Moses Montefiore

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885)

In 1839, Sir Moses Montefiore commissioned the first of five censuses of the Jewish population then living in Israel. These censuses were continued after his death. This revealed that in 1800 there were about 2,000 Jews living in Israel out of a population of 8,750. By 1870 the Jewish population had grown to 11,000 out of 22,000 and by 1905 Jews numbered 40,000 out of 60,000 and had hence reached a clear majority.

Moses Montefiore was an Italian Jew who had come to England in the eighteenth century. He was taught Hebrew by his family after they had moved from Livorno to London where he became an apprentice to tea merchants and grocers. He left that business and in 1803, when he was only 19, Moses Montefiore was licensed as a broker on the London stock exchange. This led to his acquaintance with Mayer Anselm Rothschild, whose sister-in-law, Judith Cohen, became his wife in 1803.

He thereupon became the broker for the Rothschilds and became very rich. Therefore he retired from business at the age of 40 and devoted his entire life to helping Jewish communities around the world. His influence was very great as he had become a fellow of the Royal Society, sheriff of London and knight of the British Empire. This made him a baron in recognition of the help he had given the Jews of this world. It was Queen Victoria who bestowed this on him (The English were not the Jew baiters known all over the European continent). This led to his election as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

He visited Israel seven times beginning in 1827. There he financed hospitals, agricultural communities, synagogues, apartment houses and cemeteries. He personally visited the kings of Morocco, Syria, Russia and Romania to influence these potentates to alleviate the persecution of the Jews in these lands. His most dramatic success occurred in 1840. Having established a friendship with the Sultan of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, who ruled Syria as well, he succeeded in gaining the release of a number of Damascus Jews who had been accused of using Christian blood for Pesach rituals. This vicious lie was then widely believed and resembles the kind of hate now distributed by Mel Gibson.

In 1855, on his fourth visit to Israel, Sir Moses bought ten acres of land for 1000 pounds from a rich Moslem. This became the first Jewish residential quarter in Jerusalem outside the Old City. It was called Mishkenot Shaananim, or “Peaceful Habitation”.  Additional financing came from the American Jewish philanthropist (lover of humanity) Judah Touro of New Orleans. The two new apartment buildings had an Ashkenazi synagogue (Greek for “leading together") on one end and a Sephardic synagogue at the other end. There was also a ritual bath, public cooking facilities, and a wind driven flour mill permitting some residents to earn a living. The windmill is a museum today.

Moses Montefiore recognized that self help and not charity was the best Mitzvah and so he established several printing presses and a textile factory in Eretz Yisroel.

It may have helped him that he was 6'3" tall, although height is evidently not a sign of friendship for the Jewish people, as visible in the anti-Israel attitude now evident on the part of 6'4" John Kerry, who agrees with his Arab friend Abdel Aziz Rantisi that ”We will continue with our holy war ..until every last criminal Zionist is evicted from this land. By G-d, we will not leave one Jew in Palestine.” Now why would any Jew vote for a man who agrees with that? Kerry, hoping to reduce Israel to a defenseless position has promised to appoint Jimmy Carter, arch enemy of Israel to serve as special envoy to the region. Why not go all the way and appoint Arafat?

Kerry even supports the racist view that Jews, only Jews, should be kicked out of their homes in Judea and Samaria. Forcibly removing someone from his home because of his religion is the worst form of racism and was practiced for centuries among the European haters who want to do it again.

We have an alternative. We can support Sir Moses Montefiore by re-electing the best friend Israel ever had. His name is George W. Bush.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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