Wise Journey

Over 175 years ago, a small group dared to dream.

They began a congregational journey that would take us through building a national landmark, revolutionizing services and leading efforts to repair the world, all beginning right here in Cincinnati. Through the Civil War, the Great Depression and World Wars tragic for our people, Wise Temple has led the way, moving forward to realize the vision of an exceptional leader, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. If Rabbi Wise could see us today, he would be proud of what we’re doing to renew Jewish life in our own time, just as he did; safeguard Plum Street Temple with our love and dedication to his historic sanctuary; and embrace his vision with our leadership of Reform Judaism in our community and throughout the world. Learn more about the history of Wise Temple.

In 2016-17, we celebrated 175 years as Wise Temple and 150 years of Plum Street Temple.

It was a special moment in our journey – a time to honor our past, embrace the future and celebrate today. We joined together in renewing what is best in our history and in each of us. Through storytelling and celebration, we grew together as we learned more about our history, our buildings and one another.

Two Torah Scrolls

To commemorate the anniversaries of our congregation and the completion of Plum Street Temple, we offered each Wise Temple member the opportunity to fulfill the 613th commandment to write a Torah. Each person had the rare opportunity to guide the quill (together with the Sofer) and form a letter on the parchment. To undertake such sacred work is an affirmation of faith, joy and purpose, and is an expression of gratitude and love.

We wrote a Torah together as a community so each one of us became a guardian of the Torah, both its physical form and its teachings. We do not just use the Torah, we keep the Torah alive, reading from it and living its teachings every day. Each scroll connects us to the story of our people, touching eternity as we read the same words our ancestors read thousands of years ago and the same words our children’s children will read for hundreds of years to come.

"And now, write for yourselves this song, and teach it to the Children of Israel. Place it into their mouths, in order that this song will be for God as a witness for the children of Israel."

— Deuteronomy 31:19

Daniel Cascardo Art Action Mural

Hundreds participated in artist Daniel Cascardo’s interactive art experience, done to visually represent our rich history. This was more than an “activity”: it created memories for each of us and will forever commemorate the many special moments we shared as a congregation through the years. The mural is now on display outside the Open Room. Stop by and take a close look to see if you can spot the symbols and nuances in the picture, as well as maybe even your own contribution.

Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise

“During his lifetime, Wise was regarded as the most prominent Reform Jew of his time in the United States. His genius for organization was of a very high order; and he was masterful, rich in resources, and possessed of an inflexible will. More than of any of his contemporaries, it may be said of him that he left the imprint of his personality upon the development of Reform Judaism in the United States.” (Jewish Encyclopedia)

Quotes from Rabbi Wise
  • “Had the Hebrews not been disturbed in their progress a thousand and more years ago,they would have solved all the great problems of civilization which are being solved now under all the difficulties imposed by the spirit of the Middle Ages.”
  • “This book, conceived in sorrow, composed in grief, and constructed at the brink of despair, contains my mind’s best thoughts, and my soul’s triumph over the powers of darkness.” From his Reminiscences.
  • “My darling Selma, my dearest wife…if you thought you had selected a quiet, settled man, who is a philosopher with whom you could go through life easygoing, you are mistaken…by heart I am just as youthful and as enthusiastic as I am a settled thinker with my brains. I love you so much because I have discovered in your heart the same fire, the same high feelings because you are quite my ‘alter Ego…” April 12, 1876, Love Letters, Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, p. 129
  • “A sermon without a text is an argument without a proof.”