AMERICAN ISRAELITE, THE:
By: Leo Wise
A weekly journal established in Cincinnati, O., in July, 1854, by Isaac Mayer Wise under the title of "The Israelite." It had two objects: (1) to propagate the principles of Reform Judaism; and (2) to keep the Israelites that lived—often singly or in communities of two or three families, in the numerous small towns of the United States—in touch with Jewish affairs, thus contributing to save them to Judaism. "The American Israelite" has always advocated progressive—that is, Reform—Judaism, while planting itself on the platform of Americanism. It has constantly maintained that American Jews are differentiated from American Christians in religion only, not in nationality, and that there is no such thing to-day as a Jewish nation.
For some time Edward Bloch and Herman M. Moos were associated with Dr. Wise as publishers. On Jan. 1, 1875, Leo Wise, the eldest son of the editor, became business manager, and the editorial management gradually passed into his hands; though Dr. Wise wrote the leaders and most of the editorial paragraphs uninterruptedly up to the time of his death (March 26, 1900). Since the latter date the management has been assisted by Rabbi David Philipson of Cincinnati, as editorial writer, and by Dr. Louis Grossmann of Cincinnati, and Dr. Julius Wise of Chicago, as editorial contributors. On July 1, 1874, the title of the paper was changed to "TheAmerican Israelite," as being more in consonance with the ideas it represented. In the West and the South this periodical has always had a wide circulation.
One of the first things that Dr. Wise learned when he undertook to extend the circulation of "The Israelite" was that there were very many Jews in the country who were not familiar with English. To reach and influence these, and to keep them from straying from Judaism altogether, he, in 1855, began the publication of "Die Deborah," printed in German. It was conducted on the same lines as "The Israelite," and had similar aims. In this work Dr. Wise had associated with him, at different times, S. Rothenberg, Max Lilienthal, Solomon H. Sonneschein, Heinrich Zirndorf, and Gotthard Deutsch. The "Deborah" was discontinued for a time at Dr. Wise's death, but has since been revived. Owing to the intimate relations of Dr. Wise with "The American Israelite," much special information about the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Hebrew Union College, and the various Rabbinical Conferences is contained in its pages.
As a record of the history of the Jews of America during the latter half of the nineteenth century, the files of "The American Israelite" and of the "Deborah" are of considerable value. They indicate the growth and development of Reform Judaism in America, and of its various institutions. Most of the prominent rabbis and Jewish thinkers of the United States have been among the literary contributors to both periodicals.