An international conference on Sir Moses Montefiore was held recently in Jerusalem. It was entitled: ‘Moses Montefiore: The Man Behind The Windmill’ and was attended by biographers, professors, rabbis, politicians and specialists on both Montefiore, Mishkenot Sha’ananim and Jerusalem of the 19th century, from all over the world.
?The participants presented a dynamic and engaging overview of the life and times of Sir Moses Montefiore, showing him to be an inspiring model for present day Israel. Here was a man who was religious and moderate; who had strong values of social justice and helped Jews and non-Jews; who maintained his strong Sephardi background as he moved through many different worlds; who bridged the Sephardi/ Ashkenazi and secular/ religious divides, and for whom wealth was a blessing that came with an obligation to be philanthropic.
?The opening address was given by Adam Montefiore, representing the family. He was the first member of the family ever to make aliyah to Israel. He is the great, great grandson of Sir Joseph Sebag Montefiore, Moses Montefiore’s nephew and heir. Adam Montefiore, who works for Carmel Winery, is a veteran of the Israel wine industry. The title of his lecture was ‘Moses Montefiore: Each Man Under His Vine and Fig Tree’ and he focused on his ancestor’s interest in wine and agriculture. He spoke about Montefiore’s agricultural vision, his realization that vines and olive trees were growing everywhere and his recommendation to plant vines and olive trees to give people a taste for agriculture.
?He explained that Montefiore was a wine connoisseur drinking a bottle of wine each day. He told of how Montefiore would enjoy sharing his wine with others, that he would frequently send gifts of wine to the sick and poor, and that on his visits in the Holy Land, he would receive numerous gifts of wine from communities he visited.
Moses Montefiore was the first person to recommend agriculture and the planting of vines in Israel. This was fifty years before Herzl and Zionism and forty years before Baron Edmond de Rothschild founded a modern Israeli wine industry.
?Adam explained that Moses Montefiore was born in Tuscany and was bought up in England, then the center of the world’s wine trade. Moses Montefiore’s relations invested in wine. His nephew, Nathaniel Rothschild, purchased Chateau Mouton Rothschild in 1853. The brother of his brother in law, Baron James de Rothschild, bought Chateau Lafite Rothschild in 1868. Finally Baron Edmond de Rothschild, whose uncle’s brother in law was Moses Montefiore, founded Carmel Winery in 1882. Moses Montefiore’s last donations were to the winery towns of Rishon Le Zion and Zichron Ya’acov, which were to become the center of the Israeli wine industry.
?After his presentation, Adam Montefiore gave a tasting of wines from Carmel Winery and Yatir Winery. Particularly popular were the Carmel Sumaka Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and the Yatir Syrah, Judean Hills 2009.
?The conference, which lasted three days, also covered many other facets of Moses Montefiore, including building the cornerstone of modern Jerusalem, purchasing the first Jewish land for agriculture and the building of the iconic windmill. It was organized by the Jerusalem Foundation, Mishkenot Sha’ananim and the Montefiore Endowment in London.