Tag Archives: Constantinople

Jew of the Week: Don Joseph Nasi

Prince of Europe

NasiDon 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”.

Constantinople (Modern Instanbul) – where Don Nasi financed the Yeshiva

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)