Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Meldola, Raphael

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1406043Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 37 — Meldola, Raphael1894Michael Friedländer

MELDOLA, RAPHAEL (1754–1828), Jewish theologian, son of Rabbi Hezekiah Meldola (d. 1791), was born at Leghorn in 1754. His forefathers through many generations were eminent rabbis; his grandfather was Raphael Meldola, the author of a collection of responsa called ‘Mayim Rabbim.’ In 1791 he bewailed the death of his father, to whose memory he dedicated the first-fruit of his literary labours, ‘Korban Min‘hah’ (A Meal Offering), being a Hebrew commentary on the ‘abhodah’ (i.e. the description of the sacrificial service on the Day of Atonement). The commentary, which is concise and clear, was published in ‘Sepher ‘abhodath hammikdash’ (Additional Service for the Day of Atonement), at Leghorn in 1791. In 1797 a second work of his was published at Leghorn, viz. ‘‘Huppath ‘Hathanim’ (Laws and Regulations concerning the Conduct of Jews and Jewesses when Engaged or Married); in the Introduction he wittily but sharply depicts the poverty of the rabbis, whose income was as a rule very small. He officiated as ‘dayyan’ (i.e. judge or assistant rabbi) in the Jewish congregation of Leghorn.

On 7 Oct. 1804 the congregation of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in London appointed Meldola to the office of ‘‘hakham’ or ‘rabbi.’ The congregation had been without a spiritual chief since 1784. The task of inspiring the London community with fresh life was beset with great difficulties, especially for a minister who could not speak English. But Meldola met with much success. He struggled hard to prevent the children of the poor from attending schools opened for them by conversionists, and endeavoured to maintain the sanctity of the Sabbath. During his pastorate the ancient synagogue of his congregation in Bevis Marks was restored in 1824, and he composed for the occasion of its reopening a Hebrew hymn, ‘Kol Rinnah’ (‘the voice of song’). He died 9 June 1828, and was buried, in accordance with his wish, beside the rabbi David Netto, in the Beth-‘holim cemetery at Mile End. His wife Stella died in London 20 July 1857. His son, David Meldola, officiated as dayyan or assistant rabbi in London, where he died 2 March 1853. In addition to the works named above, Meldola published ‘Derekh Emunah’ (‘The Way of Faith’); in 1848 the introduction and one chapter were edited by his son, David Meldola (London), the former in Hebrew, the latter in an English translation. The book was intended to be a graduated catechism of the Jewish religion.

[Gent. Mag. 1828, pt. ii. p. 377; J. Picciotto's Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History; The Way of Faith (Preface).]

M. F.