This chapter considers Isaac Mayer Wise’s legacy to the Jews of America, as well as events in the aftermath of his death. In time, America’s powerful industrial society homogenized the American Jewish community, at the same time allowing for unforeseen divisions. The rejection of practices brought over from Europe, which characterized much of nineteenth-century Reform, abated as the immigrant generation disappeared, and nostalgia for the past helped to influence their descendants. As the twentieth century staggered to its mid-point, the scene was transformed in a more fundamental sense. In 1919, when the centenary of Wise’s birth came round, Europe had lost its hegemony in world affairs; in 1946, at the centenary of Wise’s arrival in New York, Europe lay in ruins, and world leadership had been thrust into America’s hands. The old heartland of Jewish life did not just lie in ruins; it had been utterly destroyed. It was for the Jews of America to take up the torch, and to this task they applied themselves with energy and generosity. Unencumbered by ideological restraints, the institutions which Wise had fostered, amid doubts as to whether American soil could sustain them, showed themselves resilient enough to rise to the challenge.
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