New College Alumnus Stephen Wise (1996)Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

I am the Rabbi of Shaarei-Beth El Congregation of Oakville, Ontario, and have served pulpits in Waterloo, Copenhagen, Boston, New York and Florida. I am the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton, the Halton Police Service multi-faith taskforce, and recently published my first book on Israel – Israel: Repairing the World.  I am married to Cheryl, with 3 children, Jacob, Talia and Alexa.

What are your fondest memories from your time here at New College?

I was thrilled to be part of the New College production of “Once on this Island” during my second year (1993-94) proudly playing the role of a storyteller and part-time tree. It was very exciting to be part of a University musical production and I made great friends with the cast and production team.  It was one of my favorite moments at New College.

How did your academic and social experience at the University/College prepare you for life and your career?

U of T pushed me to my limits of learning.  As a history major, the requirements were strenuous, but the faculty was outstanding.  I took a class in espionage and our teacher at one point left for two weeks to consult for CSIS and wasn’t even allowed to tell us where he was.  In a Canadian modern history class, our professor actually served in the cabinet of John Diefenbaker, lending credibility to his assessments of that time period.  When I actually earned an ‘A’ on a paper I wrote on the German-Jewish experience, I knew that A’s don’t come easy, you need hard work and perseverance.  That academic experience was invaluable as I continued on to graduate work and rabbinic ordination, knowing I could push myself to achieve my academic goals.

Socially U of T is such a large school that it’s intimidating and hard at first to find your way.  What I found was that I had to make the effort to get involved in social clubs and activities to meet new people and expand my horizons.  That was why I auditioned and joined the cast of 2 musical shows.  I also joined a fraternity and maintain close friendships with the guys I met that year.  This taught me as well to step out of my comfort zone a little bit and challenge myself and helped me in life as I continue to search and try new experiences.

What was important to you then – what is important now?

I found that at the time, it was not clear what I wanted to do in life, so I just figured I would take a bunch of courses and slowly find my way.  I tried my best to take classes I wouldn’t normally take, like Philosophy, Astronomy, Anthropology and Archaeology, to expand my horizons and see what I liked.  I continue to enjoy learning and I think I gained that at U of T.

What are your major accomplishments and who had the most influence on your Career?

My greatest accomplishment in my career was being ordained as a Rabbi in service to the people of Israel.  It took many years and hard work and developing skills in interpersonal relations.  My teachers and mentors had the most influence on my career – particularly Rabbi Herman Blumberg, Rabbi Jonathan Stein and Rabbi Bernard Mehlman.

In your personal or professional life, what are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to continuing to learn, as I’ve discovered that as much as I learn, there is still so much more.  I want to publish more works that I am passionate about, including children’s literature.  I aspire to use my pulpit as a vehicle for social change and “Tikkun Olam,” which means literally “fixing the world.”  I hope to raise three vibrant, loving and curious children who in turn will make an impact on the world.