A “Prince of the Land of Israel” in Prague: Jewish Philanthropy, Patronage, and Power in Early Modern Europe and Beyond
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This article explores the relationship between giving and politics, and between distant causes and local concerns, by analyzing the award of the title “Prince of the Land of Israel” to rabbis and leaders in Europe. Often awarded to men of standing and means, the title came with an expectation to deliver aid to the Holy Land in times of need. Although the title was held by different bearers throughout the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries—often by more than one at a time—the most famous such “prince” was David Oppenheim (1664–1736), chief rabbi of Prague and insatiable bibliophile. Oppenheim was singled out for this title owing to his place in a network of exchange that spanned Europe and the Mediterranean, and an examination of the expectations and actions associated with that position follows the circulation not only of people but also of money and goods, such as books. It allows us to investigate how both donors and recipients of charity engaged in such transactions to pursue particular ends, revealing the currency of symbolism underlying this economy of exchange. Finally, it seeks to understand the Land of Israel as a field for the interactions of discrete Jewish networks as they converged in a single space and to gauge the impact of that convergence.
KeywordsPhilanthropy David Oppenheim Jerusalem Sabbatianism Gifts and exchange Jewish books
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