“Too Early to Intervene”: Rabbi Stephen Wise and President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Rabbi Steven Wise was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1874, before immigrating with his family (as an infant) to New York. He grew into one of the most renowned American Reform rabbis and Zionist leaders of the 20th-century.
In 1922, Wise founded the Jewish Institute of Religion. He was also a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Additionally, Wise served terms as both vice president and president of the Zionist Organization of America, through which he staunchly lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to approve the Balfour Declaration and aimed to “represent Jews as a group and not as individuals.”
Wise was very active politically, both in national politics and in issues related to the Jewish community. He was both a close friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a liaison to President Wilson. He served as a delegate from New York in the 1924 Democratic National Convention, as well, and offered the invocation during its sixth session, on June 28, 1924.
In 1942, Rabbi Stephen Wise (1874–1949) authored a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt beseeching the President to receive a delegation of Jewish organizations and make a statement regarding Hitler’s massacres. They met on December 8th, where the President is noted to have said: “We are dealing with an insane man – Hitler, and the group that surrounds him represents an example of a national psychopathic case. We cannot act toward them by normal means. That is why the problem is very difficult.”
President Roosevelt deemed it too early to intervene in the actions of the Third Reich; he did, however, grant the request to offer a public statement composed by Wise and the other attendees.