This lecture examines the seventeenth century development of the Jewish trans-regional network that supported Jews in the Land of Israel and its effects on the Jews’ social, economic, and religious lives. Following the collapse of Polish-Jewish funding in the aftermath of the 1648 Khmelnytsky uprising, poverty in Jerusalem caused great suffering including a famine in which many women died. The search for new sources of income put increased pressure on the philanthropic network: the Ashkenazi women of Jerusalem tried to establish their own fundraising mechanism, while the men employed a kabbalist, Nathan Shapira, to collect for them. While in north-western Europe, Shapira met with millenarian Protestants who saw in the Jews’ sufferings a sign of the Messiah’s imminent return. When they sent money to Jerusalem, the community there – including the young Nathan of Gaza – was forced to reconsider its attitude towards them. Nathan had grown up in the post-1648 world of Jewish philanthropy and his use of trans-regional fundraising strategies gave the new Sabbathean messianism its global reach.
Adam Teller is Professor of History and of Judaic Studies at Brown University, Providence, USA