1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Montefiore, Sir Moses Haim

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MONTEFIORE, SIR MOSES HAIM (1784-1885), Jewish philanthropist, eldest son of Joseph Elias Montefiore, a London merchant, and of Rachel, daughter of Abraham Lumbroso de Mattos Mocatta, was born at Leghorn, on the 24th of October 1784. His paternal ancestors were Jewish merchants who settled at Ancona and Leghorn in the 17th century, whilst his grandfather, Moses Haim Montefiore, emigrated from the latter town to London in 1758. Montefiore entered the Stock Exchange, his uncle purchasing for him at a cost of £1200 the right to practise as one of the twelve Jewish brokers licensed by the city of London. Although belonging to the Sephardic or “Spanish” congregation of Jews, he married in 1812 Judith, a daughter of Levi Barent Cohen, of the “German” Jews, another of whose daughters was the wife of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the head of the great banking firm; this relationship led to a close connexion in business between Montefiore and that house, and his brother Abraham married Henrietta Rothschild, a sister of the financier. In 1824 Montefiore, having amassed a fortune, retired from the Stock Exchange. From his forty-third year Montefiore devoted all his energies to ameliorating the lot of his co-religionists. His first pilgrimage to Palestine was undertaken in 1827, and resulted in a friendship with Mehemet Ali which was to lead to much practical good. Immediately on his return, Montefiore began to take an active part in the struggle which British Jews were then carrying on to obtain full political and civic rights. In 1837 he became the city of London's second Jewish sheriff, and was knighted. In 1838, accompanied by Lady Montefiore, he started on a second voyage to Palestine, in order to submit to Mehemet Ali a scheme for Jewish colonization in Syria. Though political disturbances rendered his efforts again unsuccessful, the year 1840 brought Montefiore once more before Mehemet, this time to plead the cause of some Jews imprisoned at Damascus on a charge of ritual murder. He obtained their release, and on his way back wrung from the Porte a decree giving Jews throughout Turkey the utmost privileges accorded to aliens. In 1846 the threatened re-issue in Russia of an Imperial ukase (first promulgated in 1844) ordering the withdrawal of all Jews from within 50 versts of the German and Austrian frontiers, caused Montefiore to proceed to St Petersburg, where in an interview with the tsar he succeeded in getting the ukase rescinded. On his return, Queen Victoria, on the recommendation of Sir Robert Peel, made him a baronet. In 1859 a case of injustice which attracted the attention of all Europe brought Sir Moses to the gates of the Vatican. A Jewish child named Mortara had been secretly baptized by its nurse and stolen from its mother, who died of grief. Cardinal Antonelli, in the name of the pope, refused to give up the boy, who became a priest. In 1863 we find Montefiore on a mission in Constantinople to obtain from the Sultan, Abdul Aziz, the confirmation of his predecessor's decrees in favour of the Jews; in 1864 in Morocco to combat an outbreak of anti-Semitism; in 1866 in Syria, relieving the distress resulting from a plague of locusts and an epidemic of cholera; and in 1867 in Rumania, once more pleading the cause of the oppressed Jews with Prince Charles. In 1872 Montefiore was deputed by the British Jews to present to Alexander II. their congratulations on the bicentenary of the birth of Peter the Great, and was received by the tsar with great honour at the Winter Palace. His seventh and last pilgrimage to the Holy Land was made in 1875, of which he wrote an account in his Narrative of a Forty Days' Sojourn in the Holy Land, published in that year. The last decade of his life was passed in comparative quiet upon his estate near Ramsgate, in Kent; and there, after having received general congratulations on the completion of his hundredth year, he passed peacefully away on the 28th of July 1885. Sir Moses Montefiore was a strictly orthodox Jew, scrupulously observant of both the spirit and the letter of the Scriptures; in his grounds he had a synagogue built where services are still held twice a day, a college where ten rabbis live and expound the Jewish law, and a mausoleum that contains the remains of himself and of Lady Montefiore, who died in 1862.