The Constantinople Letter of 1489

On 1489 January 13, Jewish Rabbi Chemor of Arles in the French Provence wrote to the Grand Sandhedrin (the Jewish high court, which then had its seat at Constantinople) for advice, as the non-Jewish people of Arles were threatening the Jewish synagogues. This Rabbi wanted to know what to do, on behalf of all the Jews in Arles. On 1489 December 22, the Grand Sandhedrin answered with the following advice, which became known as the “Constantinople Letter”.

The Constantinople Letter of 1489 as published in The Original Mr Jacobs - A Startling Exposé (1888) by Telemachus Thomas Timayenis

The Original Mr Jacobs - A Startling Exposé (1888) by Telemachus Thomas Timayenis featured this letter (above), a translation of which was also said to have been published in in Revue des Études Juives (Journal of Jewish Studies), Paris, France, 1889, a journal was financed by James de Rothschild, according to which has an alternative translation:

Dear beloved brethren in Moses. We have received your letter in which you tell us of the anxieties and misfortunes which you are enduring. We are pierced by as great pain to hear it as yourselves. The advice of the Grand Satraps and Rabbis is the following:


  • As for what you say that the King of France obliges you to become Christians: do it, since you cannot do otherwise, but let the law of Moses be kept in your hearts.
  • As for what you say about the command to despoil you of your goods: make your sons merchants, that little by little they may despoil the Christians of theirs.
  • As for what you say about their making attempts on your lives: make your sons doctors and apothecaries, that they may take away Christian lives.
  • As for what you say of their destroying your synagogues: make your sons canons and clerics in order that they may destroy their churches.
  • As for the many other vexations you complain of: arrange that your sons become advocates and lawyers, and see that they always mix themselves up with the affairs of State, in order that by putting Christians under your yoke you may dominate the world and be avenged on them.

Do not swerve from this order that we give you, because you will find by experience that, humiliated as you are, you will reach the actuality of power.


Constantinople, Elders of Jewry,
signed V.S.S.V.F.F., Prince of the Jews,
21st Caslu (November), 1489

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