Stephen Wise

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Some call it communism, I call it Judaism. Stephen Wise, 1942.
Stephen Samuel Wise

Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise (March 17, 1874 - April 19, 1949), commonly known as the "Red Rabbi", was a major Jewish leader in the United States from the 1910s-1940s.


Stephen Wise was born in Budapest, Hungary. His father and grandfather were both rabbis. His maternal grandfather, Móric Farkasházi-Fischer, established the porcelain factory in Herend, Hungary, and provided the money for the ticket to New York to Stephen Wise's father, Aaron Wise.

Stephen Wise emigrated to the United States in the first wave of the "Ostjuden", in 1882.


By the outbreak of the First World War, Wise was a major player within organized Jewry in the United States. As a member of President Wilson's inner-circle ("brain trust"), he helped to originate the Zionist Balfour Declaration, which layed the groundwork for the establishment of Israel. In 1918 and 1919, Wise was at Versailles as a member of the Zionist Delegation. In 1922 he founded the "Jewish Institute of Religion" in New York, which became the leading pro-Zionist rabbi-school in the USA.

Wise's most prominent position was holding the office of president of the World Jewish Congress from 1936 until his death in 1949.

Friend of the Soviet Union

The nickname "The Red Rabbi" was given to Wise for his strong support for the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s.

Anti-German rally at Madison Square Garden in New York, March 15, 1937. "Speakers were, among others, New-York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, John L. Lewis, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (Leader of the American Jewish Congress)"[1]

Boycotting Germany and Pushing for War

Stephen Wise was one of the originators of the bold 1933 worldwide Jewish boycott of National-Socialist Germany (See Judea Declares War on Germany). He was a close friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

From position as one of American-Jewry's principal leaders and spokesmen, he constantly urged Roosevelt towards confrontation with Germany, and agitated for war[2]. He also pressed Roosevelt to apply severe punishments to Germany after the war.

Influence and Legacy

Stephen S. Wise has been called the "Father of Zionism in America", and is described as "the most influential American Jew of his time."[3] Roosevelt once referred to Wise, Samuel Rosenman, and Nahum Goldman, collectively as "the Three Wise Men of Zion"[4]. He spent 40 years advocating for Jewish advancement, helped push for war with Germany, and as a leading world Zionist successfully helped establish Israel.


  • "Some call it Communism; I call it Judaism." (--"Red Rabbi" Stephen Wise, when asked in 1935 by a reporter to comment on Communism).


  1. Norman H. Finkelstein: American Jewish History, Jewish Publication Society, 2007; page 122; Google Books
  2. David Korn: Who is Who in Jewry? (ISBN 3-924309-63-9), entry on Wise.
  3. David Korn: Who is Who in Jewry? (ISBN 3-924309-63-9), entry on Wise.
  4. My Life - USA, Europe, Israel by Nahum Goldman (Munich, 1981), pg. 66-67

See also