Jacob Meir

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Jacob Meir

Jacob Meir, (1856-1939), was the first Sephardic Chief Rabbi appointed under the British Mandate of Palestine. A talmudic scholar, fluent in Hebrew as well as five other languages, he enjoyed a reputation as one of Jerusalem's most respected rabbis.

Early life[edit]

Born in Jerusalem in 1856, the son of a successful merchant, Calev Mercado, Meir studied the Talmud under Rabbi Menachem Bechor Isaac and Kabbalah under Rabbi Aharon Azriel.

In 1882 he was sent to Bukhara, as the first emissary to visit that country. He was instrumental in encouraging the immigration of Bukhara Jews to the Land of Israel. In 1885, 1888, and 1900 he visited Tunisia and Algeria as an emissary. In 1888–99 he was a member of the Beth Din of Rabbi Jacob Saul Elyashar in Jerusalem. Under Turkish rule, he often interceded with the authorities on behalf of the Jewish community; he also encouraged the construction of new Jewish quarters of Jerusalem.

In 1899 he was appointed deputy head of the Beth Din of Rabbi Raphael Isaac Israel. In 1906 he was chosen chief rabbi of Jerusalem, succeeding Elyashar, but his appointment was vetoed by his opponents, supported by the Hakham Bashi in Constantinople, because of his Zionist affiliations. He was subsequently inducted as Hakham Bashi of the Land of Israel, but six months later he was deposed by the Sultan of Turkey and Eliahu M. Panigel took charge of overseeing the orthodox community.

Salonika[edit]

Meir as Chief Rabbi of Salonika

Meir went on to be elected chief rabbi of Salonika in 1908, where he remained until 1919. He was elected chief rabbi of Jerusalem in 1911, but the Jews of Salonika prevented him from assuming the office.

Palestine[edit]

In 1921 the Chief Rabbinate of Palestine was established. Meir was elected as Sephardi chief rabbi of Palestine and took the position, assuming the title of "Rishon le-Zion". He was at the forefront of the effort to revive Hebrew as a modern language. He held the post until his death. A letter he wrote in 1936 called an "Appeal for Friendliness" called on the Muslims of Jerusalem to halt any hatred and animosity towards Jews who were returning to their Holy Land.

Meir died on May 26, 1939, aged 83 years old. Over 10,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem, representing all sections of the population took part in the funeral procession.

Honours[edit]

In 1920, Meir was honoured with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire award for service to the British. He was also awarded the French Legion of Honor and received decorations from the sultan of Turkey and Greek government as well as Hussein bin Ali, King of Hejaz. In 2006 the Israel Postal Authority issued a stamp bearing his image.

Jewish titles
Preceded by
Jacob Saul Elyashar
Rishon LeZion
Jacob Meir

1906–1906
Succeeded by
Elijah Moses Panigel
Preceded by
Unknown
Chief Rabbi of Salonika
Jacob Meir

1908–1919
Succeeded by
Unknown
Preceded by
New creation
Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Palestine
Jacob Meir

1921–1939
Succeeded by
Benzion Uziel

Sources[edit]