Yahrtzeit of Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885), outstanding Jewish philanthropist. Montefiore was also a leading stockbroker, served as the Sheriff of London, and was knighted by Queen Victoria. Montefiore retired from business at age 40 and devoted the rest of his life to humanitarian causes on behalf of the Jewish people. He traveled to the Sultan of Turkey in 1840 to defend the Jews of Damascus against a blood libel; to Rome in 1858 to try and free the Jewish youth Edgar Mortara, kidnapped and baptized by his Catholic nurse; to Russia, Morocco and other points to ask government authorities to stop persecution of the Jews. But it was the Holy Land that was dearest to his heart. He made the arduous journey to Israel seven times. His first visit to Jerusalem had a profound affect on him spiritually, and from then on he lived a life of Torah observance. In Israel, he dispensed charity, sought to promote industry, education and health, and sponsored several agricultural settlements. In Jerusalem, he built the first neighborhood outside the Old City Walls. (The area is recognized by a landmark windmill, though due to the lack of wind in Jerusalem, the windmill has never worked.) His tireless efforts made him a beloved folk hero; his 100th birthday was celebrated by Jewish communities around the world.
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