A pioneering rabbi

Menasseh ben Israel was a writer, intellectual and advocate for British Jewry in the 17th century.

By COLIN SHINDLER
November 29, 2018 18:39
4 minute read.
AN ETCHING of Menasseh ben Israel made by Rembrandt in 1636

AN ETCHING of Menasseh ben Israel made by Rembrandt in 1636. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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The figure of Menasseh ben Israel holds a special place in the hearts of many British Jews. He is regarded as the central advocate in pleading the case to the leaders of the English republic in 1656 to readmit the Jews into the country.

A leading Sephardi rabbi in Amsterdam, he spent two frustrating years in London despite Oliver Cromwell’s determined support, before returning to Holland. Yet his efforts led a group of Jews who clandestinely lived and prayed in London to purchase a building in Creechurch Lane, and this subsequently became the first open synagogue in England since the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 by Edward I.

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