Thursday, 27 September 2012

Stephen S. Wise's lies on his passport applications

Stephen S. Wise, passport application (June 1922) photo

American Zionist leader Stephen S. Wise lied repeatedly on his United States passport applications forms for decades. Following is the proof.

A four-month-old Stephen S. Wise, then called Stephan Weiss, arrived in New York on August 11, 1875 aboard the S.S. Gellert from Hamburg, Germany. Accompanied by his mother Sabina Weiss, two sisters Ida and Ilma, his brother Otto, a woman named Helena Billitz, and an 8-month-old girl named Adele Billitz, who was, almost certainly, the "adopted child" named Adele Billitz of Sabina and Aaron Weiss, listed on this 1880 Federal Census.
Wise was evidently born in 1875, but it is claimed he was born on March 17, 1874. He often claimed he was born March 17, 1872, although he also claimed he was born March 17, 1874 as well.
1. On a passport application completed 29.05.1893, Wise claimed he was born on 17.03.1872 in Vienna, Austria
2. On a passport application completed 18.07.1898, Wise claimed he was born on 17.03.1872 in Vienna, Austria
3. On a
passport application completed 03.03.1904, Wise claimed he was born on 17.03.1872 in Budapest, Hungary
4. On a
passport application completed 21.03.1913, Wise claimed he was born on 17.03.1872 in Budapest, Hungary
5. On a passport application completed 05.06.1922, Wise claimed he was born on 17.03.1874 in Budapest*
Other details such as when he or his father arrived in the United States also vary on the above forms, although such details could be forgiven as mere errors, but a man who had both an MA and PhD, can't be so easily excused for the getting his own place and year of birth wrong so many times.
In the Federal Census from June 2, 1900, Stephen S. Wise's year of birth is declared as 1872, and place of birth declared to be Austria.
Henry, a regular and valued commenter on this blog, has pointed out here some of the inconsistencies and interesting facts about the Wise (nee Weiss) family history.
* This application is a five pages long in total, they can be viewed on the links below:
1. http://fotos.fotoflexer.com/410631f956effd3e8ba618f5452bf889.jpg
2. http://fotos.fotoflexer.com/3d1b372b9c67a93aa36b1083896df4df.jpg
3. http://fotos.fotoflexer.com/fdec918232aa73ee24864b34303382b5.jpg
4. http://fotos.fotoflexer.com/698f287f4d79f40cfc1cef4f8d8c09d8.jpg
5. http://fotos.fotoflexer.com/993ad5b866ced304e9518966d74065c4.jpg


  1. Stephen Wise, his family, and his supporters, must have been hiding something hence the many contradictions.

    1, No other racial or religious group catalogues dates to the extent that Jews do. Jews are the most consanguineous group. They thrive on a system of eugenics, and so records of family history and achievement are considered vital to the success of not just the individual but the community as a whole.

    2, His mother belonged to a wealthy Jewish family which had entered the Hungarian aristocracy, therefore there must have been religious and civil records (birth certificate) of birth.

    3, As a Jew, especially if his father was a rabbi and grandfather the chief rabbi, SW would have been circumcised on his eighth day with a bris certificate issued at that time. This certificate would give his Hebrew name and confirm his entry into the 'covenant'.

    Here's a picture of an old bris certificate:


    4, At age thirteen, Wise would have been bar mitzvahed and according to Jewish law would have become a man that time.

    We know his mother, Sabine, was not a widow, and one biographer gave details of her wish to be divorced.

    However, even if she managed to obtain a civil divorce her Jewish bond to her first husband may not have been broken. The process of religious divorce (called obtaining a 'get') is not a simple one, nor is it one that she would have any control over for: ''According to the Talmud, only the husband can initiate a divorce...'' and this would mean that Wise was a bastard ('mamzer') and under Jewish law at that time, forbidden from entering the rabbinate, nor could he marry a Jewish woman.

    Here is the prohibition explained in detail:


    "In the English use of the word, a child neither born nor begotten in lawful wedlock; an illegitimate child. There is no Hebrew word of like meaning. The mamzer, rendered "bastard" in the A. V., is something worse than an illegitimate child. He is the offspring of a father and mother between whom there could be in law no binding betrothal: issuing either from adultery between a married woman and a man other than her husband, or from incest within the forbidden degrees of kinship or affinity defined in Lev. xviii. and xx. The child of a marriage simply forbidden, as that between a cohen and a divorced woman, is legitimate but "profane"; that is, a son can not officiate as a priest, a daughter is not eligible to marry a priest. But a mamzer, according to Deut. xxiii. 3, must not "enter the congregation of the Lord," that is, marry an Israelite woman, "nor shall his tenth generation enter," etc., which includes also the female mamzer (Ḳid. iii. 12; Mak. iii. 1). The older Halakah, however, was more rigorous, Akiba declaring any child of a forbidden connection a mamzer (Yeb. iv. 12, 13; Yer. ib. 6b; Bab. ib. 44a, 49a)."



    Here is a modern interpretation:

    "Mamzer" is not just an ugly name to call someone. A mamzer may not marry a Jew in the framework of Orthodox Judaism and in the State of Israel. What's more, the status of "mamzer" is passed down to children, grandchildren and all later generations"



    1. Many thanks for all this information Henry.

      I spent a couple of hours searching immigration records for an Aaron Weiss or Aaron Wise. I found an Aron Weiss, who arrived in 1874 aged 31, but he sailed from Liverpool, England, and was listed as a German.

      As he travelled alone, it's far more difficult.

  2. Many thanks to you, BRoI.

    It's been a pleasure working with you on this and hopefully there's more to come as I believe the truth has not yet been told about Stephen Wise and his early background.

    The truth about his later activities has also never been told, but I hope that will soon be rectified with significant consequences for the telling of a certain 'tall-tale'.

    A brief word about the photo for his 1922 passport application. I don't know who it is in that photo but it's not Stephen Wise, that's for sure.

    The hairstyle is similar but the face below the hair line is not the face of Stephen Wise at age 47.

    Here's a photo of Wise with his son James from 5 years earlier in 1917/18.


    I have many photos of Stephen Wise and can say with certainty that the man in that picture is not him as a young man, either.

    Stephen Wise was affected by a squint (convergent) in the right eye and was called ''cross-eyed dick'' by his friends when growing up in New York.City.

    This is clearly evident in an excellent photo of Wise as (it's claimed) a newly ordained rabbi opposite to p. 76, of "Stephen S. Wise: The Servant of the People: Selected Letters, edited by C H. Voss"

    It was for this reason that Wise was so often photographed in profile and semi-profile, with his head turned slightly to the left to help straighten the converging right eye. Pictured from the front he would close the right eye slightly by cocking his left eye to disguise the flaw.

    Also, unlike the man in the passport photo Wise's ears were tight to his head almost as if they'd been 'pinned'.

    More on Stephen S. Wise, later.


    Your latest find is very interesting.

    That steerage passenger could very well be Aaron Wise. He (like some other passengers) appears to be described as a labourer (I think) and when Aaron Wise first got to New York the biographers all say he worked on building sites as a labourer or ''bricklayer''.

    As for him being German or from Germany....

    German was his first language, not Hungarian or even Yiddish, and German was the language Stephen spoke at home. Moreover, Aaron had (until his fall from grace) been an ''ultra'' Orthodox Jew and would therefore identify himself as 'Ashkenazi'.

    Ashkenazi is the Middle-Hebrew term for ''German'' and Central and Eastern Europe was referred to as Ashkenaz, meaning 'Germany'. So an Ashkenazi Jew is literally a German Jew.


    "Any of the historically Yiddish-speaking European Jews who settled in central and northern Europe, or their descendants. They lived originally in the Rhineland valley, and their name is derived from the Hebrew word Ashkenaz (“Germany”)"



    Can you give me an email address so that I may contact you, sometime.


    1. Thanks Henry, and for pointing that out about the photo, it was troubling me that the person in it appeared to be in his early twenties.

      I've gone back and checked, and the photo is not of Wise, but the previous passport applicant on the records. I've corrected it now, and uploaded all 5 pages of Wise's passport application for 1922. I also checked whether the previous applications might have been longer than just one pages, but they're not.

      His 1922 application states he was issue a passport in 1918, but I can't find a record of that one. And on page 2 of his 1922 passport application, it mentions his eye issue.

      Some film footage on him in action

      My email's lynchie3000@yahoo.co.uk

  3. I can corroborate Henry's citing of the bris certificate. I recall bumping into a bookshelf while horsing around in a classmate's basement and coming across his "certificate of circumcision." I remember finding it bizarre at the time and thinking that the big brown ring around his phallus where his foreskin used to be was enough certification.

    Just stumbled upon your site while looking for information about Harry Waton. Lots of very good information here. I'll surely be back often.

    1. Thanks very much for the info, compliment, and inspiration. Thanks to your prompting, I went and searched for a photo of Harry Waton, and eventually found one.


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