Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The novelty of a Jew Rabbi in the hat, wig, and band of an English bishop

Rabbi Raphael Meldola, the Haham of London's Spanish-Portuguese community in the early 19th century looked like this:

If you found it surprising (and I doubt too many readers of this blog do), you would not be alone. When this portrait was made and published (people hung gedolim pictures up then too) a review of it was posted in the Monthly Magazine and British Register (March 1807, p. 175):


  1. I'm more interested in why write Jewish altogether? What other kind of rabbi is there?

    "Jew rabbi" was very common then, although you also find "Jewish rabbi." I see two possibilities; the first is that "Jew rabbi" sounded right to them, on the pattern of "Christian," which is used both as the noun and as the adjective (not "Christianish"). The second is that it was meant to sound slightly pejorative, but maybe not, maybe only to our (= my) ears.

    As for the redundancy of "Jewish rabbi," although I don't think this is a sufficient answer, "Rabbi" was not an uncommon smear for Catholics and other kinds of undesirables.

  2. That sounds eminently reasonable, thanks!

  3. He's the author of Chupat Chatanim, no? There's a similar portrait of him up at the Lauderdale Road Spanish-Portuguese synagogue of London. The rabbi there says he'll occasionally have Hassidic visitors curious to see the portrait of der heilige mechaber of the gevaldike sefer Chupas Chasanim -- and they don't believe it. (Then again they don't read this blog ...)

  4. >He's the author of Chupat Chatanim, no?

    Correct. Chida gave him semicha.

    I once posted about Rabbi David Tevele Schiff and it had his portrait, where he was wearing a tricorne hat. Someone pointed out to me something that I wasn't even thinking of, namely, that to some people such a sight would be shocking. What was he doing in a Haman hat?



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