Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657) was, for a time, the most famous Jew in the world. One of the rabbis of the Portuguese-Jewish community of Amsterdam, he was also the first printer of Hebrew books in the Dutch Republic, with clients all across Europe. Menasseh’s own writings on theology and philosophy were especially admired by gentile scholars. They sought him out as a Hebrew teacher and as a reliable source on Jewish customs, law and history. He also collaborated on several projects with Rembrandt. In the early modern Republic of Letters, Menasseh was the go-to source for all things Jewish. And yet, Menasseh felt he was never given the respect he deserved by the leaders and other rabbis of his own Sephardic community; he was right.
Steven Nadler is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy, Evjue-Bascom Professor in Humanities, and Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies. His books include A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age (Princeton, 2011), The Philosopher, the Priest and the Painter: A Portrait of Descartes (Princeton, 2013), Spinoza: A Life (Cambridge, 1999, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award for Biography), and Rembrandt's Jews (Chicago, 2003, which was named a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction). He also published, with his son Ben Nadler, the graphic book Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy (Princeton, 2017). He has been a visiting professor at Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the University of Amsterdam, the Ecole des hautes études en science sociales (Paris), and the Ecole normal supérieure (Paris). He has also been a scholar-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. His biography of Menasseh ben Israel will appear in the "Jewish Lives" series (Yale University Press) in the fall of 2018.
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