Sir Moses Montefiore: a modern appreciation*

When Montefiore was born, Catherine the Great was Empress of Russia and Dr Johnson still held court in London. When he died, Albert Einstein was alive, Leo Pinsker had written Auto-Emancipation, and the great westward Jewish migrations were well under way. This combination of distance and proximity gives Montefiore a prismatic quality. He lived through a series of divers epochs, outliving each and sometimes at odds with the successively new.

His strenuous attention to congregational and charitable responsibilities was part of the noblesse-oblige way of life common to the governing circles of the community, Sephardi and Ashkenazi. It was a highly personalized family commitment. In addition to his strikingly long tenures of communal office,((He held office as President of the London Board for Shechita, with short interludes, from 1842 to 1880.)) he was one of the most assiduous exponents of that way of life. The course of conduct which for

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