and because his associates also contributed pieces, usually signed, to those pages, the researcher should be aware that not every page included in this digital edition was solely under Wise's authorship. However, it is reasonable to assume that the editorial pages do reflect his general opinions on the subject discussed.

The photograph series currently contains 16 images of Wise that show him from ca. 1855 until shortly before his death in 1900.

Series consists of the selected secondary works by scholars about Isaac Mayer Wise.