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Who was Menasseh ben Israel?

Rebecca Keys

His father was tortured by the Inquisition…
His family was forcibly converted to Christianity…
Yet he became the most famous Jew of the 17th century.

Illustration by Sefira Lightstone

Illustration by Sefira Lightstone

Menasseh ben Israel: Rabbi of Amsterdam
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Menasseh ben Israel (1604–1657) was among the most accomplished and cosmopolitan rabbis of his time, and a pivotal intellectual figure in early modern Jewish history.

He was a teacher of Baruch Spinoza. He argued for the Jewish resettlement of England, from which Jews had been banned since 1290. He founded the first Hebrew printing press in Amsterdam.

Learn more about the great Amsterdam rabbi and celebrated popularizer of Judaism with Jewish Lives.



“In this lucid and engaging biography, Menasseh ben Israel emerges as a force of nature, moving swiftly and easily between the Jewish and Gentile spheres in Amsterdam. In recreating Menasseh's life, Nadler has stitched together some of the leading figures of the century into a vivid tapestry.” —Russell Shorto, author of The Island at the Center of the World

"Fluidly written, lively, and truly excellent from every point of view, this book portrays Menasseh's role in the development of Amsterdam Jewish life and learning and in the broad context of seventeenth-century Jewish-Christian intellectual relations." —Jonathan Israel, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton

"Excellent." —Rabbi A. James Rudin, Reform Judaism