cover of book
 

We Shall Build Anew: Stephen S. Wise, the Jewish Institute of Religion, and the Reinvention of American Liberal Judaism
by Shirley Idelson
University of Alabama Press, 2022
Cloth: 978-0-8173-2131-4 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-9410-3
Library of Congress Classification BM197.I34 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 296.83410973

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | REVIEWS | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
How Rabbi Stephen S. Wise changed the trajectory of American Reform Judaism over the course of the twentieth century and well into the twenty-first

In 1922, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, a leader of the Zionist movement, established the Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR), a nondenominational rabbinical seminary in New York City. Having already founded the thriving Free Synagogue movement and the American Jewish Congress, he intended to revolutionize American liberal Judaism. Wise believed mainstream American Jewish institutions had become outdated, and he championed a progressive Jewish nationalism that would fight alongside America’s leading proponents of social and economic justice.

We Shall Build Anew tells the little-known story of how Wise changed the trajectory of American Judaism for the next century. Through JIR, he trained a new cadre of young rabbis who shared his outlook, charged them with invigorating and reshaping Jewish life, and launched them into positions of leadership across the country. While Wise earned the ire of many mainstream Jewish leaders through his disregard for denominational distinctions, JIR became home to faculty and students of widely divergent religious and political viewpoints.

We Shall Build Anew is the first book dedicated exclusively to the history of the Jewish Institute of Religion. The story of Wise’s vision for American liberal Judaism is now more important than ever. As American Jewry becomes increasingly polarized around debates concerning religious doctrine as well as Zionism and Israel, the JIR model offers hope that progressives and conservatives, Zionists and non-Zionists, and Jews representing the full spectrum of religious life cannot only coexist but also work together in the name of a vibrant Judaism and a just and peaceful world.
 
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