MONTEFIORE, SEBAG-MONTEFIORE, English family originating from Leghorn, Italy. (See Chart: Montefiore Family 1, 2, and 3). The first to come to England were the brothers MOSES VITA (1712–1789), who set up successfully as an importer of Italian straw hats, and JOSEPH (b. 1723). The former had 17 children who intermarried with the Anglo-Jewish families. His grandsons Joseph Barrow *Montefiore (1803–1893) and JACOB MONTEFIORE (1801–1895) were prominent in early Australian history; two other sons were Joshua *Montefiore and JOSEPH ELIAS (1759–1804) who married Rachel Mocatta and was the father of Sir Moses *Montefiore. Sir Moses' brother and business partner, ABRAHAM (1788–1824), married as his second wife Henrietta Rothschild. Their two sons were JOSEPH MAYER (1816–1880) and NATHANIEL (1819–1883), the father of Claude Goldsmid *Montefiore. Joseph Mayer succeeded Sir Moses as president of the Board of Deputies in 1874, after having been the first vice president since 1857. Under his presidency the Board and the Anglo-Jewish Association
cooperated to form the Conjoint Foreign Committee. Joseph Mayer's eldest son, Sir Francis Abraham Montefiore, succeeded to Sir Moses' baronetcy in 1886, when the title, which had become extinct, was revived in his favor. With his death, the title became extinct.
Sir Moses' sister SARAH (b. 1789) married Solomon Sebag (1783–1831). Their son JOSEPH (1822–1903), a stockbroker who amassed a fortune, was the closest associate of Sir Moses in his last years and heir to his Ramsgate estate. In 1885 he added the name of Montefiore to his own by royal license, the family name henceforward being Sebag-Montefiore. He was a justice of the peace, high sheriff of Kent in 1889, and was knighted in 1896. Joseph, who had accompanied Sir Moses to Ereẓ Israel in 1866, remained concerned with the welfare of the Jews there, administering on behalf of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue the Holy Land Trust bequeathed by Sir Moses. In the 1890s he was a vice president of the Ḥovevei Zion (*Hibbat Zion). He was president of the Board of Deputies from 1895 until his death. His grandson ROBERT (1882–1915), a leading member of the London County Council and the Anglo-Jewish community, was killed in World War I. The London County Council named an East London school in his memory.
In the mid-20th century, some members of the family remained active both in public life and in the Sephardi community: BRIGADIER T.H. SEBAG-MONTEFIORE; OLIVER SEBAG-MONTEFIORE, a president of the London Jewish Welfare Board; and HAROLD SEBAG-MONTEFIORE (b. 1924), a Conservative member of the Greater London Council and president of the Anglo-Jewish Association. However, as with many of the older and wealthier Anglo-Jewish families, there has been considerable assimilation into English society, many of the members marrying non-Jews. An example was Sir Joseph's great-grandson, HUGH WILLIAM MONTEFIORE (1920–2005), converted to Christianity while still at Rugby school and entered the Anglican Church in 1949. He taught theology at Cambridge (1951–63), was appointed bishop suffragan of Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, and, in 1978–87, was Bishop of Birmingham, where he became nationally known. Montefiore was well aware of his Jewish origins. He is the author of On Being a Christian Jew (1999) and of an autobiography, Oh God, What Next? (1995), as well as dozens of other theological works.
D.A.J. Cardozo and P. Goodman, Think and Thank, 2 vols. (1933); A.M. Hyamson, Sephardim of England (1951), index; Roth, England, index; J. Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History (19562), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: ODNB online; R. Sebag-Montefiore, A Family Patchwork (1987); C. Bermant, The Cousinhood (1961), index.
[Vivian David Lipman]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.