First page of the Humble Adresses sent by Ben Israel to Oliver Cromwell

Many historians consider Menasseh's greatest achievement to have been his pioneering attempts at the resettlement of Jews in England, a success which he did not live to see. For that effort, he has been hailed as the founder of modern Anglo-Jewry. When following the Puritan revolution the return of the Jews to England was proposed, Menasseh took a prominent share in the negotiations. In 1650 he dedicated the Latin edition of his work, The Hope of Israel, to the English parliament in an effort to solicit their goodwill; the book reported discovery of the Lost Ten Tribes in South America and discussed the messianic implications of that discovery. At the same time, he entered into discussions with various Englishmen by correspondence and in person, on the possibility of permitting the return of the Jews.

Because of political circumstances and his own health, Menasseh's friend Manuel Martinez (David Dormido Abrabanel) and his son Samuel Soeiro conducted negotiations on his behalf in England in 1652. Three years later, however, in 1655, Ben Israel traveled to England and presented his Humble Addresses — petitions concerning the return of the Jews to England — to Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England (1653-58). Although the request was not formally granted, assent was given to a subsequent petition which merely asked for permission to establish a synagogue and acquire a cemetery.

Oliver Cromwell

During his stay in England, Menasseh wrote Vindiciae Judaeorum (1656) to refute the many accusations being made against the Jews. Although he was bitterly disappointed at having failed to realize his hopes of restoring the Jews to England, Cromwell showed his personal sympathy by granting him a yearly pension of £100. Menasseh ben Israel returned to Holland in the autumn of 1657, but died at Middelburg shortly after his arrival.


Part II: The messianic connection



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