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date: 21 August 2017

Stephen Wise and Americanism

Summary and Keywords

Over the first half of the 20th century, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (1874–1949) devoted himself to solving the most controversial social and political problems of his day: corruption in municipal politics, abuse of industrial workers, women’s second-class citizenship, nativism and racism, and global war. He considered his activities an effort to define “Americanism” and apply its principles toward humanity’s improvement. On the one hand, Wise joined a long tradition of American Christian liberals committed to seeing their fellow citizens as their equals and to grounding this egalitarianism in their religious beliefs. On the other hand, he was in the vanguard of the Jewish Reform, or what he referred to as the Liberal Judaism movement, with its commitment to apply Jewish moral teachings to improve the world. His life’s work demonstrated that the two—liberal democracy and Liberal Judaism—went hand in hand. And while concerned with equality and justice, Wise’s Americanism had a democratic elitist character. His advocacy to engage the public on the meaning of citizenship and the role of the state relied on his own Jewish, male, and economically privileged perspective as well as those of an elite circle of political and business leaders, intellectual trendsetters, social scientists, philanthropists, labor leaders, and university faculty. In doing so, Wise drew upon on Jewish liberal teachings, transformed America’s liberal tradition, and helped to remake American’s national understanding of itself.

Keywords: Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, Americanism, women’s rights, Liberal Judaism, municipal reform, labor, capitalism, U.S. foreign policy, democracy, liberalism

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and Americanism

“Americanism” is an idea, fiercely debated since the nation’s founding, about what makes the United States political system distinct. At the heart of the debate are conflicting principles upon which the founders based their new nation: individual liberty in tension with state responsibilities; the prosperity of free citizens dependent on those not free; the law as a force equalizing all citizens and the reality of white male privilege. The struggle to reconcile these traditions shaped subsequent political battles over America’s identity.

In the 20th century, liberal reformers—from progressives of different political parties to New Deal Democrats—sought to define Americanism by striking a series of balances: between individual autonomy and social responsibility, between personal wealth and social equality, between racial hierarchy and religious and cultural diversity. Their optimistic belief that legitimate government actions came about by consent rather than coercion fostered a commitment to pragmatism, deliberation, and constructive criticism. Equality was fundamental; liberty and justice for all came through shaping laws and political institutions.

By the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Jewish Americans had a particular stake in this version of Americanism. Jews were present from the nation’s conception, but waves of Jewish immigrants began arriving from Central Europe in the early to mid-19th century and from southern and Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, causing alarm and rising anti-Semitism. While immigrants from German and Ottoman lands tended to come with an education and financial resources and quickly established professional careers, most arriving from southern and Eastern Europe did not. They crowded into urban tenements, keeping their traditional clothing and religious—often Orthodox—rituals. To those outside their community, they appeared insular and clannish. Nativists charged that the nation could not or should not absorb Jewish religious and ethnic difference.

With an inclusive view of Americanism, liberals disagreed. Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (1874–1949) was the most politically active and nationally prominent Jewish American among them. On the one hand, Wise joined a long tradition of American Christian liberals committed to seeing their fellow citizens as their equals and to grounding this egalitarianism in their religious beliefs. On the other hand, he was in the vanguard of the Jewish Reform, or what he referred to as the Liberal Judaism movement, with its commitment to apply Jewish moral teachings to improve the world. His life’s work demonstrated that the two—liberal democracy and Liberal Judaism—went hand in hand.

To Wise, America had always been a “democracy in the making.” But at the turn of the 20th century, modern forms of capitalism, political corruption, immigration and migration, and international instability presented new challenges. In response, Wise advocated for social and political policies rooted in the moral principles of freedom and self-determination and educated the public about the value of tolerance and justice as checks on democracy. His formula—liberal democracy infused with Liberal Judaism’s moral teachings—promised an Americanism based on equality and justice. By diagnosing the nation’s problems and prescribing solutions developed on such a basis, Wise established an indispensable place for Jewish citizens in the nation.

Liberal Judaism and Americanism

In 1892, at the age of eighteen, Wise headed from his home in New York City to Vienna to study with the great Rabbi Adolf Jellinek, widely known for examining Europe’s current-day problems through a Jewish lens. Jellinek was part of a Reform movement of rabbis in Europe who were influenced by the Enlightenment, the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of the nation state, and who understood the Torah as man’s creation (rather than God’s) and Judaism as a religion (rather than Jews as members of a nation). From Jellinek, Wise adopted a commitment to blend his interpretation of scripture with larger social concerns to frame a moral path for his congregation as well as the larger community, the nation, and the world.

Returning to the United States, Wise worked to make the moral teachings of Judaism relevant to Americans. Like other rabbis in the Reform tradition, he decentralized religious ritual and focused on the Jewish prophetic tradition that applied social justice and a vision of righteousness to life in the modern day. What made Wise’s brand of Reform Judaism, or what he called Liberal Judaism, different from most others in the Reform tradition was his early allegiance to Zionism and commitment to the unity of the Jewish people. Another sign of his maverick leadership was his rabbinical training with Jellinek in Vienna rather than in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the Hebrew Union College, where most American Reform rabbis received training. In Cincinnati, teachers and students closely followed Reform principles formalized in the Pittsburgh platform, created in November 1885 when Rabbi Kaufmann Kohler gathered nineteen liberal rabbis to articulate the movement’s principles. Wise maintained a dialogue with Reform Jewish leaders throughout his life, but responded to the voluntary nature of religious community in the United States and its lack of a unified rabbinical authority. As rabbi of Beth Israel in Portland, Oregon, from 1900 to 1906 and of the Free Synagogue in New York City from 1907 until his death in 1949, Wise used his pulpit as a platform to interpret America’s promise through a Jewish lens and forge his own brand of Liberal Judaism.

Wise championed his application of Liberal Judaism’s moral teachings to politics in order to elevate humanity. America, he argued, needed a civic religion. Just as social scientists were establishing themselves as public authorities based on their study of democracy and new forms of capitalism, Wise asserted his authority as an interpreter of God’s will. “Religion,” he explained, “is a vision or ideal of life. Politics is a method, or Modus vivendi.”1

If religion and politics were two sides of the same coin, so were Liberal Judaism and Wise’s vision of Americanism. Both were based on the concept of self-determination. The fully evolved, self-reliant citizen was the ideal American, and the full expression of liberal Jewish aspirations.2 When all citizens are free to discuss and debate and act on science, reason, and morality, Wise believed, then American democracy would express humanity’s truths. In this way, Americanism was a nationalist endeavor, but it also was an international and eternal aspiration and ideal.

Civic Morality versus Political Corruption

In both Portland and New York, Wise translated the moral teachings of Liberal Judaism into civic action by confronting civic and statewide corruption. Making “a religion of patriotism,” Wise infused moral insights and meaning into his political advocacy work. For him, at stake was the “hope,” “vision,” and “ideal” of the nation. He believed it was essential to “think of Americanism and religion as interchangeable terms.” Only then would citizens treat American institutions as “sacred” and end corruption within city and state government. He aligned his cause with social gospel Christians, who shared a commitment to morality and good government and represented, to Wise, an extension of Judaism’s prophetic tradition.3

In Portland, Wise’s speeches, sermons, and activities turned to overtly political topics that addressed the changing relationship between democracy and capitalism. Newspaper editors criticized Wise’s attention to public problems, but the rabbi argued that his leadership was most needed in the political sphere, where moral questions burned the brightest. He used his pulpit to bemoan gambling and prostitution and criticized local politics for only serving the interests of the business class. Drawing upon 19th-century values that held producers of wealth in high esteem, Wise attacked gambling, liquor, and prostitution interests and characterized them as leeching off an otherwise successful and prosperous city. He saw his efforts as needed to free Portland’s citizens from a depraved political economy.

Returning to New York in 1907, Wise found that American principles of democracy and self-determination proved hollow under Tammany Hall rule. The Democratic political machine dominated New York City politics as early as 1854 and lasted through Fiorello La Guardia’s mayoral victory in 1934. Its immigrant supporters ignored the organization’s corrupt practices because its foot soldiers provided newcomers jobs, relief, and help navigating the red tape that covered their new world. Wise’s intervention put him at odds with those who benefited from Tammany’s practices, showing one way his democratic crusade sometimes ignored the will of those he sought to affect.

He first confronted Tammany in 1908. That year, the Tammany-backed candidate, George Brinton McClellan Jr., unseated reform mayor Seth Low. Worse still for opponents of corruption, former Tammany leader Richard Croker, whom reformers pushed out of office in the 1890s, planned a comeback. On December 1, 1908, to Wise’s chagrin, leaders of the city’s Democratic party organized a dinner in Croker’s honor. Most of the city’s office holders, about a dozen New York Supreme Court judges, and District Attorney William Travers Jerome attended. In response, Wise, speaking to members of the Ethical Social League, referred to the dinner as “New York’s night of shame” and berated the diners for their part in sullying the city’s reputation. The New York Times, Life, the Chicago Tribune, The Outlook, and the Mirror and Express reported, reprinted, and applauded Wise’s words. The effect was to thwart Croker rule.4

In July 1912, Wise succeeded in getting a “Vigilance Committee of unterrifiable citizens” to investigate police corruption in response to the murder of gambler Herman Rosenthal.5 Rosenthal did not pay his protection money to the police and then exposed the police racket to the press. In response, gunmen shot down Rosenthal outside a restaurant as uniformed officers stood on the street, nearby. After the World published the story and Rosenthal’s statement, Wise’s Citizen’s Committee exposed the racket and supported District Attorney Charles S. Whitman who, consequently, won convictions in cases of police corruption. Crooked cops, Wise believed, diminished democracy by violating public trust.

Wise also worked to elect “honorable” candidates who shared his values. The result was mixed when it came to political talent. Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, for example, defeated the Tammany candidate but was unable to rid the city of Tammany influence. Governor Martin H. Glynn prevailed, with Wise’s support, over Tammany candidate William Sulzer, but also proved lackluster once in office. Wise believed Americanism required political leaders of strong moral character, but strong moral characters did not always make the best politicians.

Beginning in 1930, municipal corruption moved back into Wise’s crosshairs. Representing a City Affairs Committee, which he had organized with John Haynes Holmes and Paul Blanshard, Wise, with Holmes, visited Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and handed him a petition demanding he remove Mayor John J. Walker from office. The committee accused Walker of overseeing bribery, corruption, and the appointment of unqualified people to the Department of Health and Hospitals, the Department of Licenses, and the Board of Standards and Appeals. They claimed that corrupt city officials cheated unemployed people out of their full benefits and that police required certain women to pay protection money to avoid prostitution charges. In other words, in the minds of committee members, Walker pulled the strings of a machine that defrauded the city’s citizens. Roosevelt resented Wise and Holmes going public with their accusations in a clear attempt to force his hand. The governor needed Tammany’s support at the 1932 Democratic National Convention and believed that Wise and Holmes harmed his chances as well as behaved inappropriately.

In May 1932, Judge Samuel Seabury found direct evidence of Walker’s corruption, but Roosevelt still did not remove him. In spite of Seabury confronting Roosevelt with his evidence and Wise and Holmes stumping from their pulpits for Walker’s removal, Roosevelt refused to break with Tammany. In June 1932, Roosevelt did present Walker with Seabury’s charges and, two months later, personally questioned Walker. Still, Roosevelt balked at taking action. On September 1, 1932, Walker finally resigned from office, and two months later Roosevelt won the presidency. For another four years, however, Wise and the new head of state stewed in their anger toward each other. During that time, their different ideas about Americanism, one infused with Liberal Judaism’s moral teachings and the other a blend of liberalism and realpolitik, persisted.

Democracy and Industrial Capitalism

Wise viewed modern industrial capitalism as a potential threat to America’s democratic culture and spirit. At the heart of the matter was the permanence and prevalence of wage work, which spread at the expense of independent, self-employed male producers. If America’s political democracy relied on the economic independence of men (and women after they won the right to vote in 1920), then the economic realities that turned a sector of self-reliant producers into dependent and vulnerable wage earners did not bode well for the nation’s political health.

Wise’s introduction to capitalism’s excesses came in Portland, where he observed child labor. There, he helped secure passage of a new child labor law and won the attention of Oregon’s governor, George E. Chamberlain, who appointed Wise to a new Board of Inspectors of Child Labor. He also served on the newly formed National Child Labor Committee, a space in public life for intellectuals, social scientists, and moralists to articulate their vision of a more just society.

On March 25, 1911, a blaze consumed the eighth and ninth floors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, and within eighteen minutes, killed 146 people locked inside. The scene of the burning building, animated by women leaping to their untimely death, filled the front page of newspapers across the nation. In response, Wise joined with union leaders and labor reformers and demanded justice for deceased workers’ families. He berated employers who valued their industrial possessions and wealth above human life and characterized their actions as un-American. To prevent a reoccurrence, Wise joined the New York Factory Investigating Commission (FIC), a legislative body established to regulate workplace conditions.

In Wise’s view, Americanism required morality to guide capitalist practices. At the 143rd annual banquet of the New York Chamber of Commerce in 1911, in a speech to the president of the United States, the king of England, New York State’s governor, senators, New York City’s mayor, and the nation’s most powerful businessmen, Wise defined democracy in tension with self-interest, greed, and profit making. Appealing to the nation’s most powerful men of business, Wise implored them to act in a manly spirit of self-restraint and republicanism for the greater good. For Wise’s vision of Americanism to prevail, selfish business practices would have to end.

From 1912 through 1913, Wise served as a labor mediator in Pennsylvania silk mills and found degrading jobs that paid too little to cover basic necessities. He observed that employers conceded nothing until workers went on strike. Employers were organized, but without unions workers were “indeed helpless.”6 A national commitment to collective bargaining, Wise argued, promoted self-determination and American democracy.

In 1912, Wise called together the editor of The Survey, Paul Kellogg, with reformers Florence Kelley, Lillian Wald, Jane Addams and Samuel McCune Lindsay, to ask President William Howard Taft to establish a Commission on Industrial Relations. Taft agreed to do so, but his appointments were political and lacked representatives from the social sciences and advocates for the public interest. In response, Wise and his allies convinced senators to defeat the commission and start again, this time more successfully, under President Woodrow Wilson. Wise praised the commission’s chair, Frank Walsh of Kansas City, and the commission’s final report, which represented a serious attempt by the federal government to understand the “facts” of industrial relations.7 Deliberative study and objective results, Wise believed, unleashed truths able to be transformed into law and practice.

During World War I, Wise advocated for “industrial democracy” and federal policies to protect workers’ rights, and in 1919, ran afoul of the steel industry when its leaders made a unilateral decision to reverse wartime labor protections. The move, Wise argued, was a retreat in the battle for democracy at work. Wise offered his services to Samuel Gompers, leader of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and labor radical William Z. Foster, who were organizing the steel industry. He also followed press coverage that described the growing tension in the industry, hoping that President Wilson’s Presidential Industrial Conference would resolve the matter. When it did not, in 1919, the Great Steel Strike inspired over 250,000 workers from Colorado to New York to demand that steel’s corporate leaders provide better conditions, higher wages, shorter hours, and, most importantly, thought Wise, union recognition.

U.S. Steel president Judge Elbert Gary publicly berated striking steel workers and blamed their actions on communist agitators. In response, Wise raised money for the strikers. He also spoke throughout the country to galvanize support for the steel workers and their right to collective bargaining. On October 19, 1919, he delivered a sermon to his congregation at Carnegie Hall, reported in newspapers across the country, charging Gary with single-handedly annulling wartime government-supported standards and thereby “undo[ing] the work of the war as far as human gains were concerned.”8 Gary claimed that his workers were uninterested in unions, but Wise disagreed and accused Gary’s oppressive actions of silencing the independent voices of otherwise free men.

In the 1920s, Wise supported the labor rights of mine and textile workers. In the face of class warfare in and around Matewan, West Virginia, leaders of the West Virginia Miners Relief Committee sought Wise’s help. He sent money and organized a commission to visit the region and report on conditions. In 1926 in Passaic, New Jersey, Wise’s daughter, Justine, spent four months working in different mills in the region, speaking with fellow workers and inquiring about their living conditions, pay, and family life. She shared her findings with Wise, who was particularly rattled to learn that employers used spies and ethnic differences to keep workers divided. Once the region’s mill workers went on strike, Wise supported strike and labor leaders, addressed strikers, mobilized support for their cause, and urged friends in the United States Senate to intervene. Unjust laws, he argued, prevented workers from protecting themselves.

Through these experiences, Wise became committed to industrial unionism as a necessity to protect basic “rights as Americans.” He was an avid supporter of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) as an agent to rid “un-American thinking and action in every area of life of our country.”9 Addressing the CIO national convention in 1946, Wise celebrated the federation as a force against racism and a bulwark against democracy’s economic, social, and political advancements. When Congress considered the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, Wise was a vocal opponent.

Women and the State

Early in the 20th century, the ultimate expression of American manhood was found in the economically and politically free citizen. Women did not have such liberties. State and federal laws often treated them as inherently dependent. Progressive reform and labor activism widened women’s political influence, but until women could vote, the question of women’s freedom was hotly contested. Should women be treated as equals before the law or were they sufficiently different from men, requiring protection and special treatment? Wise straddled this debate, exposing tensions relating to gender in his understanding of Americanism.

In 1907, as leader of New York City’s Free Synagogue, Wise threw himself into activities related to women’s place in the polity that emphasized their dependence and difference. In addition to child labor and safety reform in the wake of the Triangle fire, he worked on the Illinois Commission on Marriage and Divorce to establish a campaign in New York to protect “innocent women” from “fraudulent divorces.”10 He supported reformers in Illinois and Massachusetts who advocated for a mothers’ pension. He committed himself to protective labor legislation and pleaded with President Taft on Florence Kelley’s behalf regarding the appointment of a federal judge unfriendly to labor reform. He called for women to serve as probation officers, police, and judges in order to rule on cases involving women. Women, he believed, had the ability to ameliorate the special ways in which the system disempowered their own.11

Wise viewed women’s suffrage in New York State and nationally as essential to American values of equality, liberty, and freedom. He used his base in New York City as a member of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage and ally of the National American Woman Suffrage Association to share the righteousness of equal suffrage—with wealthy members of his uptown congregation as well as immigrant, working-class members of his downtown Free Synagogue. He spoke to civic, religious, and community groups throughout the state and the nation. His national profile drew media attention when he walked in the New York suffrage parade, argued for women’s right to vote at mass meetings, and offered interviews on his activism. Wise shared podiums on behalf of suffrage with trade union leaders, governors, women suffragists, and progressive reformers. His personal access to male political and religious leaders served the movement.

On the state and national level, Wise communicated regularly with New York’s governor and then President Woodrow Wilson, and convinced the Eastern Council of Reform Rabbis to go on record in support of the New York state suffrage amendment. He took the temperature of leading men on the question of supporting English suffragettes and advised women leaders on strategy. He worked to win the hearts and minds of leaders as well as the masses throughout the state. When he spoke across the nation on behalf of the movement, journalists (both among the Jewish and the mainstream press) reported on his activities and kept his arguments alive.

When it came to women’s right to vote, Wise’s strong advocacy revealed his ambivalence regarding women’s nature. One the one hand, he argued, women were more moral than men. Their different quality, he asserted, would aid the nation against modern challenges brought by capitalism and industry. On the other hand, he argued for the vote as an equalizer and a vehicle for women’s future freedom. Unless men allowed women to vote and become fully self-determining, American democracy would be exposed as a lie.

In the 1920s, Wise expressed concerns with the morality of the “new woman” and changing ideas regarding marriage. He exposed his Victorian hand when it came to flappers’ inclination to smoke, drink, dance, and dress in new provocative ways. To him, young women were lowering themselves to men’s degraded level rather than serving as a redeeming force for good. In a public debate with Judge Benjamin Lindsey of Denver’s children’s court, Wise took umbrage with Lindsey’s Companionate Marriage, which suggested trial marriages that couples might end before fully committing to one another and producing children. To Wise, marriage required understanding, consideration of another’s perspective, mutual respect for another’s freedom and self-realization, and a commitment to enrich home life rather than sap it through dependence. Like citizenship, marriage required responsibility and commitment.12

In tension with his socially conservative views, Wise consistently supported women’s right to divorce and to birth control. In the 1930s, he advocated for the birth limitation movement and looked to sterilization as a positive scientific development. Wise understood that Nazis and racists used sterilization for debased ends, but like euthanasia and contraception, sterilization, he argued, represented a tool of self-preservation and a means to “save the human race.”13

Nationalism and American Identity

In the first two decades of the 20th century, Wise liked to deliver a sermon titled, “What is an American?” In the face of rapid change brought by industrial capitalism, immigration, urbanization, and, eventually, war, the question was timely. His answer and his activism addressed one of the nation’s central identity crises: Was America a country where all citizens were equal, endowed with inalienable rights, and united by a system of democracy of, by, and for the people? Or was America an Anglo-Saxon, protestant nation where only individuals of particular bloodlines were permitted to govern?14 Wise committed himself to the former tradition of widening the nation’s democratic culture.

Wise immigrated to the United States in 1875, before turning two years old, from the German-speaking part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire with a wave of arrivals from Northern and Central Europe. The differences between his circumstances and those of Jewish immigrants who made their way to Castle Garden, fleeing Russian pogroms, were stark. Rather than looking upon those who arrived later with disdain, Wise developed empathy and a political commitment to unite all Jewish people and thus to see Jewishness as a hereditary condition and more than just a religious belief. Wise was one of a small group of religious leaders who promoted the idea that Jewish people constituted a proud race. Wealthy, established Jews who identified primarily with German education and culture saw nothing but distance between themselves and their co-religionists from other parts of Europe and the world. A major activity Wise undertook, from 1900 until his death in 1949, was to nudge his congregants to see themselves as members of a proud race responsible for promoting independence, freedom, and dignity in themselves and their fellow citizens.

Wise maintained that his identities as a Jew and an American complimented each other. Being an immigrant, he argued, gave him a heightened appreciation of America’s ideals. To that end, Wise corrected those who interpreted Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot to mean America created a racial amalgam. Instead, Wise challenged the nation “to bring the peoples and races within the unity of a common purpose” that would foster a binding responsibility to a nation and serve all the people.15 The job of the nation was to absorb immigrants’ best qualities. Wise’s civic nationalist ideal was based on a citizenry of high character, regardless of individuals’ religion and race. In his formulation, the stronger, freer, and prouder the individual Jew (or citizen of any religion or heritage), the better the person would serve the nation and the more he or she would represent the ideal citizen able to act on behalf of the common good. America (like Liberal Judaism) offered citizens a chance to realize their full humanity by realizing the good of the whole.

Racial, religious, and social prejudices, to Wise, were anti-American. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would note half a century later, discrimination diminished the character of the discriminator as much as it hurt the people discriminated against. American democracy required individuals to treat one another as equals. Wise called on Americans to defend one another’s place in the republic as a sign of patriotism and of a healthy body politic.

His work on this last front was particularly challenging. At the turn of the 20th century, in California especially, the voices of intolerance, led by labor leaders and those aspiring to public office, called for more restrictive measures against Chinese. Wise spoke from his pulpit against measures that treated Chinese people as outlaws. His leadership on the question led him in 1905 and 1906 to advocate for a more open immigration policy. Wise served on the National Civic Federation’s Committee of 100 to study the impact of immigration on the integrity of the nation, and he worked to distribute new Jewish immigrants throughout the west as a member of the Jewish Territorial Organization. In 1921 and 1924, when Congress debated and ultimately passed strict immigration restrictions, Wise spoke at rallies and government hearings to denounce the discrimination of immigrants based on their country of origin. He argued that all groups enriched the nation. Six years later he returned to a congressional hearing to challenge a proposed amendment that singled out immigrants as potentially dangerous plotters of revolution.

Consistently, Wise combatted racial discrimination. He was a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, arranged speaking events for W. E. B. Du Bois, and advocated for civil rights legislation that Du Bois spearheaded. He befriended Booker T. Washington and wrote a memorial upon Washington’s death, reminding the nation that the “Negro” is “not a problem but a man.” Wise spoke with President Wilson about his support for segregationist practices and found Wilson’s race policies to be the weakest element of his administration. In 1915, Wise characterized The Birth of a Nation as a divisive film that glorified race hatred and perpetuated fear. He also lambasted the National Board of Censorship for allowing it to be shown throughout the country. In 1919, he addressed the National Conference on Lynching in Carnegie Hall and pressed for human rights, democracy, and justice.16

As founder and leader of the American Jewish Congress, Wise addressed Congress in 1944 in support of the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Crucial for him was “the right of every American to have equality of opportunity in order that he may live and labor, in order that he may labor so that he may live.” With the ability to work being so central to the exercise of democracy, Wise also approached organized labor and urged its members to open their doors to African Americans. In 1946, he encouraged representatives of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, at their annual convention, to take their fight south to fight racism and realize democracy.17

Wise attacked the un-American character of anti-Semitism when it appeared in clubs, real estate, education, and employment. The first case that brought national attention occurred in Atlanta in 1915, when Leo Frank, a Jewish plant supervisor, went to jail for allegedly murdering one of his young, female employees. Wise corresponded with Frank. In speeches and writings Wise argued that Frank’s trial was unjust and held in an atmosphere of fear and terror. Ultimately, Wise hoped the judge would commute Frank’s death sentence out of a sense of justice. Wise argued that more was at stake than one man’s life. The honor of the state of Georgia, he believed, and of the American Republic hung in the balance.

In the aftermath of World War I, anti-Jewish sentiment led to more public confrontations. In 1928, Wise got involved in a case in Massena, in northern New York, when local officials incorrectly accused the community’s Jewish leaders of partaking in a blood-libel ritual. He held a press conference with New York governor Al Smith and insisted that Americans “banish religious intolerance and bigotry,” bringing Massena’s mayor to write a public apology.18

On the national level, Wise focused public attention on Henry Ford and the Ku Klux Klan. Using the Dearborn Independent as his platform between 1919 and 1927, Ford imagined an international Jewish conspiracy that was responsible for World War I and stood in control of finance and film. In 1921, Ford published the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which fabricated the plot of an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world. The New York Times printed Wise’s denunciation of Ford, in which Wise accused Ford of trying to “debase the spirit of America” and asked, “God help Henry Ford.” In 1927, Ford publicly apologized for his anti-Semitic views. In discussing Ford’s “retraction,” Wise looked to the future with “American hope of good-will and brotherhood among men.”19

Ford was a symptom of a larger intolerance growing in post–World War I America. The rise of a new Ku Klux Klan was a menacing trend that Wise characterized as an anti-American force. Asked to speak on a “Jewish point of view” to the National Democratic Club, Wise argued that there was no Jewish perspective when it came to the Klan, but only “one point of view, that of unequivocal faith and devotion to America. Every member of the Klan is a traitor to his country.” At the 1924 Democratic convention, Wise pushed for the Resolutions Committee to adopt a strong anti-Klan plank.20

In attacking intolerance, Wise also critiqued the notion that America was a Protestant nation. In 1928, the Daughters of the American Revolution identified Wise as a “dangerous American.” Wise responded by writing, “I have no patience with those persons who believe that to be one hundred percent American one must be a Protestant American.”21 In response to Al Smith’s presidential nomination in 1928, Wise stumped for the nation’s first Catholic nominee.

In cases of anti-Semitism, Wise believed that non-Jews should take the lead in defending their fellow citizens. Christians, especially, bore responsibility. Wise preached to Christian congregations that when it came to Judeo-Christian relations, Christians should focus on Jesus’s life and teachings rather than myopically on the circumstances of his death. His message was that Christians owed Judaism a debt, that Jesus was a Jew, and that poor treatment of Jews was un-Christian in nature. Wise also pushed for Christians to treat other Christians with respect and dignity.

Beginning in 1909, he organized union services with Unitarian and Universalist congregations to foster a common purpose among congregants. Wise lamented Christendom’s unwillingness to challenge the Klan in the 1920s and Hitlerism in the 1930s. American Christendom’s failure to “arise against the brutal foes and destroyers of the people of its Christ” soured Wise on interfaith movements. In the end, he lamented, the movement “deliberately chose to fail, in the hour of our greatest need.”22

Americanism and the World

More than in other areas, Wise’s foreign policy and state-building commitments blended his views on Americanism with Liberal Jewish beliefs concerning liberty, citizenship, and civilization. His activism initially addressed the security of Jews in Europe, but by 1914, broadened to minority rights in Europe and freedom for oppressed peoples in the world more generally. Wise’s moralistic calls for a Jewish nation increased in strength as conditions for Jews in Europe worsened, but occurred with disregard for non-Jews living in the region. In this way, his vision of Americanism pitted his belief that America’s democratic tradition would lead its government to support people who were suffering with a disdain for those who supported Arab sovereignty in Palestine. Throughout the 1930s and World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt offered Wise promises, but America’s commitment to save Jewish lives proved hollow.

In the late 1800s, Wise thought that a national homeland for Jewish people would be unnecessary as long as the United States government directed nations of the world to protect persecuted Jews. Hedging his bets, Wise traveled the country on behalf of the fledgling Zionist movement and built a national base of support that included interfaith groups and government leaders.

His earliest efforts focused on Rumania, where oppression and violence upended Jewish lives. Wise developed a multipronged solution: he called on European and American Christians to follow their religious teachings and press Rumania to end its “system of repression,” he focused on the establishment of Palestine as a Jewish homeland, and he worked with Jewish communities throughout the country to find homes and jobs for Rumanian immigrants.23 Wise characterized Jews in these regions as worthy individuals fighting for their dignity. A moral sense of right and a national commitment to freedom, he argued, would guide American leaders to help Rumania’s Jews achieve their goal of liberty. If Rumania’s leaders were unable to protect their Jewish citizens, then Rumania’s Jews deserved their own nation.

In the aftermath of the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev, Russia, Wise turned his attention there. At a formal dinner during President Theodore Roosevelt’s tour of the northwest, Wise successfully encouraged Roosevelt to take a public stand against anti-Semitism in Russia. The civilized nations of the world, he explained, must act courageously and morally against such terror.24

Wise also applied his understanding of Americanism to American foreign policy more generally. He opposed United States policy in the Philippines as a betrayal of American principles, and in 1912 spoke with presidential nominee Woodrow Wilson about the righteousness of recognizing the Chinese Republic and the shamefulness of ceding American foreign policy to Wall Street’s interests.

In 1911, Wise praised the governor of New Jersey for his application of Americanism to Russia. That year, Wilson supported breaking a commercial treaty with Russia because its leaders refused to accept passports from Russian-born, naturalized Americans. Wilson stated that the rights of American Jewish citizens were more important than material gain. He declared that rather than showing “sympathy with our Jewish fellow-citizens,” he felt a “sense of identity with them.” Russia’s treatment was not “their cause,” he said; “it is America’s.”25

Once Wilson became president and the world engaged in war, Wise temporarily stood against the president and preparedness. He was an active member of the American Union Against Militarism and joined a delegation that met Wilson in the White House in April 1916, but by February 1917, Wise decided war was a lesser evil than Prussian militarism. Once the United States declared war on Germany, Wise backed Wilson and the nation’s pro-war forces, arguing that an allied victory would make the world free.

Stephen Wise and AmericanismClick to view larger

Figure 1. Stephen S. Wise at a rally. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ggbain-26777.

He advised Wilson to push the British to support Irish demands for home rule to prove war could bring freedom and democracy. In the summer of 1918, he volunteered for war work with his son in a Connecticut shipyard.

Stephen Wise and AmericanismClick to view larger

Figure 2. Stephen S. Wise and his son, James, at work in the shipbuilding yards of the Luder Marine Construction Company in Stanford, Connecticut, July 1918. American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, National Archives, 165-WW-420(P323).

Wise formed the American Jewish Congress (AJC) out of a belief that the American Jewish community should speak as an organized force and followed Wilson’s advice on the timing of the group’s first meeting. He was proud when Wilson authorized him to announce that the Congress’s “deliberations and policies will be in accord and helpful to the aims and policies of the American government.”26

In 1918, with the war winding down, Wise joined the Comité des Délégations Juives, a coalition whose members advocated for national and civil rights. With former president Taft, Wise developed provisions for the Paris Peace Accords that would safeguard religious freedom in new states. He also encouraged Wilson to press America’s allies to include protections of religious and minority rights in their own conventions. In October 1917, Wise edited the Balfour Declaration, a British document under Wilson’s review regarding support for a Jewish home in Palestine, before Balfour, head of the British Foreign Office, issued the statement. He then convinced Wilson to state publicly his position in favor of the Zionist movement, which the president did in August of 1918.

Through the 1920s Wise continued to meet with the Council on the Rights of Jewish Minorities. Then, in the face of growing anti-Semitism in European countries, Wise transformed the group into the World Jewish Congress. Beginning on August 8, 1936, he served as chair of its executive committee.

Wise and President Franklin Roosevelt repaired their relationship in 1936, which allowed Wise to directly express his concerns about Nazism to the president. In response to Polish colonel Józef Beck’s public comments that of the three and a half million Jews in Poland, three million were “superfluous,” Wise encouraged Roosevelt to announce that “Every American citizen is the subject of his country’s interest and concern. Nor will the American Democracy ever hold any faithful and law-abiding group within its border to be superfluous.” The language appeared verbatim in 1937 in Roosevelt’s second inaugural address. Wise also encouraged Roosevelt, in June 1941, to write British prime minister Winston Churchill, to express concern for Jewish people who lived in Palestine. In July 1942, Wise read a message from Roosevelt to an American Jewish Congress war emergency session in Madison Square Garden, insisting, “The American people not only sympathize with all victims of Nazi crimes but will hold the perpetrators of these crimes to strict accountability in a day of reckoning which will surely come.” This and other of the president’s expressions of support convinced Wise that Roosevelt’s position was not a “token of pro-Jewishness,” but was an expression of his “Americanism.”27

Through AJC leadership, Wise worked with the American Federation of Labor to boycott German-made goods and products. He helped organize and addressed a mass meeting at Madison Square Garden on March 27, 1933, despite individual pleas from the Jewish community to remain silent. There, he stated that Nazi actions against Jewish people were attacks on democratic ideals and institutions. The rally of fifty-five thousand people was the first public gathering of American Jews with political, labor, and religious leaders, all calling for the defense of Jewish rights and freedoms in Europe.

In 1936, Wise spoke to Roosevelt about a British White Paper that proposed to restrict Jewish immigration to Palestine and convinced him to intervene. As a result of the president’s message to London, more than fifty thousand Jews from Germany and Austria entered Palestine. In 1939, however, when a more restrictive White Paper limited Jewish immigration to Palestine, Wise failed to move the president to act. He was also unable to increase Jewish immigration quotas in the United States. As a member of Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, Wise lamented the power of anti-Semitism in the State Department.

Stephen Wise and AmericanismClick to view larger

Figure 3. Stephen S. Wise and Henry Morgenthau leave the White House after conferring with President Roosevelt on plans to assist political refugees from German and Austria. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-hec-24470.

Defeated and desperate, Wise understood the president’s unwillingness to do more as an expression of the American electorate’s lack of will.

On August 28, 1942, Wise received a cable from Dr. Gerhart Riegner describing Nazi extermination plans. Wise shared the information with Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles, who asked him to wait until he could confirm the intelligence before making it public. Riegner kept the State Department informed of the ongoing extermination through September and October, and Wise kept out of the public. In November, when Welles confirmed the reports, Wise called a press conference, futilely urging Christians to speak out. He joined a delegation and presented Roosevelt with a twelve-page memo that demanded immediate action to save Jewish lives. But the president was unwilling to make promises. Eight months later, Wise got presidential approval to negotiate the rescue of a number of Jews from Poland, but the State Department and the Foreign Office stalled and bungled the plan.28 The Roosevelt administration failed to realize Americanism’s promise for Europe’s Jews, but to Wise, who died in 1949, its hope lived in the newly formed state of Israel where, he believed, Jewish people would be free.

Discussion of the Literature

The topic of Americanism has an extensive literature, beginning in the 1830s with Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations of America as a land of equality and self-interest and continuing in the 1890s with Frederick Jackson Turner’s ideas about the centrality of the frontier in establishing American acquisitiveness and individualism. By the middle of the 20th century, scholars agreed that Americans shared a unique character but debated its nature. To Charles Beard, the drive for wealth explained historical change between the nation’s founding and World War II. To David Potter, vast tracts of land, resources, and time defined the American condition of plenty. Political scientist Louis Hartz and historian Richard Hofstadter identified a lack of feudal past and the availability of vast resources as causes for American’s consensual acceptance of classical liberalism and capitalism. In the face of the social, political, and cultural upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s, scholars moved away from the idea of consensus and a unifying American character and argued for distinctive histories of women, immigrants, people of color, and workers. More recently, the field of world history and a focus on transnational history has broadened scholars’ scope of inquiry and moved away from exceptionalist thinking and the study of identity tied to national borders.29

In the 1980s and 1990s, in light of Cold War conflicts and pervasive violence in the name of nationalism, Benedict Anderson, Eric Hobsbawm, and Terence Ranger investigated nationalism as both an emotional and political reality. Anderson’s “imagined communities” understood nationalism as a created identity, invented at particular times for particular purposes, and establishing new imaginary ties between disparate groups of people. Hobsbawm and Ranger’s work argued that certain rituals and commemorations served as creative acts of memory-making and nationalism. In the United States, Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the last days of the Cold War provided the context for scholars, such as Gary Gerstle and Cecilia O’Leary, to examine Americanism and the use of patriotic language in earlier eras.30

This scholarship on the power of nationalism brought scholars of Americanism back to the archives, but sharp disagreements ensued regarding its nature. To early 21st-century scholars Amy Kaplan and Matthew Frye Jacobson, the history of Americanism is utterly imperial, racist, and violent. James Kloppenberg, Richard Rorty, Jonathan Hansen, and David Hollinger, however, argue for an Americanism that draws from unifying principles of equality and pluralism that promise a more humane future. Amy Kittelstrom’s The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition continues this work by showing how democratic protestant thinking established a liberal American tradition committed to universal moral agency. Gary Gerstle’s American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century and Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present argues for an Americanism characterized by fundamental tensions regarding American identity and public power.31

Most scholarship on American Jewish history documents the experience and identity of Jews within (and between) various Jewish communities. Recently, however, scholars have focused on the connection and contribution of Jewish identity to Americanism. Hasia Diner and Dan Katz, for example, document Jewish multicultural activism and cultural pluralism as Jewish strategies for inclusion and empowerment in America and as agents of change in civil rights and labor movements. Lila Corwin Berman and Andrew Heinze study American identity and how American Jews publicly identified as American.32

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was consumed by the question of what it meant to be a Jew and an American, but early studies of him are primarily concerned with his contributions to theology and institution building. They emphasize his pivotal role in founding, building, and leading the Free Synagogue, the American Jewish Congress, the Jewish Institute of Religion, and the American Zionist movement. In a published collection of Wise’s selected letters, for example, the scholar Carl Voss overwhelmingly chose correspondence that described Wise as a creator and advocate of Jewish movements and institutions despite rich documentation of his more secular work. Melvin Urofsky’s biography of Wise, A Voice that Spoke for Justice: The Life and Times of Stephen S. Wise closely follows Wise’s abilities as a Jewish institution builder. A. James Rudin’s more recent biography of Wise, Pillar of Fire: A Biography of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise provides more balanced attention to Wise’s civic activism but does so in an uncritical manner. In these works, scholars recognize Wise as a Jew and as an American liberal leader, but reconstructing the critical relationship between the two largely has been overlooked.33

Primary Sources

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise left an extensive amount of unpublished and published materials that document his political positions and activism. His main papers are available in New York City at the Center for Jewish History and are available through microfilm from the American Jewish Historical Society. His papers include personal correspondence, published writings, reports, sermons, notes, newspaper clippings, speeches, pamphlets, calendars, telegrams, and invitations relating to his work building the Free Synagogue, the Jewish Institute of Religion, and the American Jewish Congress. His papers also document his activism relating to the labor movement and workers’ rights, New York State and city political and social reform, national and international politics, anti-Semitism, immigration, women’s rights, and Zionism. His rich correspondence includes responses to his sermons and public activities from the public and members of his congregation. His papers are well indexed.34

A second collection of his papers is available at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives. This collection includes a rich collection of Wise’s sermons, primarily from the 1920s and 1930s, and correspondence relating to Zionism and anti-Semitism in the United States. A number of Wise’s sermons in this collection are recorded and digitized, allowing for a full appreciation of Wise’s oratory skill. A smaller third collection of his papers is kept as part of the Edward Kiev Judaica Collection at George Washington University and includes diaries and correspondence relating to the Free Synagogue, the Jewish Institute of Religion, World War I, interfaith relations, and Zionism.35

Wise was a prolific public speaker and writer. He published his own memoir just before his death, Challenging Years: The Autobiography of Stephen Wise, and throughout his life published his positions on public matters of interest. Some of these collections include: Stephen S. Wise, Servant of the People: Selected Letters; Free Synagogue Pulpit; As I See It; The Personal Letters of Stephen Wise; Never Again! Ten Years of Hitler: A Symposium.36

Wise was also closely followed in the national media. Newspapers with the most coverage of his activities include the New York Times, Chicago Daily Tribune, Boston Daily Globe, the Hartford Courant, the American Israelite, the American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger, and the Jewish Advocate. His speeches before Congresses are recorded in the Congressional Record.

The papers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt located in Hyde Park, New York, at the Roosevelt Library contain a number of collections with important Wise correspondence. One reel of microfilm contains correspondence between Wise and Roosevelt between 1929 and 1945. The collection is gathered from different manuscript collections, including Herbert Lehman’s papers, and covers topics ranging from New York City and state affairs to New Deal politics, war, Zionism, and the World War II refugee crisis. The Franklin Delano Roosevelt library also contains the papers of Henry Morgenthau, Sam Roseman, and Henry Wallace, each of which has files of correspondence with Wise on matters of national significance.37

Great Voices of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, online exhibit, American Jewish Archives. This online exhibit includes audio clips of Wise’s speeches and photos of Wise, and is organized topically.

Stephen S. Wise, “President Wilson” and “What are We Fighting For?” American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election, 1918–1920, American Memory Project, Library of Congress.

Further Reading

Butler, Leslie. Critical Americans: Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Currarino, Rosanne. The Labor Question in America: Economic Democracy in the Gilded Age. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Dawley, Alan. Changing the World: American Progressives in War and Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Diner, Hasia. In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915–1935. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.Find this resource:

Dollinger, Marc. Quest for Inclusion: Jews and Liberalism in Modern America. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.Find this resource:

Fink, Leon. Progressive Intellectuals and the Dilemmas of Democratic Commitment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Gerstle, Gary. Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Greene, Daniel. The Jewish Origins of Cultural Pluralism: The Menorah Association and American Diversity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Hansen, Jonathan. The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Johnston, Robert D.The Radical Middle Class: Populist Democracy and the Question of Capitalism in Progressive Era Portland, Oregon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

Kazin, Michael, and Joseph McCartin eds., Americanism: New Perspectives on the History of an Ideal. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Kittelstrom, Amy. The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition. New York: Penguin Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Kloppenberg, James. The Virtues of Liberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Recchiuti, John Louis. Civic Engagement: Social Science and Progressive-Era Reform in New York City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Rodgers, Daniel. Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.Find this resource:

Schneirov, Richard, and Gaston A. Fernandez. Democracy as a Way of Life in America: A History. New York: Rutgers University Press, 2013.Find this resource:


(1.) Stephen Wise, Challenging Years: The Autobiography of Stephen Wise (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1949, 109.

(2.) Stephen Wise, “A Farewell Sermon,” Jewish Messenger, June 8, 1900; Stephen Wise, “The American Mission to the Jews and the Jewish Mission to America,” American Israelite, December 5, 1901.

(3.) Stephen Wise, “What is an American?” Free Synagogue Pulpit: Sermons and Addresses v.5 (New York: Bloch, 1920), 1 and 4.

(4.) Stephen Wise, Challenging Years, 10.

(5.) Letter from Stephen S. Wise to the Editor of the Evening Post, July 18, 1912, reprinted in Stephen Wise, Challenging Years, 12–13.

(6.) Ibid., 66.

(7.) Ibid., 59–60.

(8.) Ibid., 68.

(9.) Ibid., 78.

(10.) Francis Moody to Wise November 18, 1913, Stephen S. Wise Papers, Box 69, Reel 74–48; Wise to Moody, November 26, 1913, Stephen S. Wise Papers, Box 69, Reel 74–48.

(11.) “Of Interest to Women,” American Hebrew and Jewish Messenger, April 5, 1912; Stephen Wise, “Woman and Democracy,” Free Synagogue Pulpit v.3 (1915), 140–141.

(12.) Stephen Wise, “How Can Family Life Be Decently Adjusted?” Jacob Marcus Rader American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio, CD 291.

(13.) “Rights and Wrongs of Sterilization and Birth Limitation,” Jacob Marcus Rader American Jewish Archives, CD 198.

(14.) Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001).

(15.) Wise, “What is an American?”, 8.

(16.) Wise, Challenging Years, 173.

(17.) Wise, Challenging Years, 119 and 79.

(18.) Quoted in Melvin Urofsky, A Voice that Spoke for Justice: The Life and Times of Stephen S. Wise (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982), 208.

(19.) “Henry Ford’s Retraction: Some Further Lessons,” Free Synagogue Pulpit v. 8 (New York: Free Synagogue House, 1927).

(20.) Ibid., 206.

(21.) “Rabbi Wise Rebukes D.A.R.,” New York Times, April 20, 1928.

(22.) Wise, Challenging Years, 295.

(23.) “European Boxers,” American Israelite, August 16, 1900.

(24.) “Wipe Out Debt,” American Israelite, June 4, 1903.

(25.) Wise, Challenging Years, 169–170.

(26.) Ibid., 206 and 207.

(27.) Ibid., 221 and 226.

(28.) Ibid., 278–279.

(29.) Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Library of America, 2004); Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962); Charles Beard, An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States (New York: Macmillan Press, 1913); David M. Potter, People of Plenty: Economic Abundance and the American Character (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954); Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought since the Revolution (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1955); Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It (New York: Knopf, 1948); and Thomas Bender, ed., Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 202).

(30.) Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and the Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso Press, 1991); Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Gary Gerstle, Working-Class Americanism: The Politics of Labor in a Textile City, 1914–1960 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Cecilia Elizabeth O’Leary, To Die For: The Paradox of American Patriotism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

(31.) Matthew Frye Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The U.S. Encounter with Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876–1917 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001); Amy Kaplan, The Anarchy of Empire in the Making of U.S. Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); James T. Kloppenberg, The Virtues of Liberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998); Richard Rorty, Achieving Our Country (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998); Jonathan Hansen, The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890–1920 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); David Hollinger, Postethnic America: Beyond Multicultural (New York: Basic Books, 1995); Amy Kittelstrom, The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition (New York: Penguin Press, 2015); and Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001) and Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015).

(32.) Hasia Diner, In the Almost Promised Land: American Jews and Blacks, 1915–1935 (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1977); Daniel Katz, All Together Different: Yiddish Socialists, Garment Workers, and the Labor Roots of Multiculturalism (New York: New York University Press, 2011); Lila Corwin Berman, Speaking of Jews: Rabbis, Intellectuals and the Creation of an American Public Identity (Los Angeles: UCLA Press, 2009); and Andrew Heinze, Jews and the American Soul: Human Nature in the Twentieth Century (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004).

(33.) Carl Voss, Stephen S. Wise: Servant of the People (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1969); Melvin Urofsky, A Voice that Spoke for Justice: The Life and Times of Stephen S. Wise (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982); and A. James Rudin, Pillar of Fire: A Biography of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2015).

(34.) The Papers of Stephen S. Wise, American Jewish Historical Society, Waltham, Massachusetts.

(35.) Stephen S. Wise Collection, Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio. An index to the collection is available online. Stephen S. Wise Papers, I. Edward Kiev Judaica Collection, Special Collections, Washington, D.C. An online finding aid for the Kiev collection is available.

(36.) Wise, The Challenging Years; Voss, Stephen S. Wise; Stephen Wise, As I See It (New York: Jewish Opinion Publishing Corporation, 1944); Stephen Wise, Justine Wise Polier, and James Waterman Wise, The Personal Letters of Stephen Wise (Boston: Beacon Press, 1956); Stephen Wise, Never Again! Ten Years of Hitler: A Symposium (New York: Jewish Opinion Publishing Corporation, 1943). Several of Wise’s published works are available on

(37.) “Correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, 1929–1945,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.