Moses Montefiore, Vienna, 1884
This photograph of Moses Montefiore was printed in celebration of his 100th birthday. On the wreath around his portrait are the names of places where he helped Jews: Jerusalem, Damascus, Constantinople, Morocco, Rome, St. Petersburg.
Underneath his picture is Montefiore’s coat of arms and the words: “Think and Thank.” The German caption reads: “To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Moses Montefiore, 1884.” Montefiore’s signature appears underneath the image.
After his retirement from business, Montefiore devoted himself to philanthropy and assisting Jews around the world. He did much to help the Jewish community in Jerusalem, including building Mishkenot Sha’ananim, the first Jewish neighbourhood outside the walls of the Old City and other neighbourhoods. He also offered financial aid to families that moved from the Old City and donated large sums of money to support education, industry, and health projects for the Jewish population of Israel at the end of the nineteenth century.
Montefiore was also involved in the Damascus affair of 1840. Thirteen Jews from Damascus were accused of murdering a monk for ritual purposes. Following these charges, the accused were tortured and riots broke out against the Jewish community. The affair drew international attention, and Western leaders and personalities, including Sir Moses Montefiore, petitioned the sultan of the Ottoman Empire in Constantinople to free the imprisoned Jews and to stop the blood libel accusations.
He was involved in a similar case in Morocco in 1863, when a Jewish boy was tortured and confessed to the killing of a Spaniard. The Jewish community once again appealed to Sir Moses Montefiore for help. Following his involvement, the Moroccan sultan granted a proclamation protecting the Moroccan Jewish minority, and the prisoners were released along with a Moroccan who was unjustly accused of killing two Jews.
Rome is mentioned on the wreath due to another case in which Montefiore was involved. A young Jewish boy, Edgardo Mortara, was seized by the Pope’s soldiers in 1858, following a servant’s testimony that she had baptised him when he had been dangerously ill. Following the Papal law forbidding Christian children to be raised in non-Christian homes, Edgardo was taken by the church to be brought up as a Christian. The affair caused international outrage, and many world leaders, including Montefiore, petitioned the Pope to return the child to his family. However, the Pope denied Montefiore an audience, and despite many attempts he returned to London unsuccessful. Mortara remained a Christian and was even ordained in France at the age of 21.
The final place name on the wreath surrounding the portrait of Montefiore is St. Petersburg. Montefiore visited St. Petersburg in 1846 to meet with the Tsar following an imperial decree to exile Jews to the interior of the country. The decree was subsequently cancelled, and Montefiore went on to visit Eastern Russia to examine the situation of the Jews there.
Montefiore’s coat of arms appears at the bottom of the picture. The coat of arms features a lion, a deer, two Stars of David, a cedar tree, and some small hills. The lion and deer are holding flags with the word “Jerusalem” written in Hebrew. At the bottom is Montefiore’s motto, “Think and Thank.” The coat of arms demonstrates the different facets in Montefiore’s identity: he was both a patriotic Englishman and a proud Jew.
Jewish Studies teachers can show this item when teaching about the Jewish world in the 19th century. Montefiore's work supporting Jewish communities around the world can provide an insight on the situation of the Jews at that time. The image, can also be shown when discussion famous Jewish figures from Britain and about Jewish philantropists in general.
History teachers can show this image when teaching about Montefiore and his role in the Jewish world in the 19th century.
This image can also be shown by Art teachers as an example of graphic art created to commemorate famous figures.
What is this resource?
When and where was it produced?
Who is portrayed in the picture?
What is he wearing?
What words are written on the wreath around him?
Whose signature is below the wreath?
What is in the bottom centre of the wreath? What three words are written below the wreath?
When was this man born, and when did he die?
In your own words, explain what is written in the paragraph below the photograph.
Reading Between the Lines
Why was this resource produced?
Why do you think the names of these specific cities were written on the wreath?
What is Montefiore’s connection to these cities?
What did he do there?
What does “Think and Thank” mean?
Why do you think he chose this motto for his coat of arms?
Explain the title “100 Years of Devotion, Hope and Charity.”
Explain the phrase, “Son of the Synagogue.” Why do you think this was chosen?
How many Jews live today in each of the cities mentioned here?
What is Jewish life like there today?
How has it changed since Montefiore’s time?
Create a coat of arms for your family.
Explain the symbols you have chosen and the reasons you chose them.