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Plans to exhume Ramsgate philanthropist Montefiore spark anger

By Isle of Thanet Gazette  |  Posted: September 17, 2012

  • PHILANTHROPIST: Sir Moses Montefiore gave funds to build the spectacular synagogue in Ramsgate

  • OUR HERITAGE: Ramsgate mayor David Green, a member of the Montefiore Heritage Group is strongly opposed to removing Sir Moses Montefiore's remains from the town GIAW20120812A-002_C

  • BEAUTIFUL: The synagogue in Ramsgate

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PLANS to dig up the remains of Ramsgate philanthropist, Sir Moses Montefiore, and take them to Israel have provoked outrage.

The proposal was put forward by Simon Sebag Montefiore, a descendant of the Jewish benefactor Sir Moses, in an interview with the Jewish Chronicle.

Ramsgate mayor David Green said the town's Montefiore Heritage Group (MHG) was "strongly against" to the idea.

Mr Montefiore revealed his plans after attending the reopening of the Montefiore Windmill in Jerusalem with Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu last month.

He said: "I had a conversation with the PM and I told him that a lot of the family thought it was about time that Sir Moses was brought back to Jerusalem.

"He came to Jerusalem seven times. Now he can go home."

Mr Montefiore also said that he thought that the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue had done "a brilliant job" in running the Ramsgate site and he felt that it was "an increasing struggle" to maintain the mausoleum in the town, where there is "very little viable Jewish life".

The plans would involve Sir Moses being reinterred next to the landmark Montefiore Windmall in Jerusalem.

Funded by Sir Moses and built in 1857, the windmill now serves as a small museum dedicated to his life. Sir Moses, who died in 1885, has been buried in Ramsgate for 127 years.

Mr Green said he was surprised by Mr Montefiore's comments.

A statement issued by the MHG said: "The Ramsgate Montefiore Heritage protests most strongly against any proposal concerning the removal of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore from their last resting place in Ramsgate, the place where they chose to be buried.

"Sir Moses' wished to be buried in Ramsgate where he built a mausoleum for his wife, who predeceased him, and subsequently for himself.

"Sir Moses frequently visited Palestine but never attempted to live there and nor did he state he wanted to be buried there. If Sir Moses had wanted to be buried in Palestine, this presumably would have been arranged."

The statement added that the Ramsgate Synagogue, where Sir Moses is buried, is the responsibility of the Montefiore Endowment and not the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue.

It read: "It is also incorrect that there is no Jewish community in Ramsgate when there is a synagogue employing the services of a local rabbi, holding regular services, organising social events, producing a regular newsletter, running a religion school and ensuring that family events such as bar mitzvahstake place."

The MHG said it also intended to "resist all attempts" to remove the remains of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore from their final resting place.

It said: "Sir Moses played an enormous part in the history of Ramsgate and gave so much to the town where his memory lives on."

Rabbi Cliff Cohen of the Thanet and District Reformed Synagogue said: "I think it is an absurdity to be honest. It is quite obvious Sir Moses had the mausoleum built because he wanted to remain in Ramsgate. It seems clear-cut where he wanted to be. Ramsgate it very proud of him and the Jewish community in Ramsgate is certainly proud of him.

"He wanted to be here and it is absurd to suggest there is any reason to move his remains."

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  • CasandraR  |  September 17 2012, 11:51AM

    We must fight to stop this happening. Sir Moses Montefiori has the right to continue to rest in peace. For all that he has given to the people not only in Ramsgate but also to London where he spent his early life. What a wonderful man he was, he was made a Sir, he also had the status as Baron, never stopped working for the good of all the people. When he retired he was given a farewell gift of £12.000 which he gave to Jerusalem to build houses for the poor, in the late 1800's this was an absolute fortune, none was kept for himself, he was always thinking of others. The history of this family is wonderful, his Grandfather had 17 sons, one of them was called Joseph Elijah who was the father of Moses. I honestly feel honoured that he chose to live and stay in Ramsgate as this is where I live. The ward in which I live in Ramsgate is Sir Moses Montefiore and I am proud of what he did and what he left the people of Ramsgate.

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  • CasandraR  |  September 17 2012, 11:50AM

    We must fight to stop this happening. Sir Moses Montefiori has the right to continue to rest in peace. For all that he has given to the people not only in Ramsgate but also to London where he spent his early life. What a wonderful man he was, he was made a Sir, he also had the status as Baron, never stopped working for the good of all the people. When he retired he was given a farewell gift of £12.000 which he gave to Jerusalem to build houses for the poor, in the late 1800's this was an absolute fortune, none was kept for himself, he was always thinking of others. The history of this family is wonderful, his Grandfather had 17 sons, one of them was called Joseph Elijah who was the father of Moses. I honestly feel honoured that he chose to live and stay in Ramsgate as this is where I live. The ward in which I live in Ramsgate is Sir Moses Montefiore and I am proud of what he did and what he left the people of Ramsgate.

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