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Rabbi and author. In 1655, when England was a Republic under the rule of Cromwell the Lord Protector, a strange figure with a strange case to plead appeared in London. He was Menasseh ben Israel, a Lisbon-born rabbi who had settled in Amsterdam and become famous throughout Europe for books on religious and other subjects. In 1650, he wrote Esperanza de Israel (Hope of Israel), a treatise arguing that the Messiah would not come until Jews had been scattered to the four corners of the earth. Convinced by the argument, Oliver Cromwell had invited Menasseh to discuss the return of Jews to England, from which they had been banished in 1290. Menasseh pleaded eloquently, but a Whitehall convention rejected his plan. Nonetheless, a Jewish community was founded in 1656. Menasseh died a year later in Middelburg, Holland. His face is known to us from a portrait by his friend Rembrandt, the greatest Dutch artist of the day.

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