Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A 17th century Baptist godol sends funds to support the poor and distressed Jews of Jerusalem.

Here's an interesting account of a Christian, Henry Jessey, donating funds to the Jews of Jerusalem in the mid-17th century.

As you can see, the occasion was the aftermath of the decimation of Polish Jewry following the war between Poland and Sweden (only a few years after the Chmelnitsky massacres which arenot mentioned here, but probably the first cause for the situation of Polish Jews described here). This in turn dried up the donations Jerusalem Jewry relied upon, causing extreme suffering over there.

Jessey's donation of 300 pounds was no small sum in 1657. Doing some currency conversions I came up with a sum of over $60,000 in today's purchasing power, which was probably quite helpful to people who were literally starving. However, I'm thinking the sum of "15 million rixdollars" which European Jewry was said to send in support of Jerusalem's Jews "annually" is just a bit exaggerated.

The last two paragraphs are especially great, because in it he is described more or less as a contemporary godol or Chassidic rebbe, receiving visitors of all sorts, some to seek aid, and others even to engage him in learning ("some to consult him as a casuist"), yet he still had time left for his own hasmada.

From The history of the English Baptists Vol. 1 1738, by Thomas Crosby.

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