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Mieses, Józef

(1882–1942), rabbi, scholar, and Polish army chaplain. The elder brother of author and scholar Matthias Mieses, Józef Mieses was born in Przemyśl and lived there until he completed his high school education in 1900. Sent to Vienna to study in the rabbinical seminary and university, he was ordained as a rabbi and received his doctorate in 1907. Since very few posts for modern rabbis existed in Galicia at that time, Mieses accepted a position as instructor in Jewish religion in the first Polish gymnasium established in his hometown.

Over the decades, Mieses published a number of articles in scholarly journals in Poland and abroad on issues involving Jewish culture and linguistics, including a critical study of Sa‘adyah Gaon’s Arabic translation of the Torah and a supplement to Jacob Levy’s Talmudic dictionary. Following the outbreak of World War I, Mieses escaped to Vienna as a refugee, where he devoted himself to research in the city’s libraries. In 1916 he was appointed a chaplain in the Austro-Hungarian army, with the rank of captain, for the Tenth Corps, whose headquarters were located in Przemyśl.

As a chaplain, Mieses was concerned not only with ceremonial religious events but was particularly active in organizing aid for soldiers’ families and in obtaining permission to set up kosher kitchens for Jewish soldiers. Either because the authorities grew tired of his incessant interventions or due to his participation in uniform in a dedication ceremony for a Zionist youth group, Mieses was relieved of his commission and was dismissed from the army. Following Polish independence, he moved to Warsaw, where he taught at the State Seminary for Teachers of Jewish Religion. In 1920 he joined the Polish army and was named chief Jewish chaplain, with the rank of colonel, serving until 1932.

Throughout this period and after his retirement from the army, Mieses continued his research, completing a translation of the Pentateuch into Polish, which appeared in 1931. In this work, he aimed to transmit the plain sense of the Hebrew text, albeit in a modern idiom. The manuscript of his translation of the Bible, which was nearly complete, was lost during the Holocaust years. During the German occupation of Przemyśl, Mieses reportedly died of tetanus.

Suggested Reading

Marian Fuks, “Mieses Józef,” in Polski słownik biograficzny, vol. 21, pt. 1, p. 29 (Wrocław, Warsaw, Kraków, and Gdańsk, Pol., 1976); Arie Menczer, ed., Sefer Pshemishel (Tel Aviv, 1964), pp. 270, 322–323; Józef Mieses, Pięcioksiąg Mojżesza, vol. 1 (Przemyśl, Pol., 1931).