Adath Israel bids farewell to Rabbi Irvin and Kathy Wise

Congregants and friends gathered June 2 to bid a farewell to Adath Israel Congregation’s longtime rabbi and his wife.

Rabbi Irvin Wise and Kathy Wise were honored during a gala featuring music, laughter and a nostalgic photo and video gallery.

After serving as head rabbi for 27 years, Rabbi Wise is retiring. 

The evening featured speakers including congregational president John Stillpass and members of the Wise family – including Rabbi and Kathy’s three children: Ora, Shalva, and T Wise. 

The Wises’ adult children spoke of fond memories while growing up at Adath Israel. 

Over the years, Rabbi and Kathy have created and nurtured a family environment within a conservative Kehillah Kedosha – holy – synagogue. 

Rabbi Wise has blended the elements of both traditional and modern-day perspectives, along with his message of the importance of tikkun olam, or healing the world, one person at a time. From Jewish ethics classes to private and family counseling, Rabbi Wise has strived to be a example of what it means to value education, cultural awareness, personal growth, and a genuine pride in Jewishness. Kathy Wise has led introductory Judaism classes, challah baking, and organized such annual events as feeding the homeless. 

The two have also led multiple congregational trips to Israel and Europe. Each has been firmly devoted to uniting Adath Israel and the entire Cincinnati Jewish community, while adding a very personal touch to all they do.

Rabbi Wise was born in Cincinnati and became Adath’s senior rabbi in 1992. He graduated from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1978 with a master’s in Hebrew Letters, and he received his rabbinical ordination from HUC the following year. Before assuming his role at Adath, he served as director of student activities and assistant rabbi at HUC-Jerusalem, and as executive director of the Hillel Foundation at both the Ohio University and University of Minnesota. He has served as president of Greater Cincinnati Board of Rabbis, is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly, and has taught numerous core and elective courses.

Several congregants spoke about their memories of Rabbi Wise’s tneure. 

Steve and Mary Claybon, longtime members, spoke of the Rabbi’s High Holidays sermons. Every year, they were a little different than the last, but still provided “such meaning, powerful messages of faith and humility, and the importance of reflection.” 

Steve shared that Rabbi Wise is essentially the “same person as he was way back when ...” They grew up together. His message has always been one of “kindness and doing right by others.” 

Mary spoke of her love of the trips to Israel and how they are looking forward to what will be the Wises’ final trip to Europe as part of the Adath Israel family. 

“They are people of such heart and goodness,” said said, and they have done so much “to bring the community together” both inside and outside the synagogue.

Beulah Sheafe discussed how much the summer 2016 congregational trip to Israel meant to her. “Rabbi and Kathy are wonderful … just wonderful. They embrace everyone, everyone, no matter their circumstance or personal life history.” 

Barbara Forbus, also grew up with Rabbi Wise and remembers him in his youth. 

“Adath will not be the same without him. It is not even something I want to think about right now,” she said. 

She recalls a kind, introspective man with a witty sense of humor. As for Kathy, Barbara said, “she is one of the most warmhearted, sincere, and faith-dedicated people I have ever met. One of a kind, truly.”

As congregants prepare for the next chapter, they have already welcomed Assistant Rabbi Benjamin Chaidell, who celebrates one year with Adath this July; new senior Rabbi Moshe Smolkin begins in September.

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