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Marie Syrkin (1899–1989)

Author of Blessed Is the Match: The Story of Jewish Resistance

Includes the names: Marie Syrkin, Edited By Marie Syrkin

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Marie Syrkin was born in Bern, Switzerland, the only daughter of Nachman Syrkin, a Socialist-Zionist theorist, and his wife Bassya Osnos Syrkin, a feminist revolutionary activist. By age 10, she had lived in five countries and was fluent in five languages: Russian, French, German, Yiddish, and English. She began to write poetry at an early age. In 1908, the family emigrated to the USA, settling in New York City. At age 18, she eloped with Maurice Samuel, a writer, but the marriage was annulled at the insistence of her father. In 1918, she enrolled at Cornell University; there she met and married Aaron Bodansky, a biochemist, with whom she had two sons. The couple divorced and Marie returned to New York City. To support herself and her child, she took a job as an English teacher at Textile High School in Manhattan, a job she disliked but held for more than 20 years. During these years, she also translated Yiddish poetry into English. In 1930, she remarried to Charles Reznikoff, a poet, and became increasingly involved in Zionist activities. She made her first trip to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1934, and began her writing career by joining the staff of the Jewish Frontier, a new English-language Labor-Zionist publication. From 1937 through 1942, she reported on Nazi persecutions in Europe, and wrote the first known editorial in the American media describing the systematic extermination of Jews. She wrote Your School, Your Children (1944), which was widely acclaimed and played a role in American educational reform. After World War II, she published Blessed Is the Match (1947), one of the first books on Jewish resistance to the Nazis. In 1950, at age 51, she began a new career on the English faculty of the newly-established Brandeis University near Boston, Massachusetts, where she developed the first university courses in the literature of the Holocaust and in American Jewish fiction. She wrote a memoir of her father and a biography of her close friend Golda Meir; edited the Jewish Frontier; served on the editorial board of Midstream; and was editor of the Herzl Press; in addition to serving as a member of the World Zionist Executive. She retired from Brandeis as professor emerita of humanities in 1966 and returned to New York, where she worked for the Jewish Agency, before spending her last years in Santa Monica, California. She received numerous awards and prizes, including the prestigious Solomon Bublick Prize for contribution to the advancement and development of the State of Israel.
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