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Moshe Montefiore

1784 - 1885.


Moshe Montefiore, an English Sephardic Jew born in Italy, was a financier, banker, Zionist activist, and philanthropist. He married Judith Cohen, sister-in-law of Nathan Meyer Rothschild (Edmond James de Rothschild's uncle).


Moshe Montefiore
Moses Montefiore on a 10 Israeli pound bill. Source: Bank of Israel.

During his life, he was deeply committed to the Jews' situation in the Holy Land. He visited Palestine seven times during the 19th century and tried to improve the Old Yishuv inhabitants' situation and subsistence means.


With his funding, a printing press was purchased (1841), the first weaving house was established (1854), authorization was obtained to build the Hurba / Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem (1855), a school was opened, and the first residential neighborhood was built outside Jerusalem's walls, called "Mishkenot Shananim" (1860). He established a flour mill as a livelihood source.


He wanted the Jewish people living in the Old Yishuv to live by themselves and not rely on "Haluka" (an organized collection of funds from the diaspora, distributed to the Jewish residents of the Land of Israel).


The Jews of Old Yishuv referred to him as "ha-Sar Montefiore" ('The Minister' or 'Prince' Montefiore). Link to the song about his life.


Montefiore did what he could to keep Jews safe and protect their rights all around the world (in England, Syria, Morocco, Turkey, and Russia) and in the Land of Israel. One of the famous examples is his impact on the Damascus affair in 1840. In this affair, he released Jewish prisoners from prison after false accusations of murder on a Christian monk and his Muslim servant. He even made sure that all Jews living under the Sultan of Turkey were protected against similar charges.


He had a fusional relationship with his wife until she died in 1862. He died in England at age 100, with no known children.



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