A tribute to Louis Brandeis, justice of the United States Supreme Court and former leader of the American Zionist movement, was paid on the occasion of his 70th birthday which he attains on November 13, by Dr. Stephen S. Wise, honorary chairman of the United Palestine Appeal and former associate of Brandeis in Zionist leadership, prior to the Cleveland convention. In an address he delivered on Sunday at the Free Synagogue, Dr. Wise lamented the absence of Brandies from the present day leadership of Jewish affairs in the United States.
“Up to the day of his entry into the Supreme Court, Louis D. Brandies did much if not most to lift up a great calling, that of the law, to its highest estate. With power and with character, he fought to the end that the lawyer in American life shall be more than a legal agent of property and the propertied. He stood and fought for the humanization of the legal concept and the socialization of the legal process,” Dr. Wise declared in his address.
“In a sense Brandies came back to his people about fifteen years ago from without. The reasons that for many years withheld him from participation in the life of Israel were his own. I only know that when, in the largeness of his vision and loftiness of his purpose, he chose to assume a goodly part of his people’s burden, he was not really welcomed because of the lamentable inhospitality of second and fifth-rate leadership in Jewish life to first-rate leadership. The leaders of American Israel from the beginning, instead of giving eager and generous welcome to this great figure upon his return, sniffed and sncered at him. The masses welcomed him as their very own even as they had known Lincoln and Wilson.
“And the Jewish zealots of our day presumed to judge him by their machine made tests. These keepers of the Synagogue, who enshrine their own irreligion within it, called him irreligious, who is a spirit, a deeply and contagiously spiritual being. If a spirit such as Brandeis cannot find his home in the Synagogue, let us not so much find fault with Brandeis as re-examine the Synagogue in order to learn wherein lie its shortcomings. In sorrow I record that a community which sets too much store by the externals of organization and efficiency and money raising, though it be for the best purposes, can have no place in its leadership for a man who has no gifts save those of intellectual eminence and moral genius.
“I stood by Brandeis’ side in a great cause for a number of years. Never once in all the years of our association did he stoop to insincerity or guile. He chose and held the higher ground always. His leadership was as free from self-seeking as it was untainted by any baseness. Of how many leaders may it be said that theirs is a morally tonic quality? To take counsel with Brandeis in cause was ethically bracing. His leadership meant to us who stood with him a choice of the highest way, moral invigoration to meet the difficulties that lay ahead, a mystic something which was morally fortifying and spiritually renewing.
“In Paris in January, 1919, I had urged upon President Wilson that Justice Brandeis be assigned a certain task. President Wilson replied: “I need him everywhere, but I must leave him somewhere”–a tribute as significant as an other offered Brandeis before he entered the Supreme Court, when the President, in urging him upon the Senate, named him “this friend of justice and of men.”
“It is not good to think that if this jurist, statesman and economist was never sought for the Presidency it was solely because he was born in to the Jewish fellowship.
“I must forbear uttering all that is in my heart touching this greatest of living Jews; but I will tell of him. A learned and rather cynical friend once said of Brandeis, ‘I never meet him without feeling some sort of religious thrill.’ Brandeis has or is a spirit who not only evokes the best that others may be but touches them with something of that brooding, mystic quality which is his own.”
Dr. Wise also paid tribute to the late Dr. Charles W. Eliot, president emeritus of Harvard University, terming him and Brandeis the highest representatives of American idealism.