Belleli, Lazarus Menahem

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BELLELI, LAZARUS MENAHEM (1862–1940?), Greek polyglot writer and philologist. Born in Corfu, by the early age of 15 he was already a serious author. In 1877 he edited Atteret Baḥurim ("The Crown of the Young"), a Hebrew-Greek vocabulary for the Book of Genesis supplemented by a sketch of Hebrew grammar. Afterward he contributed to the Vessillo Israelitico, the Famiglia Israelitica, Mose, and Corriere Israelitico. Belleli graduated from the University of Athens, but was forced to leave in 1883 due to antisemitic discrimination. Then, he went to study at the Instituto di Studi Superiori at Florence, where he obtained his doctorate in philology in 1890. During part of this period he served as principal of the Jewish school in Leghorn.

In 1890 Belleli returned to Corfu where he was the secretary of the local Alliance Israélite Universelle chapter.

Belleli had already sensed for several years the dangers that the Jewish population was to face in the future. He tried to combat the antisemitic instigation of the local press. He was unsuccessful in his talks with local politicians to get political equality for the Jews, for the latter only reiterated that the Jews enjoyed protection. At best this "protection" was feeble and soon to be shattered.

Belleli witnessed the violent outbreak against the Jews in Corfu in 1891 that followed the murder of the seven-year-old Jewish girl Rubina Sarda and a vicious blood libel against the Jews. He represented the Alliance as an observer and reported back to them extensively at the ensuing trial in Patrás.

In response to the spread of anti-Jewish literature Lazarus Belleli translated into Greek Theodore Reinach's Histoire des Juifs (1895).

In 1895 Belleli left for England. In 1908 while still living in London he received the Corgialegno Prize from the University of Athens for his study "President Capodistrias as a Propagator of Education in Greece." This was the first time that a Jew had been awarded such a high honor in Greece. In 1909 he published Examination of the Assuan and Elephantine Aramaic Papyri.

He eventually returned to Greece. From 1929 to 1930 he taught Jewish studies at Aristotle University, Salonika.

[Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]