Wiener, Max

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WIENER, MAX (1882–1950), Reform rabbi, author, and theologian. Born in Oppeln (Germany), he studied at the University of Berlin, where he received his Ph.D. in 1906, and at the Juedisch-theologisches Seminar in Breslau and the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin. He was ordained there in 1908. Wiener served the congregations in Duesseldorf, where he was assistant to Rabbi Leo *Baeck (1909–12), and then as rabbi in Stettin. He was a chaplain in France with the German Army during World War i. In 1926 he moved to Berlin where he was a communal rabbi for the liberal congregations. He succeeded Julius *Guttmann at the Lehranstalt fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums. He was active as a member of the national board of directors of the Juedischer Kulturverband, which was constituted to give work to unemployed Jewish artists and musicians by having them perform in concerts and theatrical performances, as well as lectures for the Jewish community. He was one of the great scholars saved by the Hebrew Union College and its visionary president Julius *Morgenstein, and brought to the United States, literally plucked from the fire. Together with other scholars, including Abraham Joshua *Heschel, he was invited to huc, where he became a member of the faculty and a congregational rabbi in Fairmont West, Virginia. He later moved to Congregation Habonim in New York, which was a synagogue in Washington Heights composed of German Jewish refugees, in what euphemistically became known as the "Fourth Reich" in Manhattan.

Wiener saw the essence of Judaism in the teaching of the prophets (Die Anschauungen der Propheten von der Sittlichkeit ("The Prophetic View of Ethics," 1909)), but he was critical of 19th-century Reform (Juedische Religion im Zeitalter der Emanzipation, 1933 – a standard work) and took a position sympathetic to Zionism and the historical character of Judaism and the Jewish people. Wiener also published Juedische Froemmigkeit und religioeses Dogma (1924); Religion in dieser Zeit (1934); and compiled Abraham Geiger und liberales Judentum (posthumous 1962). He was on the board of the Reconstructionist and served as editor of the Jewish Lexicon (1927; his work was adapted for the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia).

His son theodore wiener (1918– ) was librarian at the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, Cincinnati, from 1959, after serving as rabbi in a number of Reform congregations. From 1964 Wiener was supervisor of the Hebrew Language Unit in the Descriptive Cataloging Division at the Library of Congress. He published bibliographies of Leo Baeck (1954), Samuel *Cohon (1956), and Solomon B. Freehof (1964) and was co-translator with E. Spicehandler of B. Felsenthal's letters to J.H. Schorr (1958).


Liebeschutz, in: ylbi, 5 (1960), 35–57; K.M. Olitzsky, L.M. Sussman, and M.H. Stern (eds.), Reform Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook (1993).

[Jakob J. Petuchowski /

Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]