Friend of Presidents: Simon Wolf (1836-1923)

One of the most influential Jewish leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Simon Wolf studied law in Cleveland before moving to Washington in 1862. He was an eloquent orator and advocate on behalf of Jewish issues. In 1869, when Russia exiled 30,000 Jewish families from its border areas, Wolf appealed to President Grant to intercede. In 1903, when Jews fell victim to the Kishineff pogrom, he helped collect 13,000 signatures protesting the Russian government’s actions.

Wolf served as President of Washington Hebrew Congregation in 1872, and as both local and national president of B’nai B’rith. A columnist for The Jewish Messenger, Wolf often commented on Jewish life in the capital city.

If there were more Simon Wolfs in this world, humanity would be the gainer.

Christian Heurich, Washington brewer and philanthropist, 1906

Wolf portrait

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Bernard Nordlinger. 1979.03

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Wolf’s 1918 autobiography, Presidents I Have Known, was aptly named. When President Grant named him Recorder of Deeds for Washington in 1869, Wolf became one of the first Jews in the city to hold public office. In 1881, President James Garfield appointed him Consul General to Egypt.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Bernard Nordlinger. 1979.03

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For his 70th birthday, Wolf’s daughter, Florence Gotthold, compiled three books with more than 400 personal messages from leaders of the time—including Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, and Presidents Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt (seen here), and William Howard Taft.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Bernard Nordlinger. 1979.03

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President Roosevelt’s page in Wolf’s birthday book

Wolf portrait
autobiography cover
book cover
title page
book page