We Shall Build Anew: Stephen S. Wise, the Jew­ish Insti­tute of Reli­gion, and the Rein­ven­tion of Amer­i­can Lib­er­al Judaism

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2021

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. Wise believed main-stream 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.

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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