Dorothee Metlitzki, right, with Golda Meir, who later became prime minister of Israel, and a Palestinian activist, Ms. Khoury, in 1943.

06 September 2001 |

Dorothee Metlitzki
A former professor of English, Dorothee Metlitzki, died April 14 in Hamden, Conn. She was 86.

A scholar of medieval Arabic, Middle English and Herman Melville, she was among the first women to receive tenure in the Department of English.

Born in Germany, Metlitzki spent her childhood in Russia, then Lithuania. Her family fled the Bolsheviks and later the Nazis. At 17, she went to the University of London, where she became a protégéé of Moshe Sharett (later the second prime minister of Israel) and received a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees.

Metlitzki moved to Jerusalem, where she helped found the state of Israel, the English Department at Hebrew University, and the Arab Women’s Cooperative, which promoted the welfare of Arab women and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. Under Prime Minister Golda Meir, she worked as a press officer for the Foreign Ministry and secretary for the affairs of Arab women in the Israeli Federation of Labor.

In the 1950s, after receiving her Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale, Metlitzki became a faculty member in Berkeley’s English Department. Known as a stellar lecturer and storyteller, her most definitive work focused on the intersection of Arab and English culture during the Middle Ages. In 1966 she joined the faculty at Yale. She retired in 1984, but continued to lead seminars there until her death.

Metlitzki married three times. Her third husband, Jacob Finkelstein, chaired Berkeley’s Near Eastern Languages department from the mid 1950s to the mid ‘60s. She is survived by a daughter from her second marriage, Ruth Grdseloff, of Berkeley.


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