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Markuze, Moyshe

(1743–?), physician and medical writer. Born in Słonim, Moyshe Markuze (or Marcuse) received a thorough Talmudic education. From 1766 to 1768, he studied medicine in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and then traveled to Holland and England. Returning to Eastern Europe in 1774, he worked as a physician in the estates of the Lubomirski family in Kapust (Kopyś) near Szkłów (Shklov), an area that had been annexed to Russia two years earlier. By 1782 he had moved to Trisk (Turyjsk) in Volhynia, where he served as a government-licensed physician. It is said that he was physician to Poland’s King Stanisław August Poniatowski and to some members of the commission of the crown treasury.

Markuze’s medical treatise, Seyfer refues hanikre Ezer Yisroel (1790) was an adaptation, in colloquial Yiddish, of the German translation of Simon-André Tissot’s Avis au peuple sur sa santé (a partial Hebrew translation of Tissot’s book was published in Berlin in 1789 by Menaḥem Mendel Lefin, and it is possible that Markuze was aware of Lefin’s work). The book was the first of its type in Eastern Europe, and Markuze asserted that his aim was to propagate basic principles of medicine and hygiene among the people. Much of his attention was devoted to combating illicit healers, ba‘ale shem, and illustrating the insufficient medical knowledge of midwives and medics. In these emphases, he followed Tissot but adapted the material for his own audience.

Although it is not clear that Markuse supported Haskalah, his medical advice seems to acknowledge some elements of the maskilic program; among his suggestions are changes in the educational system and employment structure. He criticizes the ineffectiveness of heder education and supports horticulture and other agricultural activities. The influence of the book was probably limited, but some claim that it did have a readership in the region. For contemporary researchers, its value is found in its being written in the colloquial language and its rich description of traditions and everyday eighteenth-century Jewish life in Poland.

Suggested Reading

Alexander Guterman, “Sefer refues le-Dr. Markuze ve-hatsa‘otav le-tikunim be-ḥaye ha-yehudim,” in Perakim be-toldot yehude Polin ba-‘et ha-ḥadashah, pp. 38–56 (Jerusalem, 1999); Marvin I. Herzog, “Grammatical Features of Markuze’s Seyfer refues,” in The Field of Yiddish, 2nd coll., ed Uriel Weinreich, pp. 49–62 (The Hague, 1965); Chone Shmeruk, “Mosheh Markuze mi-Slonim u-mekor sifro ‘Ezer Yisra’el,” in Sifrut yidish be-Polin, pp. 184–203 (Jerusalem, 1981), originally in Yiddish as “Moyshe Markuze fun Slonim un der moker fun zayn bukh Eyzer Yisroel,Sadan (1977): 361–382.



Translated from Polish by Bartek Madejski