Isaac Mayer Wise
Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise
In the latter part of the 19th century, North College Hill was the home of Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, who has been called "the most prominent Jew of his time in the United States" for his influence as one of the early leaders of Reform Judaism in America. The son of a rabbi, Wise became a rabbi himself in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) two years before moving to Albany, New York in 1846 in pursuit of religious freedom. In 1854 Wise accepted an appointment to serve as the rabbi of the Reform congregation Beth Eichim in Cincinnati and remained in that position until his death in 1900.
Known as an organizer and a unifier of American Jews, Rabbi Wise was an early leader of Reform Judaism in America and was a founder of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, the oldest continuously existing Rabbinical seminary in the United States. Both the Isaac M. Wise Temple on Plum Street downtown and the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Amberley Village are named in his honor.
Wise Family Farm in NCH
In 1861 Rabbi Wise and his wife Therese bought a 40-acre farm near the current intersection of Goodman and Hamilton Avenues and raised a family of 10 children. Following Therese's death, Rabbi Wise married again and raised four more children at the farm with his second wife Selma. The farm is reputed to have given Dr. Wise great delight since land ownership was extremely uncommon among Jews in Europe.
When Rabbi Wise died in 1900, the farm became the home of his daughter, Helen Wise Molony, followed by his granddaughter, Alice Bernheim Weil. Weil lived in the property until 1968, at which time the family donated the land to the City of North College Hill, requesting that a portion of the land be preserved as "Isaac Mayer Wise Memorial Park."
Today, the park is situated on Goodman Avenue, near the intersection of Hamilton Avenue. Bricks from the original house now serve as the park's garden wall, bordering the park on the east, south and southwest. A commemorative plaque situated inside the park features a relief image of the original farmhouse.
The City has recently learned of a document created by one of Rabbi Wise's children that contains a very detailed description of the farm, including the trees, flowers and crops that were grown there. A copy of this document is linked HERE.
In early 2022, after learning that many elements of the Isaac Mayer Wise Memorial Park in North College Hill had begun to deteriorate due to age, the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati began raising funds to support its renovation. The Federation selected this renovation project as a gift to the City of North College Hill as part of the Federation’s continuing celebration of its Bicentennial. The North College Hill Community Improvement Corporation worked closely with the Federation to bring this project to pass. Construction began in August 2022, and will conclude with a rededication ceremony on Sunday, September 4, 2022 at 2:00 PM at the park.
The City of North College Hill is honored, and very grateful to the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati for this wonderful gift to our city. Toda raba! (Many thanks!)