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40 years of active presence

Friday, December 1, 2023

    INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Lazarus Menahem Belleli

    Lazarus Menahem Belleli, the polyglot writer and classical scholar, was born in Corfu in 1862. In 1877 he edited Aṭṭeret Baḥurim (The Crown of the Young), a Hebrew-Greek vocabulary for the Book of Genesis, which was supplemented by a sketch of Hebrew grammar. Later contributed to the Vessillo Israelitico, Famiglia Israelitica and Mosè newspapers.

    He enrolled at the University of Athens, but a controversy of an antisemitic character caused him to leave for Italy in 1883. While a student in the Istituto di Studi Superiori at Florence, he was appointed principal of the Jewish school at Livorno.

    In 1890 he earned his PhD in Hebrew and Aramaic. He paid a lengthy visit to Paris, from where he returned to Greece after having contributed the “Deux versions peu connues du Pentateuque” to the Revue des Études Juives, and “Une Version Grecque du Pentateuque du Seizième Siècle” to the Revue des Études Grecques. Shortly after his return to Greece, he served as secretary of the Corfu chapter of the Alliance Israélite Universelle, in which capacity he reported on the 1891 antisemitic events on Corfu and the consequent trials at Patras criminal court.

    The spread of antisemitic literature induced him to undertake the translation into Greek of Théodore Reinach’s Histoire des Juifs, first publishing it in Corfu in 1892. In 1895 he resigned his post in Corfu and settled in England. In 1897, while in England, he published an article in the Revue des Études Juives severely criticizing D. C. Hesseling’s transcription of the Constantinople Pentateuch. In 1899 he represented the greek government at the 12th International Congress of Orientalists. In 1929 he moved to Thessaloniki to teach Jewish Studies at the city’s university. He retired in 1936.

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