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Leon of Modena

Born: 23-Apr-1571
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Died: 24-Mar-1648
Location of death: Venice, Italy
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Religion

Nationality: Italy
Executive summary: Riti Ebraici

Jewish scholar, born in Venice, of a notable French family which had migrated to Italy after the expulsion of the Jews from France. He was a precocious child, but, as Graetz points out, his lack of stable character prevented his gifts from maturing. "He pursued all sorts of occupations to support himself, viz. those of preacher, teacher of Jews and Christians, reader of prayers, interpreter, writer, proof-reader, bookseller, broker, merchant, rabbi, musician, matchmaker and manufacturer of amulets." Though he failed to rise to real distinction he earned a place by his criticism of the Talmud among those who prepared the way for the new learning in Judaism. One of Leon's most effective works was his attack on the Kabbala, Ari Nohem, first published in 1840, for in it he demonstrated that the "Bible of the Kabbalists", the Zohar, was a modern composition by Moses de Leon. He became best known, however, as the interpreter of Judaism to the Christian world. At the instance of an English nobleman he prepared an account of the religious customs of the Synagogue, Riti Ebraici (1637). This book was widely read by Christians; it was rendered into various languages, and in 1650 was translated into English by Edward Chilmead. At the time the Jewish question was coming to the fore in London, and Leon of Modena's book did much to stimulate popular interest. He died at Venice.

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