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Creating American Reform JudaismLife and Times of Isaac Mayer Wise$
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Sefton D. Temkin

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774457

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774457.001.0001

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Rabbi in Albany

Rabbi in Albany

3. Rabbi in Albany
Creating American Reform Judaism

Sefton D. Temkin

Liverpool University Press

This chapter turns to Isaac Mayer Wise’s position in Albany and the congregation of Beth El. The relationship between Wise and this congregation began with acclamation and ended with violence. The tale has been told and retold, but it was Wise who was the literate figure among the combatants, and his version forms the basis of most of what has been written. At this stage one cannot determine whether Wise’s zeal for ritual reform and the congregation’s narrowness was the cause of the breakup (as is usually assumed), or whether Wise’s self-assertiveness and the congregation’s insistence on maintaining its control was the basic reason. Rabbi–congregation relations still retain a considerable grey area in which the authority of one party as against the other is unsettled. How much more unsettled must the position have been when communal organization was in its infancy and had to grapple with the problems and reckon with the temperaments of members of an uprooted society.

Keywords:   Albany, Beth El, ritual reform, Albany congregation, communal organization

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