Prince of Europe
Don Joseph Nasi (1524-1579) I’m not sure why they haven’t made a movie about this man yet, but they should. His story is quite fascinating. In a nutshell, he was the head of a banking empire, the Duke of Naxos, the Count of Andros, and the Lord of Tiberias. He actively sought a national homeland for the Jews, initially hoping for Cyprus, later receiving a grant from the Ottomans to start settling Israel. He single-handedly triggered a war between Turkey and Venice, sparked the Dutch uprising against Spain and brokered a peace treaty with Poland. At one point, he went by the secret name Juan Miguel to escape the inquisition. He monopolized the wine industry in Moldavia and the beeswax industry in Poland, financed the Yeshiva of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul), established a printing press for Jewish texts and maintained a vast library in his house to be used freely by Torah scholars. For his foundational work in seeking to establish an independent Jewish state in the Holy Land all the way back in the 16th century, he has been called the first real “proto-Zionist”.
Words of the Week
The entire people of Israel comprise a single soul; only the bodies are separate
– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the Alter Rebbe (Tanya, ch. 32)
Read about Don Joseph Nasi’s Aunt Dona Gracia in the latest Jew of the Week: