Isaac Mayer Wise Memorial Plaque

This cast plaque pays tribute to Isaac Mayer Wise, the acknowledged architect of American Reform Judaism. It is inscribed with a quote from Genesis 26:12, “Isaac sowed and he reaped one hundred-fold.”

Boris Schatz

Born in Moravia in 1819, Isaac Mayer Wise immigrated to the United States in 1846 and was appointed rabbi of Congregation Beth El (today Beth Emeth) of Albany, New York. There, he introduced many reforms in worship including mixed gender family pews, choral singing in German and English, and increased decorum. Divisions in the congregation over his innovations prompted a move to Cincinnati, where he would remain for the rest of his life. Over the decades he worked tirelessly towards the creation of a unified national Reform movement. He succeeded in creating a common prayerbook (Minhag America, later followed by the Union Prayer Book), an umbrella organization of synagogues (Union of Reform Congregations), a seminary to train American Reform rabbis (Hebrew Union College), and a rabbinical conference (the Central Conference of American Rabbis).

The creator of this plaque, whose name appears at lower right, was sculptor Boris Schatz. Schatz was an ardent Zionist and founder of the Bezalel School in Jerusalem. It is intriguing that he produced this flattering commemorative piece for Wise, who was an outspoken opponent of a Jewish homeland in Palestine and famously declared “the idea of the Jews returning to Palestine is no part of our creed. We rather believe it is God’s will that the habitable world become one holy land and the human family one chosen people.”

Name: Isaac Mayer Wise Memorial Plaque
Artist: Boris Schatz
Origin: Austria, 20th century
Medium: Bronze, Metalwork
Dimensions: 9 7/8 x 6 9/16 in.
Credit: Gift of Judd A. Sackheim
Catalog Number: 77.49
Asher LibrarySundays at Sinai: A Jewish Congregation in Chicago

Tobias Brinkmann (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012)

Asher LibraryThe Theology of Isaac Mayer Wise

Andrew Key (Cincinnati: American Jewish Archives, 1962)

Asher LibraryIsaac M. Wise

David Philipson (Cincinnati: Tract Commission, 193-?)

Asher LibraryCreating American Reform Judaism, the Life and Times of Isaac Mayer Wise

SeftonTemkin (Portland, OR: Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1998)

External ResourceGod in America

PBS Frontline Episode