Rachel Luzzatto Morpurgo

The first woman to write modern poetry in Hebrew.

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Rachel Morpurgo died in 1871 at the age of eighty-one. In 1890, 100 years after her birth, Vittorio Castiglioni--a noted scholar, native of Trieste, and chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Rome-published a volume of her poems and letters. He named the collection Ugav Rahel (Rachel's harp). Just a few generations after Castiglioni's book was published, Nina Davis Salaman, one of the foremost English-Jewish scholars and poets of her time, rediscovered Rachel Morpurgo's work and rendered it into English. With these translations, Morpurgo was brought to life for a new generation."

A Poem By Rachel Morpurgo

This poem, one of Morpurgo's later works, illustrates her use of metaphors from nature and her spiritual inclinations.

From a distance, I look upon the eternal hills,

Their face covered with glorious flowers.

I rise high, as if on eagle's wings, to cast a glance,

Raising my head to view the sun.

Heaven! How beautiful you stream forth,

Winds sweeping across your stage,

Revealing the place where freedom ever lives.

Who, who can express its sweetness!"

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Emily Taitz

Emily Taitz has a PhD in medieval Jewish history from the Jewish Theological Seminary. She taught women's history at Adelphi University and is presently co-editor of The New Light, a literary magazine.