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MA-MM Archives | Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia
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MAARIV.

See Prayer.

MAAZEL, LOREN.

See Music.

MACCABEE, JUDAH.

See Maccabees.

MACCABEES.

Name given to Judah and his brothers of the Hasmonean priestly family from the town of Modin near Jerusalem. The Maccabees led the struggle from 167-160 B.C.E. against Antiochus Epiphanes, King of Syria, freeing Judea from Syrian oppression. The family consisted of the father, Mattathias, and his five sons, Johanan, Simon, Judah, Eliezer, and Jonathan. Judah was dubbed Maccabee, or “The Hammer,” alluding to the way in which he pounded his enemies.

The Seleucid rulers of Syria sought to establish their empire over the lands that had originally been conquered by Alexander the Great. They wrested control of Judea from Egypt, then tried to force the Greek culture and religion on the Jews. In 167 B.C.E., when Antiochus prohibited the practice of Judaism and the Temple was desecrated, the peaceful farmers of Judea transformed into warriors. Led by Mattathias and his sons, they rebelled against the Syrians. Few in number, untrained, and poorly armed, they fought for a year as guerillas in the hills and mountain passes of Judea. When Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E., Judah took over leadership. The little army of farmers repeatedly defeated the trained legions sent against them, captured arms and supplies, and grew in numbers. In several successful battles, the Maccabees achieved great victories against overwhelming odds. In 165 B.C.E., they entered Jerusalem. The Temple was cleared and worship restored, giving rise to the festival of Hanukkah.

To secure their victory, the Maccabees undertook expeditions against the hostile neighbors who had aided the Syrians. In one of the ensuing battles, Eliezer was killed, crushed by a war elephant he had stabbed. Another brother, Johanan, fell in a battle with an Arabian tribe. In 160 B.C.E., when the Syrians returned to conquer Judea, Judah Maccabee, leading 800 men, faced a huge Syrian force and died in battle. Jonathan succeeded Judah, carried on the struggle with the Syrians, and strengthened Judea and widened its boundaries. In 143 B.C.E., he was treacherously killed by a Syrian general who had posed as his friend. Simon, the last of the five Maccabee brothers, was elected as ruler and high priest. Beloved by the people, Simon governed them and served as their high priest, leaving the military activities to his sons when he became old.

MACHPELAH.

Cave near Hebron. When Sarah died, Abraham purchased it from Ephron the Hittite (Gen. 23). It became the burial crypt of the patriarchs and matriarchs and a place of pilgrimage. Long held as a Moslem shrine, admission was denied to non-Moslems until after the Six-Day War.

MAGEN DAVID.

Literally, shield of David. The six-cornered star made by overlapping two triangles is an ancient and widespread symbol. Many ancient architectural ruins carry the engraving of this Hebrew seal. The 3rd- or 4th-century synagogue dug up in Capernaum, Israel, has not only the six-pointed Magen David upon it, but also the rarer five-pointed Seal of Solomon. In 1345, the Emperor Charles IV permitted Jews of Prague to use a flag bearing “the Shield of David and the Seal of Solomon” upon a red field. In modern times, the Shield of David has been the symbol of Zionism and the State of Israel.

MAGEN DAVID ADOM (MDA).

Literally, Red Shield of David. Israel’s emergency medical, health, and disaster service was authorized by the Knesset on July 12, 1950. It was entrusted to carry out the functions assigned by the Geneva Convention, equivalent to other Red Cross societies. MDA cooperates with the international Red Cross in disaster areas throughout the world.

American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMD) is the support arm in the U.S. A member organization with chapters throughout the country, it educates and involves members in activities of MDA. It raises funds for MDA’s emergency medical services, including collection and distribution of blood and blood products for Israel’s military and civilian population. It also supplies ambulances, bloodmobiles, and mobile cardiac rescue units serving all hospitals and communities throughout Israel. Finally, it supports MDA’s 73 emergency medical stations and helps provide training equipment for voluntary paramedical corps.

MAGGID.

Literally, to tell. The Maggid was a folk preacher who used biblical and Midrashic quotations, parables, and stories to preach morality and repentance. Traveling from town to town, the Maggid attracted great masses with his chanting oratory. Although he was not very scholarly, his influence was more widespread than that of scholars and rabbis.

Outstanding among maggidim were Jacob Kranz, the Maggid of Dubno, in the 18th century; Moses Isaac ben Noah Darshan, the Kelmer Maggid; and Rabbi Jacob Joseph of New York, originally the Maggid of Vilna, in the 19th century.

MAGGID OF DUBNO (JACOB KRANZ) (1740-1804).

Popular preacher and one of the best loved personalities in East European Jewish life. The fables of the Maggid of Dubno always had a moral or ethical message, enjoyed by young and old, scholar and layperson alike. Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna, was fond of his sermons.

MAGNES, JUDAH LEON (1877-1948).

Rabbi, community leader, and educator. Magnes played an important role in the organization of Jewish community life in the U.S. during the early years of the 20th century. He was secretary of the Federation of American Zionists from 1905 to 1908, and was director of the New York Kehilla, or community, from 1909 to 1922. After World War I he was called to organize the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and served as president of the University from 1925 until his death in 1948. In Palestine, he was one of the leaders of the movement that called for a binational (Arab-Jewish) state in Palestine.

MAHARAL.

See Loew, Judah Ben Bezalel.

MAHLER, GUSTAV (1860-1911).

Conductor and composer. He was born in Bohemia and baptized as a child. Mahler served as conductor at the opera in Prague, Hamburg, and at the Imperial Opera in Vienna. For a number of years, he con_ducted German opera at the New York Metropolitan Opera House, and from 1909 to 1911 he was the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. When he died in Vienna, Czechs, Austrians, and Jews all laid claim to him as a great son. Mahler wrote nine symphonies and many songs. He is considered one of the greatest composers of modern times.

MAHZOR.

Literally, cycle. A book of prayers, hymns, and liturgic poetry; more generally, the prayer book for the High Holy Days and Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. There were several versions of the Mahzor, each following the customs and traditions of a different locality: the Roman Mahzor, based on the 16th-century Mahzor Romania, originated in the Byzantine Empire; the Ashkenazic Nusah of German Jews; and the Mahzor Sephardi, compiled during the early part of the Middle Ages by Spanish Jewry. Today, the two accepted texts are the Ashkenazic and Sephardic versions.

MAIDANEK.

Nazi concentration camp near Lublin, Poland. Here, a quarter-million Jews and at least 100,000 non-Jews were exterminated, mainly in gas chambers, between 1941 and 1944.

MAILER, NORMAN (1923- 2007).

American novelist whose larger-than-life persona often overshadowed his writing. In a career that spanned six decades, his first book, the widely-acclaimed World War II novel, The Naked and the Dead is considered his best. A keen observer of culture, his later novels fail to measure up to his early potential. However, he won both a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in 1968 for The Armies of the Night and another Pulitzer for The Executioner’s Song.

MAIMON, (FISHMAN) JUDAH LEIB (1876-1962).

Scholar and leader of religious Zionism. Born in Bessarabia, he was inspired at an early age by the idea of a return to Zion. In 1913, Rabbi Maimon and his family settled in Palestine, where he began to take an active part in the rebuilding of the land. He was appointed Minister of Religions in the first Cabinet of the State of Israel. Rabbi Maimon was head of the Rabbi Kook publishing house and editor of the scholarly monthly, Sinai. He published many important volumes on Jewish holidays, Zionism, law, and monographs on famous personalities. He possessed one of the largest private collections of Judaica books.

MAIMONIDES (1135-1204).

Jewish philosopher, religious thinker, and physician. Few have attained the heights of thought and scholarship scaled by Maimonides, also known as Moses ben Maimon, or Rambam. His genius revealed itself in many fields of spiritual and scientific activity: in law, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, and logic. He wrote many extraordinary scholarly works, and was the acknowledged head of the Jewish community in Egypt and the revered leader of all Jewry. His authority extended as far as the distant land of Yemen; to this day, Yemenite Jews pay homage to his memory in their prayers.

Maimonides was born in Cordova, Spain, where his father, Rabbi Maimon, was the religious head, or dayan, of the community. He was only thirteen years old when Cordova was conquered by the Almohades, a fanatic Muslim sect. His family was forced to flee; after much wandering, they reached Fez, Morocco. Through this troubled period, Maimonides continued his studies. In Fez, he published a letter to Jews who were forced to accept the Islamic faith, urging them to observe secretly the Jewish commandments. When Yemenite Jews were bitterly persecuted, Maimonides wrote to them the famous Iggeret Teman in which he advised his distant brethren not to despair, for all persecutions are challenges to prove the truth and purity of the Jewish faith.

Maimonides’ outspoken and courageous leadership endangered his position in Morocco, and he and his family were forced to flee again. He remained briefly in Palestine. In 1165, he left for Egypt, where he settled in Fostat near Cairo. He had many obligations as head of the Jewish community and as court physician to the Vizier Al Kadi al Fadil and later to the Caliph Al Fadal. Yet Maimonides still devoted much time to study.

Even during his lifetime Maimonides was held in the highest regard. His commentary on the Mishnah and his great code Mishneh Torah are the work of a genius. The code is divided into fourteen books and embraces the entire field of Jewish law. The Mishneh Torah is written in clear, rich, and precise Hebrew. In the first of these volumes Maimonides explained the foundations of the Jewish religion and its principles in the light of reason and logic. To explain further the philosophic principles of Judaism he wrote in Arabic a Guide for the Perplexed.

Maimonides influenced spiritual development throughout generations. His Guide for the Perplexed, an attempt to bring philosophy into harmony with religion, has been translated into many languages. It has exerted great influence not only on Jewish thinkers, but also on Christian theologians and philosophers. Maimonides was enshrined in folk legend, and the people of Tiberias erected a tomb in his memory. The inscription upon it reads, “Here lies our master Moses ben Maimon, Mankind’s Chosen One.”

MAINE.

With 6,000 Jews in Portland and another 4,000 in the rest of the state, Maine Jewry is one of the smallest in the U.S. Jews began to arrive in the late 19th century with the large immigration waves from eastern Europe, and settled in Auburn, Bangor, Biddeford, Lewiston, and Waterville.

MALACHI.

Last of the biblical prophets. He is considered by some traditional authorities to be an anonymous prophet because Malachi means “my messenger.” Malachi lived in Jerusalem in the middle of the 5th century B.C.E., perhaps 50 years after the rebuilding of the Temple by the returned exiles from Babylonia. Malachi stresses obedience to ritual and Law; his prophecies teach the universality of God and the natural worth of all people.

MALAMUD, BERNARD (1914-1986).

American novelist and short story writer. His work, though written in English, is often reminiscent of the great Yiddish writers. The Assistant is about a poor Jewish grocer in Brooklyn. The Fixer, about the Mendel Beilis case, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967. One short novel, The Natural, about a mysterious baseball player, was made into a motion picture starring Robert Redford.

MANDEL, MARVIN (1920-2015).

Maryland Governor. Widely considered one of the most effective and influential governors in Maryland history, Mandel, a Democrat, reformed and modernized much of State government.

Son of  a clothing worker, he grew up in Baltimore and attended the University of Maryland and also received his law degree from that college. After serving in the army during WWII, he practiced law, entering politics in the early 1950s. As a delegate in the Maryland State House for 16 years he rose to the top of the leadership.  When Gov. Spiro Agnew resigned to become U.S. Vice President, the Delegates selected Mandel to fill his term. He was elected for a full term in 1970 and re-elected in 1974.

Towards the end of his second term, he was convicted on Federal Mail fraud charges. Later, the conviction was overturned, but was eventually reinstated.  He ended up spending 19 months in Federal Prison until his sentence was commuted by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

To regain his law license , he  fought to have his conviction overturned and was finally successful in the late 1980. He resumed the practice of law, and despite his tarnished reputation he remained involved in politics, sought after for advice by both Democrats and Republicans. In 2003 he was named to Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland.

 

MANGER, ITZIK.

See Yiddish Literature.

MANILOW, BARRY.

See Music.

MANSDORF, AMOS.

See Sports.

MAOT CHITTIM.

Literally, wheat money. The collection of money before Passover to provide poor Jewish families with matzot, wine, and other holiday needs. This charity was considered an important religious obligation, and societies were often set up for this purpose.

MAOZ ZUR.

See Hanukkah.

MAPAI.

See Israel, Government and Parties.

MAPAM.

See Israel, Government and Parties.

MAPU, ABRAHAM (1808-1867).

First Hebrew modern novelist. His biblical novel Love of Zion, published in 1853, opened a new era in the history of Hebrew letters. Born in Lithuania, he received a religious education and soon acquired a reputation as a prodigy in the study of Talmud. In later years he studied Latin and modern languages as well. In his somewhat naive yet charming novels, written in what now sounds like clumsy biblical Hebrew, he laid the foundation for modern Hebrew literature by proving that the language was suitable for writing fiction, and by introducing for the first time themes such as love of nature and love between man and woman.

MARCEAU, MARCEL (1923- 2007).

The greatest mime, or silent comedian, of all time. He achieved international fame at age 24, and is known throughout the world as one of the most original artists of the 20th century.

MARCUS, DAVID (MICKEY) (1902-1948).

American soldier who served with distinction in World War II, and went to Palestine as a military advisor to the Haganah. He was killed during the siege of Jerusalem. Cast a Giant Shadow, a novel about his life, was made into a movie.

MARCUS, JACOB (1896-1995).

American historian and rabbi, he wrote extensively about American Jewish history. He taught at and was associated with the Hebrew Union College for 76 years, and became the friend and mentor of generations of Reform rabbis. In 1947, he established the American Jewish Archives, a major repository and research center for American Jewish history. A street in Cincinnati is named after him.

MARRANOS.

Spanish and Portugese Jews and their descendants who were forced to accept Christianity, but continued to practice Judaism secretly. In a number of cases, they passed their secret beliefs from generation to generation. In its relentless investigations to root out blasphemers, the Inquisition tortured many Marranos until they admitted their heresy, and then burned them at the stake. Those Christians, as they were called, who were not exposed as secret Jews were nevertheless despised and remained under constant suspicion. When Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, many escaped to Portugal and South America; there, too, many Marranos met martyrdom at the hand of the Inquisition. Other Marranos found refuge in Holland, France, Italy, and North Africa. There they either reverted to Judaism openly or remained secret Jews, sometimes for several hundred years, until they felt it was no longer dangerous to reveal their faith. Over the centuries, Portuguese descendants of the early Marranos lost or forgot their connections with Judaism, yet still retained a number of Jewish customs. These they practiced in secret, often believing the secrecy itself to be part of the custom. During the 19th century, considerable numbers of such secret Jews were found in northern Portugal and the Balearic Isles. Although they assimilated into the Christian communities, they observed various Jewish customs and holidays. The Marranos of Belmonte, for example, lit Sabbath candles, fasted on Yom Kippur, and refrained from eating pork (only on the Sabbath and holidays). An international committee for Portuguese Marranos, formed during the 1920’s, helped some Marranos to return openly to Judaism.

MARRIAGE CUSTOMS.

Marriage is one of the most sacred and joyous of Jewish ceremonies. Traditionally, the marriage rites begin with the drawing up of a contract between the groom, bride, and their families. This agreement serves as an engagement. On the Sabbath before the wedding itself, the bridegroom is called up to the reading of the Torah, as is the father of the bride. Traditionally, the groom and bride fast on the wedding day. The wedding ceremony takes place under a huppah, or canopy, which represents the home. It is traditionally held in the open air. Preceded by the reading of the marriage contract, or ketubah, the ceremony consists of a series of benedictions thanking God for establishing the family, for creating man in His image, and for the joy of the wedding festivities. After the first benediction, the bridegroom places a ring on the finger of the hand of the bride, and says, “You are sanctified to me with this ring in accordance with the Law of Moses and Israel.” After the benedictions, ending with a prayer for the happiness of the bride and groom and for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the bridegroom breaks a glass. This is done to bring to mind the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, which must not be forgotten even on the most joyous occasions. Among certain Orthodox Jews, the festivities last for a whole week. Special benedictions for the happiness of groom and bride are said each evening, concluding with a feast on the seventh day.

MARSHALL, LOUIS (1856-1929).

World Jewish leader. Born in Syracuse, New York,  he was a brilliant constitutional lawyer who made his mark in civic and national affairs as a member of a slum investigation committee in New York and as chairman of the Commission of Immigration of the State of New York. A tireless worker for the underprivileged, he took a forthright stand on rights for African Americans and Native Americans. He championed conservation and preservation of wild life. A founder of the American Jewish Committee,  he became its president in 1912.  As chairman of the executive board of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Marshall also spearheaded the work of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. In 1919, he was a member of the U.S. Jewish delegation to the Versailles Peace Conference which followed World War I, and he drew up the resolution for Jewish minority rights in Eastern Europe. These rights were extended to other minorities and incorporated by the Peace Conference into the treaties with a number of European countries. When the enlarged Jewish Agency for Palestine was organized in 1929, Louis Marshall was one of the leading non-Zionists to become a member of its executive body.

MARTINIQUE.

One of the Windward Islands in the West Indies, ruled by France since 1635. The largest Jewish community Martinique has ever known is composed of 300 Brazilian exiles who settled there in 1654. They were expelled in 1683. Though refugees arrived from Europe during World War II, they were not allowed to establish themselves.

MARTYRS, TEN.

After the unsuccessful revolt of Bar Kokhba from 132 to 135 against Roman rule, the Roman emperor Hadrian attempted the spiritual destruction of the Jewish people. Upon penalty of death, he forbade the study of the Torah. Jews were not permitted to practice the most fundamental laws of their religion. Sabbath observance, celebration of holidays, and circumcision were forbidden.

Jewish scholars were the major target of this persecution. However, they braved death rather than submit to Roman oppression. The story of their courageous stand and martyrdom became embodied in legend. The foremost scholars and leaders of their people defied the Roman decree and continued to teach the Torah to their students. Among these martyrs were Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph, Juda ben Bava, and Hananiah ben Teradion. While enduring a slow agonizing death, the martyrs proclaimed their faith in God. It is related that the executioner of Hananiah ben Teradion was so moved by the spirit of the sage that he did everything possible to spare his suffering. Moved to remorse by his victim’s saintly bearing, the executioner leapt into the flames to atone for the cruel task he had been forced to perform. Thereafter, the heroic death of the ten scholars served as a symbol of martyrdom. Their faith and fortitude gave countless Jews the strength to sacrifice their lives “for the sanctification of the name of God.”

MARX BROTHERS, THE.

See Stage and Screen.

MARX, KARL (1818-1883).

Economist, thinker, and founder of scientific socialism. Born to a German-Jewish family, Marx was destined to become one of the leading revolutionary thinkers of modern times. Exiled from Germany for political activity in 1845, he went to Paris where he joined revolutionary Socialist circles. There, in collaboration with Friedrich Engels, he wrote The Communist Manifesto in 1848, calling upon the workers to rise in violent revolution against their capitalist oppressors. Exiled from France and then again from Germany, Marx settled in London where he devoted his life to the development and exposition of his theories of history and society and to the organization of an international workers’ movement.

Marx believed that labor was the source of all economic value and that the profits of an employer (a “capitalist”) therefore constituted “theft.” In Marx’s theory, capitalism not only led to the worker’s impoverishment, it also led to the perversion of human nature, which Marx believed to be essentially good. Because Marx held that all history and culture were determined by economic conditions, he favored a world revolution which would give labor its due and permit the “rehumanization” of people. Das Kapital (Capital), setting forth his economic theory, was his most important work, and later became the handbook of both the Socialist and Communist movements. Its assumptions were the basis for early economic policy in the Soviet Union.

Marx was baptized at the age of six, a practice common among German Jews with ambitions for their children, and in his future years he avoided involvement in Jewish life. Only one article, Zur Judenfrage (On the Jewish Question), dealt directly with Jewish affairs.

MARYLAND.

Most of the state’s 235,000 Jews live either in Baltimore (91,000) or in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties (121,000), which constitute the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. After the Revolutionary War, there were few Jews in Maryland because of the requirement to espouse Christianity. But in 1826 a law was passed that allowed Jews to hold office. At the same time synagogues were founded in Baltimore, and Jewish communities in the state began to grow. Jews became active in the political and social life of the state, and during the Civil War Jews of the state

MASADA.

Ancient fortress in the Judean wilderness, famed for the last stand of the Zealots in the war against the Romans in 70 C.E. In recent years it has been the site of much archaeological activity. In 1965, Prof. Yigael Yadin of the Hebrew University reported that his expedition had discovered a large piece of scroll belonging to the long-lost Hebrew original of the Book of Jubilees, one of the most important of Apocryphal writings. (See also Archeology.)

MASHGIACH.

Literally, supervisor. Someone familiar with dietary laws who is appointed to supervise the preparation of food in keeping with those laws.

MASORAH.

Literally, tradition. Literary activity centering around the text of the Bible. This activity took place in Tiberias in Palestine during the 8th century, resulting in a standard Bible text.

The Massoretes, or scholars who devoted themselves to establishing the Masoretic text, divided the biblical books into chapters and verses which were lacking in the original text, and set down the correct pronunciation of biblical words which were often unclear because vowel and accent marks were unknown in early times. They compiled spelling lists and introduced a system of vowel and accent marks that enabled every Jew to read and study the Bible. The Masoretic activity was brought to a close at the beginning of the 10th century by the last of the Masorites, Aaron ben Asher.

MASSACHUSETTS.

One of the major centers of Jewish life and culture in the U.S. With close to 275,000 Jews, 228,000 live in Greater Boston, 20,000 in Lynn, and 10,000 each in Springfield and Worcester. Smaller communities exist in Cape Cod, Fall River, Greenfield, Lowell, Pittsfield, and Taunton.

The zeal of the early Puritans in the state scared away Jews in the 17th century. A few Jewish merchants found their way there before the Revolution, but organized Jewish life did not begin until mid-19th century. In the 20th century, Massachusetts became one of the main centers of Jewish communal and cultural life in the U.S. (See also Boston and Brandeis University.)

MATRIARCHS.

The collective name for the mothers of the people of Israel: Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel. Their husbands constituent the three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. On Sabbath and holiday eves, it was customary for fathers to bless their daughters: “May the Lord make you like unto Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah.”

MATTATHIAS.

See Maccabees.

MATTHAU, WALTER.

See Stage and Screen.

MATZAH.

Unleavened bread. See Passover.

MAUROIS, ANDRÉ (1885-1967).

French author. He is noted for his biographies of Disraeli, Shelley, and Balzac. He was elected member of the Académie Française in 1938.

MEGGIDO.

Ancient Palestinian city in Emek Jezreel at the foot of the Samarian hills. Strategically located on the ancient highway that links Egypt in the south of Israel to Syria and Assyria in the north, Meggido was the scene of many battles until the 4th century B.C.E, when the city was abandoned. Joshua subjugated the Canaanite king of Meggido (Joshua 12:21); later Solomon fortified the town and established a garrison of horsemen there. During the period of the Kings, ending with Josiah (II Kings 23:29), numerous battles were fought in and around the city. Meggido has become a Christian symbol of war, and it was believed that at the “end of days” the final war between Good and Evil, known as the Battle of Armaggedon, would be carried on there. During the World War I campaign for the Holy Land, General Allenby and his British forces defeated the Turks near this spot. The tel, or mound, all that remains of Meggido, has been the subject of archaeological diggings since 1903, the most significant being the Rockefeller expedition of 1926-1939. The excavations have exposed seven layers of ancient cities built one on top of the other, the earliest probably dating back to 3500 B.C.E. Early Canaanite altars and Solomon’s stables may be seen in a remarkable state of preservation among the ruins of Meggido.

MEGILLAH.

Literally, scroll. A book written on a single roll of parchment, different from a sefer, a larger book mounted on double rollers. The following five books of the Bible are each called a megillah: Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther; collectively they are known as the megillot. The proper noun megillah refers primarily to the Scroll of Esther. Written by hand in illuminated script and often decorated with colorful border designs, megillot were kept in cases of carved wood and figured on filigreed silver. Examples of megillot dating back to the 13th century are found in museums.

MEIR BAAL HA-NES

(Meir the Miracle Worker). Name given to Rabbi Meir (2nd century), because of his reputation as a performer of miracles. Charity boxes in Jewish homes in the Diaspora bearing his name were used to give charity to poor Jews in the Holy Land.

MEIR, GOLDA (1898-1979).

Labor Zionist leader and Prime Minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974. She was born Gold Mabowitz to a carpenter in Kiev, Russia. The Mabowitz family came to the U.S. in 1906 and settled in Milwaukee where Meir grew up and taught school. A Zionist since youth, she married Morris Myerson on the condition that they go to Palestine to settle as pioneers. Arriving in Palestine in 1921, they joined the kibbutz Merhavia, where Golda Myerson trained to become its specialist in poultry raising.

Her public career began with her work as secretary of the Women’s Labor Council. This work involved her in shuttling between Palestine and the U.S., and developed her remarkable skill as administrator, organizer, propagandist, and fund-raiser. These abilities were recognized by the Histadrut, the General Federation of Labor in Palestine, and Myerson was appointed to its executive committee. She served the Histadrut ably in a variety of executive posts, heading the Workers’ Sick Fund and organizing the unemployment insurance system by persuading the workers to tax themselves for this purpose. Her versatility enabled her to raise single-handedly the capital to finance Nachshon, the Histadrut harbor installations in Tel Aviv. In retaliation for resistance to its immigration policy, the British arrested the top leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine on June 29, 1946. Myerson replaced the imprisoned Moshe Sharett as head of the Jewish Agency Political Department.

She was one of two women who signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence in May 1948 and became Israel’s first ambassador to Russia. She was enthusiastically welcomed by Russian Jews. Because of her experience in labor relations and in social insurance, she was recalled to Israel in 1949 to become Minister of Labor in Prime Minister Ben-Gurion‘s first cabinet. Myerson served in this position until 1956 when, upon the resignation of Moshe Sharett, she assumed the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs. In keeping with the established practice that foreign service officials Hebraize their names, she changed her last name to Meir. Meir was succeeded as Minister of Foreign affairs by Abba Eban in 1965.

When the Mapai, Ahdut HaAvodah, and the Rafi parties officially merged early in 1968, Meir was elected secretary general of the new party. She held this office until 1969 when she succeeded Levi Eshkol as Prime Minister of Israel. As Prime Minister she paid several official visits to the U. S. as the guest of President Richard M. Nixon. In 1974, following the Yom Kippur War, she resigned from the government, and was succeeded by Yitzhak Rabin.

MEIR OF ROTHENBURG

(1215-1293). Scholar and poet. Renowned rabbi in Western Germany. At age 66 he fled with his family from the persecutions of German rulers with the intention of going to the Holy Land, but was arrested on the way and returned as a prisoner to Germany. Emperor Rudolph of Hapsburg demanded from the Jews a large sum for the liberation of their beloved leader. Although the Jews were ready to pay, Rabbi Meir refused to be ransomed so as not to establish the precedent of redeeming imprisoned Jewish leaders. Rabbi Meir died in prison, and again the Emperor demanded a heavy ransom before relinquishing the rabbi’s body for Jewish burial. Fourteen years later, a wealthy Jew ransomed the body on condition that he himself be buried beside the remains of the venerable rabbi. To this day, one can see in the Jewish cemetery of Worms the double grave with a single tombstone marking the resting place of the rabbi and his loyal follower.

MEIR, RABBI.

(2nd century C.E.) Greatest of Rabbi Akiba‘s disciples, this 2nd-century Tanna figures prominently in the Mishnah. All laws in the Mishnah whose authorship is not specified are ascribed to Rabbi Meir. Although second only to the head of the Sanhedrin in scholarship and rank, Rabbi Meir earned a modest living by copying holy scrolls. He had a keen legal mind, and the imaginative side of his nature was expressed in legends, fables, and parables. It is said that he composed 300 fox fables; all except three have been lost.

Rabbi Meir was a pupil of Elisha Ben Abuyah who later strayed from Judaism. Unlike other sages who forsook this once revered teacher, Rab_bi Meir continued to benefit from his learning and tried to bring Elisha Ben Abuyah back to Judaism. Rabbi Meir had an abiding, deep love for the land of Israel and for the Hebrew language. He said, “One who lives in the land of Israel and speaks the holy tongue is assured of his share in the world to come.”

MEISELS, DOV BERISH

(1798-1870). Chief Rabbi of Warsaw and Polish patriot. He took part in the Polish rebellion of 1863. A street in Warsaw is named after him.

MELCHETT, LORD (SIR ALFRED MOND) (1868-1930).

English industrialist, chemist, and Zionist leader. He was the head of the Imperial Chemical Industries of London, one of the largest of its kind in the world. In his youth, Lord Melchett studied law and participated actively in the economic and political life of Britain. For 17 years he was a member of Parliament; during World War I he served as Minister of Health and Labor. In 1917, Lord Melchett was attracted to Zionism and worked closely with Louis D. Brandeis for the economic development of Palestine. He was at one time president of the English Zionist Federation and Joint Chairman of the Jewish Agency. A colony in Palestine, Tel Mond, is named after him. His son, Lord Henry Melchett (1898-1949), was president of the Maccabi World Union, and wrote several books, one of which, Your Neighbor, expounds the ideals of Judaism and Zionism.

MEM.

Thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, forty.

MENASSEH.

Older son of Joseph.

MENASSEH BEN ISRAEL (1604-1657).

Rabbi and author. In 1655, when England was a Republic under the rule of Cromwell the Lord Protector, a strange figure with a strange case to plead appeared in London. He was Menasseh ben Israel, a Lisbon-born rabbi who had settled in Amsterdam and become famous throughout Europe for books on religious and other subjects. In 1650, he wrote Esperanza de Israel (Hope of Israel), a treatise arguing that the Messiah would not come until Jews had been scattered to the four corners of the earth. Convinced by the argument, Oliver Cromwell had invited Menasseh to discuss the return of Jews to England, from which they had been banished in 1290. Menasseh pleaded eloquently, but a Whitehall convention rejected his plan. Nonetheless, a Jewish community was founded in 1656. Menasseh died a year later in Middelburg, Holland. His face is known to us from a portrait by his friend Rembrandt, the greatest Dutch artist of the day.

MENDELE MOCHER SEFARIM (ABRAMOWITZ, SHALOM JACOB) (1836-1917).

Pioneer Hebrew and Yiddish writer, best known by his pen name, Mendele Mocher Sefarim (Mendele the Bookseller). Born in a small town in White Russia, he received a traditional Jewish education, studying for a time at a Talmudical academy. At 17 he was persuaded to join an adventurous traveling beggar who promised the youth an exciting life in faraway places. His travels through the populous Jewish towns in southern Russia furnished the material for Mendele’s realistic novel Fishke der Krumer and others. Abramowitz began his literary career during the Haskalah, or Enlightenment, period, and he successfully adapted a work on natural history from German into Hebrew. In 1857, he published articles urging the improvement of Jewish education. His Hebrew novel Fathers and Sons deals with the clash between generations, and completes the first cycle of his literary career. In his second period, Mendele chose to write in the vernacular, or spoken language, of the people, Yiddish. In his novels, The Little Man, Meat Tax, and The Mare he introduced the social reform motive, criticizing the community for exploiting the poor. In The Travels of Benjamin the Third and his other works, he revealed himself as a sharp satirist, ridiculing the pettiness, narrow-mindedness, and ignorance of small town inhabitants. In masterly fashion he described the stark poverty of the Jewish masses, mixing, as Dickens did, humor with compassion. Mendele created a new Hebrew and Yiddish literary style, making full use of the rich, hidden treasures of the language and contributing to its revival. His works present a vivid picture of Jewish life in the first half of the 19th century. Odessa, where Mendele had lived since 1881, became an important Hebrew literary center. Mendele’s influence was far-reaching. Bialik, one of the foremost Hebrew poets, prided himself on being among Mendele’s disciples.

MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY, FELIX (1809-1847).

Composer, pianist, and conductor. His grandfather was Moses Mendelssohn, the Jewish philosopher whose work opened the period of emancipation in Jewish history. Felix’s father, Abraham, wanted to spare his children from social and other forms of anti-Jewish discrimination, and therefore had them baptized as Lutherans. “That is the form of religion of most cultured men,” said Abraham Mendelssohn. To further conceal his son’s Jewish origin, he took the additional surname of Bartholdy. Felix often dropped the “Bartholdy” from his signature, and in the world of music his work is known simply as “Mendelssohn’s.” He retained a sincere and positive regard for Judaism, and there are many references in his correspondence to his Jewish identity.

A child prodigy, Mendelssohn began composing at the age of 11, and wrote some of his greatest work at 17. Some of his works

MENDELSSOHN, MOSES (1729-1786).

Philosopher and founder of the German Jewish Enlightenment movement. Born in Dessau, the son of Mendel, a Torah scribe, young Mendelssohn received a traditional Jewish education in the Bible and Talmud. One of his early teachers introduced Moses to the study of Maimonides. This study influenced him deeply and formed his taste for philosophy. Coming to Berlin at age 14, he studied mathematics, Latin, Greek, and philosophy, and became a master of German prose. At a time when German Jews were still locked in their ghettos and required special permits to live in Berlin, Moses Mendelssohn became widely known as a German writer on philosophical subjects and on the theory of art. His home became the meeting place for many of the cultural leaders of his day, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

Mendlessohn tried to break down the walls of the ghetto from both the inside and outside. He wanted Jews to learn the German language as a gateway to the knowledge of the outside world. He wanted Jewish children to learn manual trades. With the help of wealthy friends, he opened a free school in Berlin where Jewish boys were trained in manual occupations and taught some German, in addition to the Bible and Talmud. Mendelssohn set for himself the task of translating the Pentateuch and the Psalms into German. Eventually, he published this German translation in Hebrew letters by the side of the original Hebrew text. The influence of this Bible translation was enormous. From it many Talmud students learned the German language and went on to the study of general European culture. The Haskalah, or Enlightenment, movement in Germany and Eastern Europe is often dated back to this translation.

To breach the walls of the ghetto from the outside, Mendelssohn wrote his Jerusalem. When published, some parts of this book were attacked by Christians and Jews alike. In Jerusalem, he outlined his ideals of religious and political toleration, separation of church and state, and equality of all citizens. At the same time he pleaded with Jews to hold on to their “particularism” and the absolute authority of Jewish laws. Mendelssohn used his literary friendships to prevent new restrictions from being placed upon Swiss Jews, and he tried to save the Jews of Dresden from expulsion. He induced Christian Wilhelm Dohm, a Prussian aristocrat, to write an essay urging that Jews be granted civil rights. Mendelssohn’s devoted friendship with the famous author Gotthold Ephraim Lessing also contributed to the eventual emancipation of Jews in Germany. Lessing wrote a highly successful play Nathan Der Weise (Nathan the Wise), a portrait of his friend Moses Mendelssohn and a powerful plea for religious tolerance.

MENDES-FRANCE, PIERRE (1907-1982).

French statesman. From an old Bordeaux Sephardi family, he served in L

MENDES NASI, DONNA GRACIA (1510-1569).

Financier, philanthropist, and patron of Jewish learning. She was born to a family of Marranos, or secret Jews, in Portugal and named Beatrice de Luna. She was only 25 when her husband, the banker Francisco Mendes of Lisbon, died. She became the head of the Mendes banking house with its widespread business interests, including an important branch in Antwerp.

When life for Marranos in Portugal became dangerous because of the Inquisition, she gathered up her family, including her daughter and her nephew Joao Miguez, and left for Antwerp, sailing in her own ship.

In Antwerp she joined her brother-in-law Diego Mendes in managing their business. The family had a high social position. Donna Gracia’s responsibilities were great, and after the death of Diego in 1545, they became even greater. Her beautiful daughter Reyna was sought in marriage by many young nobles, and her firm refusals aroused justified suspicions that the Mendes family were secret Judaizers who would not intermarry with Christians. Before the authorities could act, Donna Gracia fled with her family to Venice, a way station to Turkey where they could practice Judaism openly. In Venice she was denounced to the authorities, who imprisoned her and confiscated her fortune. The king of France, in debt to the Mendes Bank, used his piety as a pretext for not paying his debt.

Her nephew Joao Miguez managed to obtain the help of the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and Donna Gracia was released. She was permitted to settle in Ferrara, a haven for Jews under the rule of the Dukes d’Este. Here Donna Gracia shed the disguise of Christianity and became Hannah Nasi, a devoted Jewess. In Ferrara she brought together a conference of Marrano notables to organize their flight to freedom, using her wealth to help finance this movement. She was interested in Jewish learning and became a patroness of Jewish scholars. When Abraham Usque of Ferrara published the first translation of the Bible into Spanish, a special edition was dedicated to Gracia. This edition became the Bible from which generations of Marranos relearned their Judaism. Finally, in 1552, the Nasi family was permitted to leave for Turkey. They settled in Constantinople where Gracia built her home, the Belvedere. She also built a synagogue and set up a Hebrew printing press in her home. The Belvedere became a haven for Jewish scholars, a respite continued by her daughter Reyna after Gracia’s death.

Shortly after the family settled in Constantinople, Reyna married her cousin Joao Miguez, who had taken the name Joseph Nasi when the family returned to Judaism. After her husband’s death Reyna continued to house the printing press which issued many important Hebrew books.

MENDOZA, DANIEL.

See Sports.

MENORAH.

Candelabrum. There were seven branches in the original oil menorah used in the Tabernacle (Exo. 25:37) and later in Solomon‘s Temple. It is this menorah that Titus is said to have carried away after the destruction of the Temple and that is pictured in bas-relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome. On Hanukkah an eight-branched menorah (plus a shammash, or servant candle) is lit to commemorate the Maccabean victories. This menorah is frequently silver, bronze, or brass, and decorated with elaborate representations of animals and flowers.

MENUHIN, YEHUDI (1916-1999).

American-born violinist. He made his debut as a child, and later became one of the world’s leading violinists. He made his home in England and became a major organizer of concerts in Europe, while giving performances around the world. He is also known for his work with musically-gifted children. His sister, pianist Hephzibah Menuhin (1920-1981), provided him with musical accompaniment on many of his concerts.

MERON.

Village in upper Galilee, mentioned in the Bible as the site of Joshua‘s victory over the Canaanite kings. Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai took refuge in a cave at Meron to escape a death sentence imposed by the Romans during Bar Kokhba‘s uprising in the 2nd century C.E. After Bar Kokhba’s victory Rabbi Simeon founded an academy and synagogue there. When the Kabbalists began settling in nearby Safed during the 16th century, they instituted the custom of visiting his tomb on Lag b’Omer (See Omer). This custom has been revived in modern times. Today, thousands of pilgrims from all parts of Israel stream to Meron to celebrate the holiday with song and dance, as well as prayer and meditation. Bearded Hasidim in dark gabardines, Asian Jews in native costume, and tow-haired young Israelis join arms to dance around great bonfires in this most colorful of folk festivals.

MESSIANISM.

The belief that Jewish people and all humanity would be led to a golden age of perfect justice and universal peace by a Messiah, an ideal king and a perfect man. The Hebrew mashiah means “one anointed with oil,” the ancient way of dedicating a man to a special service or office. Mashiah Adonai, the Anointed of God, was a title of honor given in the Bible to the kings of Israel. The prophet Samuel anointed both Saul and David as kings. The high priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anointed Solomon king of Israel at David’s request. The prophets described the Messiah as a divinely appointed man, an ideal ruler who would lead the world in righteousness and in peace.

When the Persians would not permit a descendant of David to rule Judea, the people began to dream of a time when an anointed king from the House of David would again sit on the throne of Israel. The more Judea was oppressed, particularly by the Roman empire, the stronger the belief grew in the coming of the Messiah who would bring salvation and freedom to the Jewish people, while the Roman empire would be replaced by the Kingdom of God on earth.

When Judea fell in 70 C.E. and the Temple was destroyed, longing for the Messiah among the Jewish people intensified. In their last revolt against Rome from 132 to 135 C.E., they were led by Simeon, son of Koziba. The aged Rabbi Akiba called Simeon “God’s Anointed,” or Messiah, and changed his name from Bar Koziba to Bar Kokhba, “the son of a star.” Defeated again, the people yearned for the Messiah more than ever, and his figure began to be surrounded with mystery. Instead of a human Messiah he became a divine deliverer and a being with supernatural powers. His coming would be announced by the prophet Elijah. A forerunner would appear first

METHUSELAH.

Longest living person in the Bible (Gen. 5:25-27). He lived 969 years, but all that is known about him is that he lived and he died.

METZENBAUM, HOWARD (1917-2008 ).

Former U.S. Democratic Senator from Ohio. A lawyer and businessman from Cleveland, he supported liberal causes in the Senate.

MEXICO.

Federated republic in North America. Early in the 16th century, Mexico was a center of activity for Spanish conquistadores intent on exploiting the wealth of Montezuma’s empire. With them had come a group of Marranos, or secret Jews. The Marranos quickly prospered in commerce and thus aroused the hostility of their neighbors. As early as 1528, a Marrano shipbuilder was burned at the stake. But systematic persecution began only in 1570, with the establishment of an Office of the Inquisition. By 1820, when the Inquisition was abolished, the Marrano community had disappeared. Its only remaining traces are several thousand Indians who live in Mexico City and claim Marrano descent.

The modern community, composed chiefly of East European Jews, was founded in the 19th century. In 2007, there were about 40,000 Jews in Mexico, an increase of about 20,000 since 1940. Immigration has been limited since 1950. The vast majority of the Jewish population lives in Mexico City, but there are active communities in Guadalajara, Monterey, and elsewhere. Mexican Jews, living in freedom and equality with their neighbors, have become shopkeepers, manufacturers, and artisans. A small number have entered the professions. They have formed several synagogues, Zionist organizations, local charity activities, B’nai B’rith lodges, and youth groups.

Mexico City is especially noted for its community center and Jewish schools, in which about 85% of the capital’s Jewish children are enrolled. There are a number of all-day schools. The pride of the system is the Colegio Israelita de Mexico, where Spanish, Yiddish, and Hebrew are taught from the elementary school through the college levels. Its Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, founded in 1952, is affiliated with the National University of Mexico. The Albert Einstein School is a non-sectarian institution built by the Jewish community and presented to the government to aid its school construction program.

The Mexican Jewish press is also notable. There were three publications of Jewish interest: one in Yiddish, one in Spanish and Hebrew, and one in Spanish. The Encyclopedia Judaica Castellana, a Jewish encyclopedia in Spanish, with special emphasis on Latin American Jewry, was first published in 1952. (See also Latin America.)

MEZUZAH.

Literally, doorpost. Case containing a rolled parchment inscribed with several passages from Deuteronomy (6:4-9 and 11:13-21), affirming the unity of God and teaching the love of God. This case is attached to the right doorposts of the entrance and each room in Jewish homes in accordance with the biblical commandment, “And thou shalt write them on the doorposts of thy home” (Deut. 6:9). The parchments are kept in decorative cases which are slightly open to reveal the word Shaddai, or Almighty, written on the back of the parchment.

MICAH (ca. 730-705 B.C.E.).

Sixth of the minor prophets. A peasant from tiny Moreshet in Judah, Micah cried out against the social corruption of the cities, the injustice of the rulers, and the wrongs done to the poor. He predicted the destruction of the Temple and the beloved city Jerusalem. Reminding the people of God’s love for Israel, he pleaded with them to live with justice and kindness, and prophesied that in the “end of days” universal justice would emanate from Zion and fill the world.

MICHIGAN.

Of Michigan’s 87,000 Jews, 72,000 live in the Detroit area and 7,000 in Ann Arbor. There are smaller communities in Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo. Jews first arrived in the state as fur traders in the mid-18th century, and during the Revolutionary War there were a few Jews in Michigan. Organized religious life started in Ann Arbor in 1845, and by the late 18th century Jews began to arrive in Detroit, starting a major Jewish community. The Jewish Welfare Federation was organized in Detroit in 1926, and a Community Council was started in 1937 with more than 260 local organizations. The Detroit Jewish News was first issued in 1942. Today, Detroit has a well-organized Jewish community with an extensive Hebrew school system, a thriving Jewish Community Center, and active Jewish cultural life.

MIDLER, BETTE.

See Stage and Screen.

MIDRASH.

Literally, to search. A particular manner of interpreting the verses of the Bible, developed mainly in Judea during the period of the Second Temple. Jewish sages were convinced that the words of the Bible lent themselves to multiple interpretations, each intended for people of a par­ticular level of understanding and culture, as well as for a particular age and circumstance. The sages contemplated and discussed some of the greatest and most profound ideas of humankind. They were anxious, moreover, to teach these ex­alted ideas to ordinary people of the towns and villages of Judea. On Sabbaths and holidays they would preach in the synagogues, using Bible verses as their text and revealing many profound interpretations of these verses. So that their ideas might be understood by the people, they used illustrative parables, imaginative stories, and poetic inter­pretations of the verses. In their sermons, the sages also discussed those problems that deeply troubled the people. After the burning of the Tem­ple and the destruction of the Jewish state, the sages strove to heal the wounds of the people, raise their spirit, and restore their courage. They extolled the greatness and power of God, His abiding love for His people, His sympathy for their suffering, and His promise of a glorious future.

The sages preached on the weekly portion of the Torah, to which pertinent verses from other parts of the Bible were added. Most of their ser­mons were lost, but the finest of them were often repeated and zealously guarded in the memories of devoted students. Eventually, beginning with the 4th century, many of the sermons were collected and written down, as books of midrashim. Today, we possess more than 100, the most important of which are:
Midrash Rabbah (The Great Midrash), which consists of collections of midrashim on the Five Books of Moses and the Five Scrolls (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther). Each collection was edited by a different man at a different time from the 6th to 12th century C.E.; they were the most popular collections of midrashim, widely read by Jews the world over.
Midrash Tanhuma, a more homogeneous col­lection of midrashim on the Five Books of Moses, in which the preachings of Rabbi Tanhuma, a sage of the 4th century, predominate.
Pesikhtot, two collections of lengthy sermons delivered on the special Sabbaths before Passover and the High Holy Days).
Yalkut Shimoni, a collection of midrashim on all the books of the Bible. This collection was edited in the 13th century and consists of material taken from many early collections of midrashim now lost to us.

A number of briefer midrashim, such as: Pirke D’Rabbi Eliezer on the first nine chapters of Genesis; Midrash Shohar Tov on Psalms; Midrash Mishle on Proverbs; Midrash Shemuel on the books of Samuel; and Midrash Lekah Tov on the third, fourth, and fifth Books of Moses and the Book of Ruth.

MIKVEH.

Jewish ritual bath. The use of the mikveh is governed by Jewish ritual laws and forms an integral part of the Jewish religious living environment. Often it is built next to the synagogue. It is used for both physical and ritual purification, as in the case of post-menstrual women.

MIKVEH ISRAEL.

Literally, Gather­ing of Israel. Agricultural school southeast of Tel Aviv. It is approached by an avenue of stately palms and surrounded by orange orchards, vineyards, vegetable gardens, and cornfields. It was the first, and for many years, the only agricultural school in Israel. It was originally open only to boys, established in 1870 by the Alliance Israélite Universelle in response to an appeal to help Jews in the Holy Land learn a productive oc­cupation. The eucalyptus tree, which the Arabs called “the Jewish tree,” was first introduced at this school. The Bilu settlers came to Mikveh Israel to learn how to handle the plough and the turia, or a mattock.


MILHAUD, DARIUS (1892-1974).

French composer. A member of an old French Jewish family, he distinguished himself as a composer of operas and symphonies. His operas on Jewish themes include Esther and David. He also composed music for the Sabbath morning service.

MILLER, ARTHUR (1915-2005).

American playwright. Best known for his plays Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, he is considered one of the great American playwrights of the 20th century. While Miller exhibited little interest in Jewish life, film actress Marilyn Monroe converted to Judaism when she married him.

MILSTEIN, NATHAN.

See Music.

MINCHA.

See Prayer.

MINHAG.

See Custom.

MINNESOTA.

Of Minnesota’s 46,000 Jews, 29,000 live in Minneapolis and 11,000 in St. Paul. Jewish immigrants arrived in St. Paul in the mid-19th century and in Minneapolis in the late 1860’s. In the beginning of the 20th century, Jews settled throughout the state, mainly for the purpose of farming. Today, there are few Jewish farmers in the state.

MINYAN.

Quorum of ten adult Jewish males traditionally required for congregational services.

MIRACLES.

The Bible tells that the universe is governed by established laws, yet God, or God’s messengers, can perform acts known as miracles that break with such laws. After biblical times, the Jewish tradition no longer recognizes miracles (nes in Hebrew), which now pass from the realm of the divine to folk belief. Today, the belief in the literal truth of biblical miracles persists, while many maintain that they have to be viewed as myth rather than historical fact.

MIRIAM.

Moses‘ sister. She helps save his life as an infant by entrusting him to the Pharaoh’s daughter. After crossing of the Red Sea, she led the Israelite women in a victory song and dance. Later she rebelled against Moses and was temporarily punished. In Jewish tradition she is considered a prophet and righteous person.

MISHNAH.

See Talmud.

MISSISSIPPI.

With fewer than 1,500 Jews, of whom 550 live in Jackson, Mississippi has one of the smallest Jewish communities in the U.S. Jews were among the first settlers in the state who settled in Biloxi and Natchez in 1699. The first synagogue was started in Natchez in 1840. Today, there are Reform congregations in Jackson, Greenville, Hattiesburg, and Cleveland, and a Conservative congregation in Biloxi.

MISSOURI.

Of Missouri’s 59,000 Jews, 54,000 live in St. Louis and 19,100 reside in Kansas City. Jews began to settle in the state in the early 19th century, while the first major influx began in the 1840’s as German Jews began to arrive. In the early 20th century Jews settled throughout the state in 51 different communities.

MITZVAH.

Literally, commandment. An obligation or duty taught by the Torah and rabbinic law; a good deed. Traditionally, there are 613 commandments contained in the Torah, 248 affirmative (“thou shalt”) and 365 negative (“thou shalt not”). Jews regarded these as representing a desirable way of life and an opportunity for fulfilling one’s duty to God and fellow humans. By performing a meritorious act, such as giving charity, a person is said to have “earned a mitzvah.”

MIZRACH.

Literally, the place where the sun rises; the east. Traditionally, Jews have always faced east toward Jerusalem when praying. Therefore, it was customary to hang a picture or ornament to mark the eastern wall in their home or synagogue. These illustrations of plants and animals mentioned in the Bible were often handsome examples of folk art.

MIZRACHI.

Religious Zionist movement. Mizrachi’s slogan is “The land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel.” Religious leaders wanting to work with secularists had been part of the Zionist movement since its inception in Basle in 1898. As a political party Religious Zionism made its initial appearance on the Zionist scene on March 4, 1902, when Rabbi Isaac Jacob Reines convened the Mizrachi conference in Vilna. In 1902, religious Jews took sharp exception to the Fifth Zionist Congress’ proposal that the Zionist organization conduct a kind of secularist educational program. The Mizrachi rallied many religious Jews to its side and fought secularism within the Zionist movement.

The Mizrachi soon had active branches wherever Zionism took root, becoming particularly active in education. Mizrachi’s network of religious schools eventually became part of the Israel government’s religious school system. The Mizrachi Organization of America built and sponsored Bar Ilan University, the first religious institution of higher academic learning in Israel.

Mizrachi was formally organized in the U.S. after 1913, although groups existed even earlier. The first national convention was held in Cincinnati in 1914 following an intensive tour of the country by Rabbi Meyer Bar Ilan, who eventually became the president and leader of the world Mizrachi movement. Affiliated with the Mizrachi Organization of America are the Mizrachi Women, who have concentrated on education and child care, and B’nai Akiva, the Mizrachi Youth Organization.

Hapoel Hamizrachi, or the Mizrachi Worker, was founded in 1922, when religious young people began to arrive in Palestine in increasing numbers. They formulated a program based on the slogan of Torah Ve-Avodah, or Torah and Labor. Despite the hardships and discrimination it suffered because of its religious principles, the movement grew rapidly both in Israel and abroad. Hapoel Hamizrachi worked with the Mizrachi in the world Mizrachi movement. In 1955, it merged with Mizrachi to form one united religious party within Zionism. Kibbutz Hadati, Hapoel Hamizrachi’s organization of religious collective settlements, played an important role in Israel’s defense and growth. (See also Israel, Government and Political Parties.)

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