For Jews in every corner of the world, the Holy Land has always been central. But that conviction was put to the test in the eighteenth century when Jewish leaders in Palestine and their allies in Istanbul sent rabbinic emissaries on global fundraising missions. From the shores of the Mediterranean to the port cities of the Atlantic seaboard, from the Caribbean to India, these emmissaries solicited donations for the impoverished of Israel's homeland.
Emissaries from the Holy Land explores how this eighteenth century philanthropic network was organized and how relations of trust and solidarity were built across vast geographic differences. It looks at how the emissaries and their supporters understood the relationship between the Jewish Diaspora and the Land of Israel, and it shows how cross-cultural encounters and competing claims for financial support involving Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and North African emissaries and communities contributed to the transformation of Jewish identity from 1720 to 1820.
Solidarity among Jews and the centrality of the Holy Land in traditional Jewish society are often taken for granted. Lehmann challenges such assumptions and provides a critical, historical perspective on the question of how Jews in the early modern period encountered one another, how they related to Jerusalem and the land of Israel, and how the early modern period changed perceptions of Jewish unity and solidarity. Based on original archival research as well as multiple little-known and rarely studied sources, Emissaries from the Holy Land offers a fresh perspective on early modern Jewish society and culture and the relationship between the Jewish Diaspora and Palestine in the eighteenth century.
About the author
Matthias Lehmann is Associate Professor of History and Teller Family Chair in Jewish History at the University of California, Irvine and the author of Ladino Rabbinic Literature and Ottoman Sephardic Culture.
"In this probing and timely study, Lehmann brings to life the effects of early modern globalization on the construction of differences and solidarities across the Jewish diaspora. It is a history rich in paradoxes and consequences for how we think about the ties between the diaspora and modern-day Israel."
—Francesca Trivellato, author of The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (2009)