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MEISEL:

Bohemian family which became famous chiefly through Mordecai Marcus b. Samuel Meisel, "primate" of Prague. The family seems to have come originally from Cracow, to whose community Mordecai Meisel bequeathed large sums for charitable purposes; and there, toward the end of the sixteenth century, the printer Menahem Nahum b. Moses Meisel flourished. As early as 1477, however, the name of "Meisel" is mentioned in documents relating to Prague (Lieben, "Gal 'Ed," p. 15).

Frummet Meisel:

Second wife of Mordecai Meisel; died Shebaṭ 23, 1625. She contributed with her husband to the building of the Meisel synagogue, and some of the gifts which they presented on the occasion of its dedication (see Mordecai Marcus Meisel) are still exhibited on the anniversary of her death. On her tombstone she is described as a woman distinguished for piety and morality. It is furthermore stated that every synagogue of Prague possessed votive offerings of hers, the most noteworthy gift being a golden cup weighing 100 crowns; that she supported scholars liberally; and that she was hospitable and very philanthropic. David Gans likewise praised her noble character and her fidelity to her husband. It seems strange, then, to read in the "'Emeḳ ha-Baka" (ed. Wiener, p. 141), that she objected so strongly to the last will and testament of Mordecai Meisel that he divorced her while helay dying. Although this statement has been often questioned, there must be some truth in it, for on her gravestone she is designated as the daughter of the famous elder Isaac Rofe (Lékarz), not as Meisel's wife.

Bibliography:
  • Foges, Altertümer der Prager Josefstadt, Prague, 1882;
  • Lieben, Gal 'Ed, ib. 1856;
  • A. Kisch, Das Testament Mardochai Meysels, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1893.
D. A. Ki.Judah Löb ben Simḥah Bonim Meisel:

Printer and author at Cracow in the seventeenth century. Meisel reopened, in 1663, the printing establishment of his father-in-law, Nahum Meisel, and continued it until 1670. The first work printed by him was Jacob Weil's "Sheḥiṭot u-Bediḳot"; the last one, the Eben ha-'Ezer and Ḥoshen ha-Mishpaṭ of the Shulḥan 'Aruk. Meisel was the author of a work entitled "Ṭa'ame ha-Massoret," a commentary on the Masorah, at the end of which there are some novellæ on the Talmud (Amsterdam, 1728).

Bibliography:
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 1373, 2986;
  • M. Zunz, 'Ir ha-Ẓedeḳ, Supplement, p. 34, note.
J. M. Sel.Mordecai Marcus Meisel (Miška Marek in Bohemian documents):

Philanthropist and communal leader at Prague; son of Samuel Meisel; born at Prague 1528; died there March 13, 1601. The persecution of the Jews of Prague by the fanatical Ferdinand I. occurred while Mordecai was a youth. In 1542 and 1561 his family, with the other Jewish inhabitants, was forced to leave the city, though only for a time. The source of the great wealth which subsequently enabled him to become the benefactor of his coreligionists and to aid the Austrian imperial house, especially during the Turkish wars, is unknown. He is mentioned in documents for the first time in 1569, as having business relations with the communal director Isaac Rofe (Lékarz), subsequently his father-in-law. His first wife, Eva, who died before 1580, built with him the Jewish town-hall at Prague, which is still standing, as well as the neighboring Hohe Synagoge, where the Jewish court sat. With his second wife, Frummet, he built (1590-92) the Meisel synagogue, which was much admired by the Jews of the time, being, next to the Altneusynagoge, the metropolitan synagogue of the city; it still bears his name. The costly golden and silver vessels with which he and his wife furnished this building either were lost during the lawsuit over his estate or were burned during the conflagrations in the ghetto in 1689 (June 21) and 1754 (May 16). The only gifts dedicated by Meisel and his wife to this synagogue that have been preserved are a curtain ("paroket") embroidered with hundreds of pearls, a similarly adorned wrapper for the scroll of the Law, and a magnificent bronze ornament for the almemar. Jacob Segre, rabbi of Casale-Monferrato, celebrated the dedication of the synagogue in a poem which is still extant, and his contemporary David Gans, the chronicler of Prague, has described in his "Ẓemaḥ Dawid" the enthusiasm with which the Jewish population received the gift.

Tombstone of Mordecai Meisel at Prague.(From Jerabék, "Der Alte Prager Judenfriedhof.")His Benefactions.

Meisel enlarged the old Jewish cemetery of Prague by purchasing adjoining uncultivated land, on which he erected a house for washing the dead, a miḳweh, a bet ha-midrash, a Klaus, and a hospital (still in existence). He spent much money also in ransoming Jewish prisoners; paved the ghetto ofPrague, which had been much enlarged at that time; often provided clothing, of a uniform pattern, for all the poor of his community; presented large dowries every year at Ḥanukkah to two poor brides chosen by lot; lent large sums without interest to needy merchants; and provided for the widows and orphans of the community. He presented costly synagogal vessels and adornments to other communities, including those of Cracow, Posen, and Jerusalem. He presented and loaned altogether the sum of 20,000 thalers to the community of Posen when it was burned out June 11, 1590; gave generously to Christian philanthropies, contributing a considerable amount toward the completion of the Church of the Savior; and repeatedly lent large sums to the empress as well as to the emperor, being rewarded with considerable privileges, many of which affected the Meisel synagogue. This synagogue had a standard with an escutcheon; it might not be entered by any officer of the law; it was exempt from taxation for all time. Although Meisel had no children, the emperor granted him the right to dispose of his estate; but after his death the heirs were involved in difficulties as a result of this privilege. He had the right also to mint shekels for ritual purposes ("pidyon ha-ben" and "maḥaẓit ha-sheḳel"), and one of these coins, dated 1584, is still in existence.

Meisel's last will and testament, which he drew up in the presence of Chief Rabbi Löw (Judah Löw b. Bezaleel), the communal director Joachim Brandeis, and Meïr Epstein, leaving his estate to his two nephews, Samuel the Elder and Samuel the Younger, is still extant in manuscript. He was interred with the highest honors. Immediately after his burial the Bohemian treasury, at the instance of the emperor, confiscated his estate, consisting of 516,250 gulden in money together with many houses. Whatever was found was carried off; one of the chief heirs was tortured into revealing the hiding-place of what had been concealed, which also was claimed. Meisel's wealth and philanthropy have become proverbial among the Jews, and many anecdotes are connected with his name.

Bibliography:
  • Lieben, Gal 'Ed;
  • Foges, Altertümer der Prager Josefstadt;
  • Hock-Kaufmann, Die Familien Prags, Presburg, 1892;
  • A. Kisch, Das Testament Mardochai Meysels;
  • idem, Das Meiselbanner in Prag, Prague, 1901.
D. A. Ki.Moses b. Mordecai Meisel:

Russian scholar and communal worker; born in Wilna about 1760; died in Hebron, Palestine, after 1838. He was shammash of the community in his native town and was in his younger days one of the followers of Elijah Gaon. Later he joined the Ḥasidim, but did not participate in the bitter controversies concerning them which disturbed the Polish Jewry in those times. He was a great admirer of Moses Mendelssohn and approved Solomon Dubno's bi'ur of Genesis (1783). There is also an approbation by Meisel of Samuel Gershoni's "Debar Shemuel" (Byelostok, 1814). He left Wilna for Palestine in 1813 and settled in Hebron. Dr. Löwe, who met him there in the summer of 1838, describes him as an old man well acquainted with German literature.

Meisel was the author of "Shirat Mosheh" (Shklov, 1788), a poem on the 613 precepts, each line beginning with a letter from the Ten Commandments. His son Aryeh Löb (d. 1835) was a leader among the Ḥsidim of Wilna.

Bibliography:
  • Fuenn, Ḳiryah Ne'emanah, pp. 246-247, 288, Wilna, 1860;
  • M. A. Ginzburg, Debir, pp. 47-48, Warsaw, 1883.
H. R. P. Wi.Samuel Meisel (the elder):

Nephew of Mordecai Marcus b. Samuel; born in 1585; died in 1630. He was wealthy and prominent in affairs. In 1616 he received an imperial privilege. The printing-press of Abraham Heide (Lemberger) was situated in his house. After Mordecai Meisel's death the settlement of his estate involved his family in a tedious suit with the government, and from the records of this suit is derived the information regarding the members of this family. One of the houses belonging to the estate was awarded, in 1610, to a nephew, Jacob, and his wife, Johanka; and three years later, King Matthias, successor of Rudolf II., gave the remaining real estate to another nephew, Samuel Meisel (the younger; d. 1625), son of Simon. The Meisel synagogue and other property were awarded to the Jewish community. As the state had confiscated all the money (more than 500,000 gulden) and most of the real estate, the family sued the community for the income from the synagogue, the baths, institutional buildings, etc., amounting to 800 florins a year. The rabbinate thereupon excommunicated the entirely impoverished family (c. 1670), and this led to indescribable persecutions and scandals. Decent burial was refused to Marek, son of the younger Samuel Meisel, in 1674, and the funeral cortège was insulted. His daughter was attacked in her house by the mob, and the family had to pay large sums in order to secure honorable burial for the heir Joachim Meisel. It did not appear until the final verdict rendered in this suit by the magistrate of Prague Sept. 13, 1684, that through the machinations of the notorious apostate Philipp Lang, chamberlain to the emperor until 1608, the record of Meisel's privileges had been secretly stricken from the official register in 1601, on the ground of their having been obtained by fraud, and that the sums subsequently paid to the widow and to the heirs, and the two houses given them, were alleged to have been merely gifts. The heirs, naturally, were not satisfied with this decision; but the great fire in the ghetto of Prague, in 1689, which destroyed the Meisel synagogue and the other buildings of the estate, terminated the controversy. The family flourished at Prague down to modern times; and branches of it are found at Warsaw, Budapest, Breslau, and Berlin.

Bibliography:
  • A. Kisch, Das Testament Mardochai Meysels;
  • Lieben, Gal 'Ed;
  • Benedikt Foges, Altertümer der Prager Josefstadt.
D. A. Ki.Wolf Alois Meisel:

Hungarian rabbi; born at Roth-Janowitz July 16, 1815; died at Budapest Nov. 30, 1867. Owing to his father's conversion to Christianity, the family relations were so inharmonious that he reached the age of seventeen before he was able to begin definite preparation for the future. In 1832 he went to Hamburg, where he applied himself to the study of the Talmud and graduatedfrom the gymnasium. He entered the University of Breslau in 1838, where he continued his study of the Talmud and attended lectures on rhetoric. In 1848 he was called to the rabbinate of Stettin, and on May 11, 1859, to that of Budapest. Here he was in constant conflict with his congregation owing to the state of transition, both in religion and in politics, through which the Hungarian Jews passed during his administration. His "Homilien über die Sprüche der Väter" (Stettin, 1851; Hungarian transl. by Bauer Márkfi Lörincz, Budapest, 1862) are models of Jewish pulpit-literature. His "Prinz und Derwisch," poems (Stettin, 1847; 2d ed., Budapest, 1860), and "Der Prüfstein," poems (published posthumously by the Meisel-Wohlthätigkeitsverein, Budapest, 1878), are translations. He died suddenly while preaching a sermon, which Simon Bacher and his son Wilhelm Bacher published in German and Hebrew under the title "Die Brunnen Isaak's" (ib. 1867).

Bibliography:
  • Kayserling, W. A. Meisel;
  • ein Lebens- und Zeitbild, Leipsic, 1891;
  • Venetianer, A Zsidóság Szervezete, pp. 496 et seq.;
  • Büchler, A Zsidók Torténete, pp. 479 et seq.;
  • Pallas Lex.;
  • Hochmuth, Leopold Löw, pp. 208 et seq., Leipsic, 1871.
S. L. V.
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