Michel de Montaigne

Writer and philosopher Michel de Montaigne, born Michel Eyquem on this date in 1533, was a major figure in the French Renaissance. His mother was Jewish, but converted to Protestantism, while his maternal grandfather was a crypto-Jew whose family converted to Catholicism. It is thought that there were conversos on his father’s side as well. Montaigne heard and […]

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Israel’s National Poet

Modern Israel’s “national poet,” Haim Nahman Bialik, was born in Ukraine on this date in 1873. By his mid-twenties, Bialik was widely acclaimed for his writings in both Yiddish and Hebrew and had translated Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and other classics of world literature into Hebrew. In 1903, Bialik went to Kishniev as part of a […]

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Hebrew’s Reviver

The man who almost single-handedly invented modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (born Eliezer Yitzhak Perlman, 1858), died on this date in Jerusalem in 1922. In 1881, he emigrated to Palestine, where he, his wife Dvora Jonas, and their son Ben-Zion are widely considered to be the first modern family to speak the language full-time. In addition […]

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MIDRASH: The Stories We Tell

WHY THE TORAH REMAINS AN OPEN BOOK by Reba Carmel   Moses received the Torah at Sinai and he transmitted it to Joshua,  and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly . . . [who] said three maxims: Be measured […]

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Shaul Tchernikhovsky

Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernikhovsky, twice awarded Israel’s Bialik Prize for Literature, was born in Russian Empire on this date in 1875. He became a doctor in 1906 and served as a medical officer in World War I. In 1931 he settled in Palestine, where he would work as doctor for the Tel Aviv schools while writing poetry […]

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Moses Hadas, Democratizing the Classics

Moses Hadas, a linguist and scholar of the classics who democratized the study of ancient books at Columbia University by emphasizing the value of studying them as literature, even in English translation, was born on this date in 1900. Ordained as a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hadas was fluent in Yiddish, German, ancient Hebrew, […]

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Aramaic

Judah Jeiteles, the first language scholar to create a Hebrew grammar of Biblical Aramaic, died at 65 in Vienna on this date in 1838. Jeiteles belonged to a notable family of writers, including his brother Baruch, who espoused an Enlightenment Judaism for which he paid hell among the Orthodox establishment in Prague. Aramaic rose to prominence […]

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