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MN-MZ Archives | Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia
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MODIGLIANI, AMEDEO.

See Art.

MOHAMMED.

See Arab Influence in Jewish History.

MOHEL.

See Circumcision.

MOHILEVER, SAMUEL (1824-1898).

Prominent Russian rabbi; a founder and leader of the Zionist movement. He founded the first Hoveve Zion society in Warsaw in 1882, at a time when Orthodox opinion frowned on any active attempt to bring about the return to Zion. In 1891, Rabbi Mohilever visited Baron Maurice de Hirsch and successfully pleaded with him to found Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine instead of Argentina. When Theodor Herzl began to work for political Zionism, Mohilever delivered a stirring message to the first Zionist Congress in 1897, supporting him.

MOLKHO, SOLOMON (ca. 1500-1532).

False Messiah. Born in Portugal and died in Mantua, Italy, Molkho was born Diego Pires to Christian parents who were Marranos, or secret Jews. When David Reubeni, considered a forerunner of the Messiah, came to Portugal, Diego fell completely under his spell. He gave up a government post and returned openly to Judaism. He had himself circumcised and renamed Solomon Molkho; then he left Portugal secretly and went to Salonika, Turkey. He studied the Kabbalah and was drawn to Safed, a Kabbalist center in the Holy Land. Influenced greatly by Joseph Karo and the Safed Kabbalists, Molkho predicted that the Messiah would come in 1540.

Molkho was deeply mystical and came to believe in his mission as a Messiah, winning many followers. Italy, seat of the Pope, seemed to him the place to begin his mission. He came to Ancona in 1529, where despite opposition from some Jewish leaders, he preached to admiring congregations. Disguised as a beggar, he went to Rome, managed to see Pope Clement VII, and prophesied that the Tiber would flood its banks and that an earthquake would shake Portugal while comets showered from the sky. On October 8, 1530, the Tiber actually overflowed and on January 26, 1531, Portugal was indeed shaken by an earthquake and a comet appeared in the sky. The Pope was impressed by this visionary and protected Molkho even when some of his writings were found offensive to Christianity. He was condemned to death by the Inquisition, but the Pope helped him escape. Molkho joined Reubeni in Venice and went with him to Ratisbon in 1532. Carrying a banner inscribed with initials of the Hebrew words, “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the mighty,” they appeared before Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, to persuade him to call the Jews to arms against the Turks. The Emperor put them both in chains and had them sent to Italy. There, Molkho was immediately condemned by the Inquisition as a renegade from Catholicism and sentenced to burn at the stake. Molkho refused to return to the Church and died in the flames of an auto-da-fe. Charles V had Reubeni sent to Spain where he was turned over to the Inquisition. (See also Messianism.)

MONASH, SIR JOHN (1865-1931).

General and engineer. Born in Melbourne, Australia, to Austrian Jewish immigrants, Monash earned degrees in arts, law, and engineering at the University of Melbourne. After a brilliant career in engineering, he enlisted in the Victoria militia through which he advanced rapidly. During World War I he was named commander of the Australian forces on the Western Front with the rank of lieutenant general. Thus, he became the first Jewish general in the English army. After the war, Monash was active in Australian Jewish life, and in 1928, was elected President of the Anzac Zionist Federation. His many foreign military honors include the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal.

MONOTHEISM.

See God.

MONTANA.

With fewer than 900 Jews, of whom 300 live in Billings and 100 in Butte, Montana has no established Jewish congregations. Jews, however, were among the first settlers of Montana, even before it became a state. In 1866, there was a Jewish congregation in Helena.

MONTEFIORE, SIR MOSES (1784-1885).

English Jewish philanthropist and community worker. By age 37, he had amassed a fortune as a stockbroker and was able to retire. Henceforth, he devoted himself completely to Jewish affairs. The Jewish community in Palestine was foremost among his interests. Montefiore bought land for agricultural enterprises and encouraged Jewish settlement. He endowed hospitals, established the first girls’ school in Jerusalem, helped to provide almshouses, and built synagogues. Montefiore visited Russia twice in 1846 and in 1872, intervening on behalf of oppressed Russian Jewry with the Tsar. He traveled to Egypt and Constan-tinople to intercede in the Damascus affair, and also undertook missions to Rome, Morocco, and Romania. He was the most beloved Jewish leader of his day, and his picture hung in Jewish homes around the world. Queen Victoria knighted him in 1837, the same year he was elected Sheriff of London. Montefiore remained devoutly Orthodox in belief and practice throughout his life. Many places and institutions bear his name, such as Zikhron Moshe near Jerusalem, Shkhunat Montefiore near Tel Aviv, and Montefiore Hospital in New York.

MONTREAL.

See Canada.

MORDECAI

(5th century B.C.E.). Mentioned in the Book of Esther, he was a cousin and guardian of a young woman named Esther whom King Ahasuerus chose to be his queen. After the king’s chief minister, Haman, received the king’s permission to destroy the Jews, Mordecai enlisted Esther’s help and succeeded in thwarting the plan and having Haman executed.

MORGENTHAU, HENRY JR. (1891-1967).

American statesman and agricultural expert. Son of Henry Morgenthau, Sr., he was called to Washington by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to head the Farm Credit Board. He was soon named Undersecretary of the Treasury, then promoted to Secretary. He played a key role in the recovery of the U.S. from the economic depression of the 1930’s, and in its mobilization for World War II. After his retirement from public office he became active in Zionist fund-raising. In 1947, he was named General Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, and in 1951, became Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Bonds for Israel drive. In Israel, Kibbutz Tal Shahar, or Morning Dew, is named for Morgenthau.

MORGENTHAU, HENRY SR. (1856-1946).

Diplomat and financier. Brought to the U.S. from Germany in 1865, he studied law but made his fortune in real estate. A supporter of Woodrow Wilson, he was named Ambassador to Turkey in 1913. After World War I, he headed two U.S. commissions on refugee problems. His last years were devoted to writing; Morgenthau’s works include All in a Lifetime, an autobiography.

MOROCCO.

The Jewish community of Morocco dates back to the period before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. Under Roman rule, Jews suffered continual harassment. This torment ended temporarily with the fall of the Roman Empire, when the Vandal King Generich permitted Moroccan Jews equal citizenship. They engaged in navigation, maritime commerce, vinegrowing, and agriculture, and flourished for a time. But the era of prosperity soon ended. Under Arab rule during the 10th century, there was an upsurge of Jewish cultural and religious life. Such famous Talmudic scholars as Isaac Alfasi and Moses Maimonides lived in Morocco. The notorious mellahs, or ghettos, whose cramped and twisted streets came to symbolize Moroccan Jewish degradation to second-class citizenship, were originally instituted in the 13th century to protect Jews from Muslim mob attacks. These ghettos have continued into the 20th century.

Jews’ expulsion from Spain in 1492 brought a great influx of Jews to Morocco, where they introduced European traditions of art, culture, and commerce. The Jewish community witnessed another cultural resurgence in the 16th century, when Morocco became the home of many noted Jewish scholars. But Jews remained second-class citizens, always subject to Moslem violence. War with France and Spain in the 19th century further inflamed Moslem fanaticism, and the mellahs became the scene of brutal, unprovoked attacks. With French and Danish occupation of Morocco in 1912, conditions took a turn for the better. The worst abuses ended, corporal punishment was abolished, the observance of the Sabbath was recognized, and compulsory military service was ended.

General Arab antagonism to the State of Israel created a rising feeling of insecurity among Moroccan Jews. There was a large-scale shift of the Jewish population from villages and small towns to the larger cities which offered greater protection. In addition, since 1948, almost 300,000 Jews have emigrated to Israel.

In 1956, France and Spain relinquished their protectorate, and Morocco achieved its independence. In 2007, there were about 5,000 Jews in the country. Casablanca has the largest Jewish community of any Moslem city. Other important centers were Tangier, Meknes, Fez, and Tetuan. A number of welfare, religious, and educational institutions operate in Morocco, aided by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

MORTARA CASE.

In 1858, church authorities kidnapped a six-year-old Jewish boy, Edgar Mortara, from his parents in Bologna, Italy. This became an international incident, and emperors Franz Joseph of Austria and Napoleon III of France sent personal messages to Pope Pius IX pleading that the child be returned to his parents. Their requests and all other protests were rejected, and Edgar Mortara was raised as a Catholic. The Church argued that Edgar’s Catholic nurse had him secretly baptized when he was two years old, and baptism was irrevocable. The child was never given back to his parents, and when he grew up he entered the Church as a priest.

MOSES.

In Hebrew, Moshe Rabbenu; literally, Moses our teacher, also known as “Father of the Prophets,” the only prophet who knew God “face to face.” He was the liberator and lawgiver of Israel, the one who turned a mob of slaves into a nation willing to receive the law of the Almighty and capable of conquering the promised land, setting themselves apart as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” to become “a light unto the nations!”

The details of Moses’ career are vividly recorded in the pages of the Bible. Of the five books that bear his name, known as the Pentateuch, four recount the story of his leadership. He was the third child of Amram and Yocheved of the tribe of Levi; his birth in Egypt is surrounded by secrecy as is his death in the wilderness near Mt. Nebo, “no man knowing his burying place.”

To escape the Pharaoh’s cruel decree ordering every Hebrew male child cast into the Nile, Moses was hidden by his mother for three months after his birth, then placed onto an ark of bulrushes by the river’s edge, with his sister Miriam keeping watch at a distance. There, he was discovered by the daughter of the Pharaoh who took pity on the child and, through the clever prompting of Moses’ sister Miriam, engaged the child’s mother to act as nurse. Brought up as an Egyptian prince in the palace of the Pharaoh, Moses never forgot his Hebrew origin, for his mother reared him in the faith and traditions of his people.

Moses’ zeal for justice finds dramatic expression when he kills an Egyptian taskmaster for assaulting a Jew. When the news of this act reaches the Pharaoh, Moses flees for his life to Midian where he joins the household of Jethro the priest, whose daughter Zipporah he takes for a wife. She bears him two sons, Gershom and Eliezer.

While tending his father-in-law’s flocks Moses received his first call from God from a burning bush. He is assigned the task of liberating the people and accepts it, though with some reluctance.

With his brother Aaron who acts as his spokesman (for Moses stammered), he appears before the Pharaoh, whom he orders to free the Children of Israel from bondage. The Pharaoh’s consent comes only after the infliction of ten plagues. The hurried exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt is followed by the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Free at last, the people of Israel now journey into the desert to receive the Ten Commandments at the foot of Mt. Sinai and to enter into an eternal covenant with God.

But the habits of a long-enslaved people are not easily broken. In Moses’ 40-day absence during his encounter with God in the craggy solitudes of Mt. Sinai, old superstitions and beliefs asserted themselves with the making of a golden calf. The trials of desert life demoralized the people. They lost faith in themselves and their leader Moses, and their constant murmurings soon turned into open rebellion, sealing their fate. They were condemned to wander in the desert for 40 years, by the end of which time a new generation grew up to undertake the conquest of the land of Canaan. Even Moses had to share this fate, dying at the desert’s edge in sight of the promised land. On the seventh of Adar he ascended Mt. Nebo for a last look at the land, then, Jewish tradition has it, he died by “the kiss of God” at the age of 120 in the prime of his powers

MOSES BEN MAIMON.

See Maimonides.

MOSES BEN NAHMAN (1195-1270).

Also known as Nahmanides or Ramban. Born in Gerona, Spain, he was one of the outstanding Talmudic scholars and Bible commentators of the Middle Ages. Nahmanides’ fame rose when he brilliantly defended the Jewish faith in one of the forced religious disputes between Christians and Jews. The dispute took place at Barcelona, Spain, in 1263. Nahmanides was compelled to participate under order of King James I of Aragon. The question “Has the Messiah already arrived, or is he yet to appear and redeem the world from its state of misery and suffering?” was one of the central themes of the debate. The King conceded the success of the great Jewish scholar who presented winning arguments in support of the Jewish religion. This victory enraged his adversaries, the Dominican priests, who accused him of insulting the Christian faith. Forced to leave Spain, Nahmanides came to Palestine in 1267, settling first in Jerusalem and later in Acre where he founded a Talmudical academy. Finding few Jews in Palestine, Nahmanides issued a call to his brethren in other countries and urged them to come and settle in the Holy Land.

Nahmanides was recognized as the foremost authority on Jewish law. His commentary on the Bible continues to be highly regarded for its profound interpretations based on reason and deep knowledge. A physician by profession, Nahmanides also engaged in the study of mysticism, or Kabbalah, philosophy, and science.

MOSES, ROBERT (1888-1981).

American civil servant. Moses played a major role in the development of New York City’s parks and roads, and was in charge of the New York World’s Fair.

MOSHAV.

Form of cooperative agricultural settlement in Israel. Different from the kibbutz, each member of the moshav has a home and plot of land worked by himself and his family. However, all marketing of produce and purchase of supplies is done cooperatively, and some of the machinery is owned by the village as a whole. The Moshav Shitufi is run along lines midway between a kibbutz and a moshav.

MUNI, PAUL.

See Burial.

See Stage and Screen.

MUSIC, JEWISH.

Jewish music began when the Israelites were wandering tribes in the desert. They sang with joy when they discovered water and good grazing for their flocks. They beat rhythms on simple drums and tambourines. They blew their crude rams’ horns when they were attacked by marauders or when they wanted to summon an assembly of the tribe. After settling in the land of Canaan, they sang songs of triumph, mourning, harvest, and love. They also had professional musicians and singers who knew how to play the more sophisticated instruments of the Middle East

MUSIC, JEWS IN.

Since the 19th century, Jews have made major contributions to Western music in general and to American music in particular. Perhaps the greatest composer of Jewish origin in the early 19th century was Felix Mendelssohn. Jacques Offenbach is another major example of that period. Gustav Mahler, a leading modern composer, represents the end of that century. In the 20th century the French Darius Milhuad, the Viennese Arnold Schoenberg, and the Americans George Gershwin and Aaron Copland set music trends.

Jews have also given the world some of the greatest violinists of the past hundred years, including the Europeans Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, and Nathan Milstein; the American Isaac Stern; and the Israelis Yitzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zuckerman. Among great Jewish pianists of our time are the Europeans Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Rudolf Serkin, and Vladimir Ashkenazy; and the Israelis David Bar-Ilan and Daniel Barenboim, who was born in Argentina.

Another area where Jews have made an enormous musical contribution is orchestra conducting. Many of the great Jewish conductors were born in Europe, but a good number pursued their careers in the U.S. where they conducted major orchestras: George Szell (Cleveland), Eugene Ormandy (Philadephia), Andre Previn (Los Angeles), William Steinberg (Pittsburgh), Max Rudolf (Cincinnati), Jos

MYERSON, BESS (1924-2014).

myerson_bessA New York native, Myerson became the first Jewish Miss America in 1945, at a time when the pageant was still a major yearly event. In the aftermath of the Holocaust, her election was celebrated by Jews everywhere, who were naturally proud of her accomplishment. Soon however she faced antisemitism, which forced her to cut her official reign short. A talented musician, she attempted a career in music, but instead found success in television, a then still-emerging entertainment outlet, and became a regular quest on the popular, long-running game show, “I’ve Got a Secret,” and other shows.

In 1969, still popular in New York City,  she was named the city’s first commissioner of consumer affairs, becoming an effective advocate for consumer protection. For many years she continued to be active in politics and civic activities and also raised money for Jewish organizations.

In the late 1980‘s Myerson was embroiled in a bribery scandal and although indicted, she was eventually acquitted. She then withdrew from public life.

MYSTICISM.

See Kabbalah.

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