Biography of Centenarian Sir Moses Montefiore Part 2

About the Jewish centenarian Sir Moses Montefiore, biography and history, diet and advice for longevity.



Montefiore returned to Jerusalem in 1838. This time he had more to do than plant fig trees, for several Syrian Jews in Damascus--accused of murdering a Capuchin monk and making Passover matzos from his blood--had been summarily jailed. It was a ludicrous charge, but the Syrians stood firm and the French government endorsed their action. Montefiore clamored for their release and eventually won from the Syrian leader not only a recantation of the false charge but also a promise of protection for Syrian Jews henceforth. He returned to England a hero.

It wasn't the last time he was to triumph on behalf of his people. Montefiore went to Russia in 1846 as a defender of Jewish rights there, and to Italy in 1858 and Romania in 1867 on comparable missions. In Romania, when he was 83 years old, he not only dealt with the government but also braved the taunts of anti-Semitic crowds.

Montefiore passed his last years, after his final visit to Jerusalem in 1875, at his country estate in Ramsgate, although he was tempted, at age 98, to journey to St. Petersburg when he learned of a flare-up of anti-Semitic violence there. Through his 100th birthday he remained in remarkably good health and never lost the gentility and courtliness of manner for which he was well known. The 6 ft. 3. in. Montefiore began to stoop slightly, but his hearing and vision remained excellent. In 1873 a local newspaper mistakenly ran his obituary. "Thank God to have been able to hear of the rumor," he wrote to the editor, "and to read an account of the same with my own eyes, without using spectacles."

Diet: As an orthodox Jew, Montefiore fasted six days a year, ate no meat unless it was kosher, and abstained from eating both meat and dairy products at the same meal. Although he led an active life, he had scant time for formal exercise. As a nonagenarian he rested 14 hours a day.

Advice: Montefiore was too humble a man to presume to lecture others on how to live--or how to live long. He did believe his commitment to the betterment of Jewish life was life-enhancing, however, and once, as a centenarian, he said to an oldster who had turned 80, "Is that all? You have much work before you, sir."

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