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Sir Moses Montefiore


Sir Moses Montefiore was the precursor of today's multicultural society; his example has been the one that has shown the way to today's Britain.

He was the first man in Britain, not of the established religion nor sharing the ethnic roots of his fellow countrymen, to rise to the highest positions both officially and socially without denying his Jewish identity and without giving up any of his religious beliefs and observances to which he was unswervingly loyal.

He wrote, towards the end of his life I hope that by divine blessing I have been of some use to my fellow creatures, both Jews and Christians and, and believe I may add, Moors. He was helped in this by the then DUKE OF NORFOLK who,as a Catholic, shared disabilities with Jews and other Dissenters. It was the Duke of Norfolk who presented Sir Moses Montefiore to WILLIAM IV at a levee on the 29th. April 1829 and who was involved in 1826 with Sir Moses and other Dissenters in the creation of what was to become LONDON UNIVERSITY They also met on the 26th. June 1828 with others to discuss obtaining Relief of Religious Disabilities for all. In 1836 he was the first Jew to be elected to the ROYAL SOCIETY.

Sir Moses Montefiore's efforts for emancipation were helped and encouraged by the DUKE OF SUSSEX, the sixth son of George III, There is no need to remind you of the Duke's connection with Ramsgate: his morganatic wife LADY AUGUSTA MURRAY was a neighbour of Sir Moses'on the East Cliff. The lady is buried in St. Lawrence churchyard. The Duke of Sussex was an indefatigable fighter for Jewish emancipation in the House of Lords, a patron of the Jews' Hospital and of the Jewish Orphanage. With the help of Sir Moses's secretary, Dr.Louis Loewe, who also filled the post of Oriental linguist and Hebrew Lecturer to His Royal Highness, the Duke collected a library of some significance. It now forms the nucleus of the Hebrew Collection in the BRITISH LIBRARY.

Whilst the Duke of Sussex supported emancipation in the Lords, it was a SIR ROBERT GRANT who proposed the Bill in the lower House. You will not be surprised to learn that Sir Robert and his family summered in Ramsgate as neighbours to Lady Augusta Murray as described by his daughter, ELIZABETH GRANT of Rothiemurchos in her MEMOIRS OF A HIGHLAND LADY.

At Ramsgate, Sir Moses succeeded in establishing a network of liberal-minded friends, the fruit of whose work has helped make today's multi-culturalism and absorption of such different groups possible. The Synagogue and his and his wife's tombs are all that remain to remind us of this gift to our present-day culture.

Sir Moses was active in the ABOLITION OF SLAVERY movement as he was in the emancipation of his fellow Jews and all other Dissenters. On 11th. June 1840 he attended a meeting of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery and there are records of his protest to the Governor of Alexandria in August 1840,at the existance of a slave market. He was on his way to Jerusalem.

He gave to the IRISH FAMINE RELIEF, as he gave to all races and creeds and those who suffer.

But it is by his example that Anglo-Jewry and later other groups whose roots and customs are not native to these islands, have not only become absorbed and accepted but also have maintained their identity.


There are many more facts to unfold other than the well-known ones of the golden key for the Princess Victoria and his work in Jerusalem. This was the first example of what we now call MULTI-CULTURALISM in this green and pleasant land.


As an appendix, a European dimension.

Sir Moses, in his work in defense of the persecuted, worked closely with M. Adolphe Cremieux, a French Politician, a depute and vice-president of The Consistoire des Israelites Francais, roughly the equivalent of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

In 1840 he and M. Cremieux succeeded in saving the Jews of Damascus from persecution and in obtaining the withdrawal of an accusation of Ritual Murder to obtain blood for Passover matsos. The two men went to Alexandria on this mission together.

In 1847 he succeeded, with the help of King Louis-Philippe and his minister Guizot in intervening successfully in the Lebanon in another case of blood libel.

In 1867 he was received by Napoleon III in an Anglo-French initiative to help save Moldavian Jews from what we now call Ethnic Cleansing

It is also of interest that DR.THOMAS HODGKIN (1798-1866) who first described the disease named after him, Hodgkin's Disease, was Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore's personal physician. Dr. Hodgkin died in Jaffa whilst accompanying Sir Moses on his visit to Jerusalem in 1866. Sir Moses arranged the Doctor's funeral and had a granite column erected as a memorial to him. It is, I am told, still standing.

In 1867 after the death of Dr Hodgkin, Sir Moses took another doctor with him on his travels. The gentleman who accompanied Sir Moses as his medical attendant on his visit to Roumania in 1867 was a Mr.JAMES S.DANIEL of Ramsgate. In 1872 Mr Daniel again accompanied Sir Moses to St. Petersburg on his visit to Czar Alexander II. The Daniel family is still present in Ramsgate: the firm of Solicitors, Daniel and Edwards still practices in Queen Street.

Sir Moses was also a founder of the Alliance Life Insurance Company, now known as Sun Alliance.

Bibliography:
     Diaries of Sir Moses & Lady Montefiore.
     Memoirs of Ruth Sebag-Montefiore
     The Cousinhood by Ch. Bermant
     Jews in the History of England