The Life and Times of Sir Moses Montefiore

Lionel Kochan profiles one of the leading bankers among British Jews, who devoted fifty years of his long life to the welfare of Jewry overseas and the future of Palestine.

For most of the nineteenth century Anglo-Jewry remained one of the smaller Jewish communities in the world. Between 1815 and 1880 it grew in numbers from 25,000 to 60,000.

Yet it was this small community that took the lead in defending the rights of Jews abroad. This disparity between numbers and activity had many reasons, but one of the more important was certainly the personality of Sir Moses Montefiore, Bart, F.R.S.

He was born in Leghorn in 1784 and died at Ramsgate in 1885. During this period Anglo-Jewry evolved from a predominantly impoverished community to one that was predominantly middle class.

At its apex, socially and financially, stood a small class of private bankers and brokers dominated first by the brothers Abraham and Isaac Goldsmid and then by the house of Rothschild.

The progress of Jewish emancipation combined with the industrial development of the nineteenth century facilitated the formation of a diversified class of professional men and small-scale manufacturers and traders.

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