Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture Online

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Editor-in-Chief: Dan Diner

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From Europe to America to the Middle East, North Africa and other non-European Jewish settlement areas the Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture covers the recent history of the Jews from 1750 until the 1950s.

More information: Brill.com

Ma‘aseh Toviyah

(1,955 words)

Author(s): Sadowski, Dirk
The  Ma‘aseh Toviyah (Work of Tobias), written in Hebrew and printed for the first time at Venice in 1707, is considered one of the most important works of the early Haskalah. In his lexicon-style work, its author, the physician Tobias Hakohen (1652–1729), presented new astronomical and medical knowledge. The combination of scientific learning with elements of rabbinic erudition and traditional knowledge made the book attractive for both an enlightened and a conservative reading public, which was reflected in numerous new editions.The author of the  Ma‘aseh Toviyah was the …
Date: 2021-07-13

Madagascar Plan

(3,473 words)

Author(s): Tonini, Carla
In the second half of the 1930s, Polish government circles, with the support of France, developed the project of resettling a majority of Polish Jews on the island of Madagascar. In the background were both Polish ambitions of obtaining a colony and the antisemitism that was widespread in Poland which branded the Jews as an economic burden. After an unsuccessful fact-finding mission and a change in government, France gave up further support for the plan in the spring of 1938. It was resurrected …
Date: 2021-07-13

Magdeburg Law

(1,433 words)

Author(s): Hausmann, Guido
The municipal legal system of the 12th century, originating in Magdeburg, extended far into Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. A town upon which the Magdeburg Law had been conferred withdrew from the previously valid territorial law and obtained its own municipal constitution. Depending on whether or not this legal system was also valid for Jews, it promoted either their civic inclusion or exclusion. Moreover, it was significant for the degree of Jewish autonomy. With…
Date: 2021-07-13


(1,969 words)

Author(s): Soltes, Ori Z.
The name of the international cooperative of freelance photographers founded in New York in 1947. Magnum Photos is particularly associated with the photojournalism of its co-founder Robert Capa (1913–1954). The oeuvre of Capa (Endre Friedmann), who came from a Hungarian-Jewish family, includes photographs at and behind the fronts of five wars in the mid-20th century. Capa’s visual war reporting is considered pioneering, and his influence on photography in general is unmistakable.With Magnum Photos, its founder Robert Capa and his colleagues Henri Cartier-Bress…
Date: 2021-07-13

Manhattan Project

(3,967 words)

Author(s): Balke, Ralf
An American project initiated in 1942, which led to the construction of the first nuclear weapon. Up to 129,000 persons were employed in the Manhattan Project, situated near Los Alamos, New Mexico, in which the United States carried out nuclear research. Many Jewish scientists who had fled the expansion of National Socialist rule in Europe were among the leading researchers. The Project gave them the opportunity to continue their scientific work and especially, in so doing, to forestall the possible construction of a German atomic bomb.1. Technical preconditionsAt the dawn of nuc…
Date: 2021-07-13


(3,193 words)

Author(s): Miletto, Gianfranco
The aristocratic Gonzaga family reigned in the Northern Italian duchy of Mantua between 1328 and 1708. Because of their pragmatic and moderate policies in regards to the Jews, a flourishing Jewish life developed in the seat of power of the Gonzagas. From the Renaissance to the end of the 17th century, the economy, the sciences, and the arts flourished there. With the integration of Mantua into the Habsburg Empire in 1708, the city state entered upon a decline, both economically and culturally, which, however, did not bring Jewish erudition to a complete halt.1. Settlement history, law…
Date: 2021-07-13


(2,974 words)

Author(s): Seroussi, Edwin
An autochthonous Arabic compositional technique, which gained a foothold in the urban centers of the entire Islamic world and also found its way into the musical practice of the Jews who lived there. The most comprehensive “maqamization” of the repertoire occurred among the Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman Empire. In the 16th century, under the influence of speculative mysticism, they first associated their religious hymns ( piyyutim) for paraliturgical occasions with the Ottoman Turkish maqams. Later, the principle of maqam took over the entire liturgy of the Sephardim. Not until…
Date: 2021-07-13


(3,094 words)

Author(s): Zadoff, Mirjam
For nearly one hundred years, the spa of Marienbad (Mariánské Lázně) in what is now the western Czech Republic, together with the neighbouring spas of Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) and Franzensbad (Františkovy Lázně), was the center of international Jewish bath tourism. Since the mid-19th century, Marienbad attracted Jewish spa guests of various social classes and cultural as well as religious self-understandings from all areas of Europe, and increasingly from America and Palestine. The encounter betw…
Date: 2021-07-13


(3,016 words)

Author(s): Balke, Ralf
A city in southwest Morocco, which was for centuries one of the most important political and economic centers of the country. Until well into the 20th century, it was home to the nation’s largest Jewish community. The Jews of Marrakesh played a central role in the economic life of the Sultanate as merchants, financiers, and emissaries of the various dynasties of rulers, and they maintained this position during the period of the French Protectorate. After Morocco’s independence in 1956, almost all of the Jews of Marrakesh emigrated to Israel, France, and Canada.1. OriginsThe name of the…
Date: 2021-07-13


(3,604 words)

Author(s): Klein, Birgit
Since antiquity, marriage has been a religious ideal in Judaism and the foundation for preserving the community. In premodern times, as a religious institution, it was subject to Jewish jurisdiction, was entered into primarily through economic and social considerations, and was characterized by conditions that favored men over women. In the course of the 19th century, following the unification of laws and equality, civil marriage (not recognized by Jewish law) became obligatory, although religio…
Date: 2021-07-13


(4,018 words)

Author(s): Heil, Johannes
Martyrdom as death in defense of one’s own religion or in rejection of forced conversion is not a known concept in the Hebrew Bible. However, Halakhic conditions were formulated in ancient rabbinic literature in which a “Sanctification of the [divine] Name” ( kiddush ha-Shem), that is a martyr’s death, were permissible or even required. Since the persecutions during the era of the Crusades in the Middle Ages, Jewish martyrdom has been elevated to a literary ideal by some rabbinic authorities (Lamentation) but not to an outright prescript…
Date: 2021-07-13

Marx Brothers

(2,405 words)

Author(s): Köppl, Rainer M.
The five Marx Brothers, Leonard (1887–1961), Arthur (originally Adolph; 1888–1964), Julius Henry (1890–1977), Milton (1892–1977), and Herbert (1901–1979) were born in New York to European immigrants. Under their stage names Chico, Harpo, Groucho, Gummo, and Zeppo, they became famous as comics in the theatre, in film, radio, and on television. The Marx Brothers were unique in their time for their combination of slapstick and poetry and the surrealist cast to their verbal acrobatics and absurdity.…
Date: 2021-07-13


(2,681 words)

Author(s): Nissimi, Hilda
Mashhad is the capital city of the province of Khorasan in northeast Iran and one of the most important holy places of Shi’ite Islam. On an initiative of the Persian ruler Nādir Shāh, several Jewish families settled there in the mid-18th century and established a prospering community, which first became a victim of a violent assault and then of a forced conversion to Islam in 1839. However, the Jews in Mashhad remained secretly true to their religion. They developed a sense of community…
Date: 2021-07-13


(3,538 words)

Author(s): Cohen, Tova
The term  maskilah (Hebr., pl. maskilot) refers to an educated Jewish woman who participated in the Jewish Enlightenment movement (Haskalah). From the mid-19th century onward, Enlightenment thinkers (Maskilim) from the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe promoted not only secular education for girls but also training in traditional values and, especially, in the Hebrew language. This linguistic knowledge enabled Jewish girls and women to begin to participate in the literary debates of the Jewish Enl…
Date: 2021-07-13


(2,940 words)

Author(s): Zalkin, Mordechai
From the beginning of the 19th century onward, the Jewish Enlightenment (Haskalah) began to spread, including in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe that had been traditional up to that time. Many of the Enlightenment thinkers (Hebr. maskilim, sing. maskil) there promoted Enlightenment ideas like rationalism, humanism, and liberalism in their work as teachers, authors, and journalists. This set of ideas was disseminated through newly created educational institutions and publications. However, Haskalah in Eastern Europe was primari…
Date: 2021-07-13


(4,454 words)

Author(s): Epple, Moritz
Mathematical knowledge and the application of mathematical processes have been with humanity since its beginnings and have been tangible from the earliest surviving textual evidence. By the Middle Ages at the latest, mathematics had also become an important area of Jewish scholarship. In modern Europe, and especially in the German-speaking areas, there was an extraordinarily high proportion of Jews in the scholarly culture of mathematics. Nearly all the Jewish mathematicians and those originally…
Date: 2021-07-13

May Laws

(1,800 words)

Author(s): Kopstein, Jeffrey
The name of an ordinance enacted in 1882 in Russia under Czar Alexander III that discriminated against Jews. It aimed at restricting the Jewish presence in the Pale of Settlement to the cities, limiting land ownership, leaseholding, and administration of property by Jews, and preventing Jews from trading on Sundays and Christian holidays. The ordinance was issued after a series of pogroms following the murder of Czar Alexander II and remained in force until the February Revolution in 1917. The p…
Date: 2021-07-13


(1,915 words)

Author(s): Werb, Bret
Mayufes is the Yiddish title of the traditional Hebrew Shabbat hymn  Mah Yafit. In Poland, the paraliturgical song became the subject of mockery and various forms of parody that spread from amusements for Polish feudal lords in the 19th century through musical entertainment in the urban milieu to the ghettos and Nazi concentration camps (S’brent). The various versions of the song and the changing semantics of the term cast some light on the complex Polish-Jewish relations in the 19th and 20th centuries. 1. From Shabbat song to parody Mayufes is named for the first two words of t…
Date: 2021-07-13


(4,416 words)

Author(s): Schulze, Reinhard
The term Mecca constitutes a central motif in the autobiographical book  The Road to Mecca, published in New York in 1954, by the Jewish journalist Leopold Weiss (1900–1992, after 1926: Muhammad Asad), who grew up in Habsburg Galicia. In it, Weiss covers not only his conversion to Islam, which he underwent in 1926 in Berlin and again in Cairo in the following year, but also the life experiences that brought him to Mecca in 1927. Weiss’s The Road to Mecca is representative of all the conversions of Jewish authors to Islam that took place in 1920s Berlin. Characteristicall…
Date: 2021-07-13


(2,945 words)

Author(s): Sinclair, Daniel
The relationship between medicine and Judaism underwent continuous changes in the area of tension between legal and theological arguments. Corresponding to the progress in medical disciplines, early skepticism in the Halakhah largely gave way to practice-oriented reflection on questions of medical ethics. This development is based largely on the principle of a special respect for life, which is rooted in the Bible and in traditional rabbinical literature.1. BibleSeveral passages in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) ascribe power over sickness and healing directly to…
Date: 2021-07-13
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