Sabbatai Zevi

AZL flag holder TransparentSabbatai Zevi (August 1st, 1626 – c. September 17th, 1676) was a Sephardic Rabbi and kabbalist who claimed to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. He was the founder of the Sabbatean movement. Born in Smyrna (İzmir in present-day Turkey) Zevi’s family were Romaniote Jews or Romaniots a Jewish community with distinctive cultural features who have occupied Greece and neighbouring areas for more than 2,000 years. His father Mordecai, a poultry dealer achieved their wealth during the war between Turkey and Venice. Appearing conveniently as Europe was hit by a wave of Millennialism; at age 22 in 1648 Zevi had started declaring to his followers in Smyrna that he was the true Messianic redeemer. His exploits from this point are invariably an attempt by the international Jewish community to publically disassociate from Zevi, for example ‘excommunicating’ him from Judaism as they actually prepare a covert operation to infiltrate Ottoman territories. The evidence for this is particularly stark when one considers that Zevi moved to Constantinople and ‘converted to Islam on 16th September 1666 coinciding with the year identified by Europe’s Christians as apocalyptic. The sultan was much pleased, and rewarded Sabbatai by conferring on him the title (Mahmed) Effendi, and appointing him as his doorkeeper with a generous salary. Approximately 300 families among Sabbatai’s followers also converted to Islam thereafter were known as Donmè (converts) and secretly continued Jewish observances. The Donmè were to have disproportionate power and influence (in light of their number) on both the Ottoman Empire and on the Young Turks the later who perpetrated the Armenian genocide.

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