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Stephen Wise Family Condolence Correspondence Collection

Identifier: P-1054

Scope and Contents

On April 19th, 1949, Rabbi Stephen Wise passed away in New York City at age 75. His death was mourned by religious and secular individuals alike, and his family received a great many letters and telegrams of condolence as news of his passing became widely known. The correspondence generated from a wide variety of sources, ranging from individuals as well-known as Chaim Weitzman, Dore Schary, and Helen Keller, to everyday people who were touched by his writings and activism. This collection is composed of the correspondence addressed to the family; specifically, to his son, James Waterman Wise, and daughter, Justine Wise Polier.

The collection was donated by David Abramson in 2021, and consists of the original letters, cards, and telegrams sent to the family. The materials are organized into two series; Series I is composed of correspondence sent from organizations and institutions, arranged alphabetically by the name of the organization. Series II is composed of correspondence sent from individuals, couples, or families, arranged alphabetically by last name.


  • 1949

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility or privacy.

The original telegrams have been copied and use copies of these materials are interfiled in the alphabetical sequence. The originals have been retained, but the two folders are restricted due to the poor condition of the items. Researchers need to utilize the use copies provided; the restricted folders require permission from an AJHS Archivist.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at For reference questions, please email:

Biographical / Historical

Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1874; his family immigrated to the United States when he was a young child. He followed in the steps of his father and grandfather and pursued rabbinical studies, and 1893, Wise was appointed assistant rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in New York City. Wise later founded the influential "Free Synagogue" movement; The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York City, which he founded in 1907 and served as Rabbi until his death, is named after him, but was also deeply invested in many activist movements. He was an early member of the American Jewish Congress, the NAACP, and the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities, and spoke on behalf of many different causes throughout his distinguished career. He married Louise Waterman Wise, and the couple had two children; James Waterman Wise, and Justine Wise Polier, who was the first woman Justice in New York state.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 half- manuscript box)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by David Abramson.

Related Materials

I-77, Records of the American Jewish Congress

P-134, Rabbi Stephen Wise papers (available on microfilm)

P-527, Justine Wise Polier and Eleanor Roosevelt Correspondences

P-572, Shad Polier papers

The physical collection of Rabbi Stephen Wise’s papers is held by Brandeis University. A larger collection of Justine Wise Polier’s papers is held by the Schlesinger Library, Harvard University.

Guide to the Stephen Wise Family Condolence Correspondence Collection
AJHS Staff
© 2022
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States