Ivri Date: 16 Av, 5645
English Date: 28 July, 1885
Sir Moses Haim Montefiore, 1st Baronet (October 24, 1784-July 28, 1885) was one of the most famous British Jews in the 19th century. Montefiore was a financier, stockbroker, banker, philanthropist and for a while the Sheriff of London.
Born in Livorno, Italy, in 1784, Montefiore began his career as an apprentice to a firm of grocers and tea merchants. He later left for London, and became one of the twelve "Jew brokers" in the City of London. There he went into business with his brother Abraham, and their firm gained a high reputation.
In 1812, Moses Montefiore married Judith Cohen (1784-1862), daughter of Levi Barent Cohen. Her sister, Henriette (or Hannah) (1791-1866), married Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836), for whom Montefiore's firm acted as stockbrokers. Nathan Rothschild headed the family's banking business in Britain, and the two brothers-in-law became business partners.
Montefiore retired from his business in 1824, and used his time and fortune for communal and civic responsibilities. Physically imposing at 6 ft. 3 in., Montefiore enjoyed enormous prestige. He was elected Sheriff of London in 1837 and served until 1838. He was also knighted that same year by Queen Victoria and received a baronetcy in 1846 in recognition of his services to humanitarian causes on behalf of the Jewish people.
Though somewhat lax in religious observance in his early life, after his first visit to the Holy Land in 1827, he became a strictly observant Jew. He was even in the habit of traveling with a personal shohet (ritual slaughterer), to ensure that he would have a ready supply of kosher meat. His determined opposition played an important role in limiting the growth of the Reform Movement in England.
Montefiore never had children. He died in 1885, at the age of 100.