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Miriam Markel-Mosessohn

MARKEL-MOSESSOHN, MIRIAM (1839–1920), Hebraist, translator, and journalist, who exercised a profound influence on the maskilim of her day, particularly Judah Leib *Gordon (1831–1892) who dedicated to her "Koẓo shel Yod" (The Tip of the Yod), his 1876 poem satirizing the treatment of women in traditional Jewish society. Born in Volkovyshki (Vilkaviskis), Lithuania, to Ḥayyah and Shimon Wierzbolowki, an affluent merchant, Markel-Mosessohn underwent rigorous training in Hebrew language and literature from an early age with the assistance of private tutors and also received a thorough grounding in secular subjects, including German and French.

Miriam married Anshel Markel-Mosessohn (1844–1903) when she was 24 and the groom 19. The couple, whose 40-year marriage was childless, shared a love for Hebrew and was committed to its revival. Anshel supported his wife's literary efforts, granting her freedom and financial backing to travel to pursue the publication of her work. Markel-Mosessohn corresponded briefly with Abraham *Mapu and maintained a 20-year professional and personal correspondence with Gordon, although the two never met. With Gordon's support, thefirst volume of Markel-Mosessohn's Hebrew rendition of the German history book Die Juden und die Kreuzfahrer unter Richard Lowenherz by Eugen Rispart appeared in 1869 as Ha-Yehudim be-Angliyah. The second volume of the translation was not published until 1895, apparently because of Markel-Mosessohn's poor health and financial problems. In 1887 she briefly became the Viennese correspondent for Ha-Meliz, the newspaper Gordon edited; however, after publishing only four articles, she abruptly renounced authorship, claiming "my desire and my ability are not one and the same."

Markel-Mosessohn succeeded in entering the rarefied, male world of Hebrew letters during the very period in which the language was being revived, but the strict pronouncement and observance of gender differentiations by the leaders of the *Haskalah, distinctions which Markel-Mosessohn herself accepted, precluded her from obtaining the status of maskil. Copies of Markel-Mosessohn's letters to Judah Leib Gordon and other literary papers are housed at the Jewish National and University Library Archive, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


C.B. Balin, To Reveal Our Hearts: Jewish Women Writers in Tsarist Russia (2000), 13–50; A. Yaari (ed.), Ẓeror Iggerot Yalag el Miriam Markel-Mosessohn (1936); B.-Z. Dinur (ed.), Mikhtavei Avraham Mapu (1970), 160, 164, 183–84.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.