Menasseh ben Israel Rabbi of Amsterdam Steven Nadler

Jewish Lives
Publication date:
21 Aug 2018
Yale University Press
320 pages: 210 x 146mm
1 b-w illus.


Menasseh ben Israel (1604–1657) was among the most accomplished and cosmopolitan rabbis of his time, and a pivotal intellectual figure in early modern Jewish history. He was one of the three rabbis of the “Portuguese Nation” in Amsterdam, a community that quickly earned renown worldwide for its mercantile and scholarly vitality.
Born in Lisbon, Menasseh and his family were forcibly converted to Catholicism but suspected of insincerity in their new faith. To avoid the horrors of the Inquisition, they fled first to southwestern France, and then to Amsterdam, where they finally settled. Menasseh played an important role during the formative decades of one of the most vital Jewish communities of early modern Europe, and was influential through his extraordinary work as a printer and his efforts on behalf of the readmission of Jews to England. In this lively biography, Steven Nadler provides a fresh perspective on this seminal figure.

Steven Nadler, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is the author of Rembrandt’s Jews and Spinoza: A Life, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award, among other books. He is William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy and Evjue-Bascom Professor in Humanities at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He lives in Madison, WI.

"Fluidly written, lively, and truly excellent from every point of view, this book portrays Menasseh's role in the development of Amsterdam Jewish life and learning and in the broad context of seventeenth-century Jewish-Christian intellectual relations."—Jonathan Israel, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton