Email Email   


Benjamin Disraeli(First Earl of Beaconsfield.) British statesman and author. He was born in London to a long line of Jewish ancestors who had come to England after having been driven out of Spain by the Inquisition. Benjamin was twelve when his father, Isaac, a well-known writer, withdrew from his Sephardic congregation. Isaac had his son baptized because of the political and social discrimination practiced against Jews in England at that time. Yet Benjamin Disraeli never lost his pride in his Jewish ancestry. After completing his education, he spent three years traveling in southern Europe and the Near East. Impressions of his travels, particularly of the Holy Land, never left him. In Disraeli’s books all the heroes go to Palestine for inspiration. One of his novels, David Alroy, is the romantic story of the 12th century Jewish revolt against Persia led by Alroy, who planned to reconquer Jerusalem for the Jews.

Disraeli had a trigger-quick wit, and some of his novels, beginning with Vivian Greyin 1826, were amusing satires that made him the idol of London society. Disraeli’s career in British politics was remarkable. His political novels, pamphlets, and speeches helped reshape the Conservative Party, and his influence continued long after his death. He served for a time as leader of the House of Commons, and twice as chancellor of the exchequer. In 1868, and again from 1874 to 1880, he was Prime Minister. During these years, his domestic policies reflected Disraeli’s sympathy for the working class and resulted in a number of progressive health, housing, and factory laws. He consistently supported the struggle for obtaining the vote for Jews, despite opposition from his own party. His foreign policy was outstanding. Disraeli obtained for Britain a controlling interest in the Suez Canal in Egypt. He arranged to have Queen Victoria proclaimed Empress of India and brought about the cession of Cyprus to Great Britain. He enlarged and strengthened the power of the British Empire. His policies and courtliness brought him Queen Victoria’s deep affection, while his swift repartee and political and diplomatic victories made Benjamin Disraeli one of the most fascinating figures of the 19th century. For Jews, Disraeli had a rare tenderness and respect. Of them he wrote, “That is the aristocracy of nature, the purest race, the chosen people.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email