Wise, Isaac Mayer (1819-1900). Autograph Letter Signed written to <<Isaac Leeser>>, in English and Hebrew.

AUCTION 80 | Thursday, March 28th, 2019 at 1:00 PM
The Valmadonna Trust Library: Further Selections from the Historic Collection. * Hebrew Printing in America. * Graphic & Ceremonial Art

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Lot 139

Wise, Isaac Mayer (1819-1900). Autograph Letter Signed written to <<Isaac Leeser>>, in English and Hebrew.

Wise consoles Leeser over a congregational dispute and praises him: “Your Congregation will soon learn that [sic] can have no other Isaac Leeser.” Wise expresses how supported he feels by his own congregation in Albany, such that he intends to ignore a tempting offer from Charleston. Additionally, Wise refers to a New York Herald article (April 6, 1850, p. 1.) touching upon the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840 (“Mysteries of the Talmud—Terrible Murders in the East”). Of the author of the article, Wise encourages Leeser: “I am sure you will give him a full whipping.” Two pages. With integral address panel. Folio.

Albany: 15th April 5610 (1850)

Est: $5,000 - $7,000
Leeser and Wise would become strident antagonists over their differences on Reform Judaism, but as of the writing of this letter, their relationship was collegial. Isaac Mayer Wise was the dominant force behind the creation of American Reform Judaism. From his arrival in America in 1846, Wise was devoted to modernizing and Americanizing Judaism. His most enduring contributions lie in the institutions he established, which included those that fostered Reform Judaism — the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and Hebrew Union College. Through their creation, Wise advanced his aim of drawing American Jews together around a modern brand of the religion suited for the New World. Of interest is the fact that Wise dates his letter here according to the Jewish year. Dating documents using the secular date (month and day) while retaining the Jewish year was a pietist practice particular to English and American Jews. While Wise might not be typically identified with halachic stringency, we should be misled neither by the development of his radical reform posture nor with essays he wrote in an early effort to reclaim the Jewish Jesus. Wise was very clear throughout his career that “the crucifixion of Jesus was not decreed by the Almighty, his martyrdom was not necessary for the salvation of mankind, and the dogma of vicarious atonement is immoral.” (Wise, Martyrdom of Jesus of Nazareth, 1874). Hence, one can readily see why he chose not to date a letter from the birth of Jesus.