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Franco-Mendes, David


FRANCO-MENDES, DAVID (Hofshi-Mendes ; 1713–1792), Hebrew poet of the early Haskalah period. Born into an esteemed and affluent Portuguese family in Amsterdam, he received an excellent education and had a command of six languages besides Hebrew. In honor of his marriage to Rachel da Fonseca in 1750, his friend Benjamin Raphael Dias Brandon composed "Keter Torah," an epithalamium. Franco-Mendes was considered an outstanding talmudic scholar and often handed down halakhic decisions. He was a leading Hebrew poet of his time and was greatly influenced by M.Ḥ. *Luzzatto during his stay in Amsterdam (from 1735). A central figure among a group of Dutch Hebrew poets even prior to the appearance of *Ha-Me'assef in 1784, he became a member of Amadores das Musas, a Jewish literary society in 1769, and conducted an extensive correspondence with many Jewish literary personalities abroad. In the same year, he was also appointed honorary secretary of the Sephardi community of Amsterdam. A businessman, he was reduced to poverty in 1778, and compelled from then on to earn his living copying manuscripts. Franco-Mendes was one of the most zealous collaborators in the publication of Ha-Me'assef; "Ahavat David" (Ha-Me'assef (1785), 48), an article detailing a project for an encyclopedia in Hebrew, is one of his most noteworthy contributions to the periodical.

Franco-Mendes was a prolific writer. Among his dramas, most of them written in poetic form, his best-known work, Gemul Atalyah (Amsterdam, 1770), is reminiscent of Racine's tragedy Athalie. Many of his biographies of famous Sephardi Jews were published in Ha-Me'assef (1785ff.), and posthumously in Ha-Maggid (1860–66); some of his poems were also published in Ha-Me'assef, but the bulk survives in manuscript form. Nir-le-David, responsa from the years 1735 to 1792, was partly published in She'elot u-Teshuvot of the yeshivah Ets Ḥayyim. Sefer Tikkunim is a critical work on some of the writings of Maimonides. His works on the Portuguese and Spanish Jews of Amsterdam (still in manuscript) are of historical value.


Klausner, Sifrut, 1 (1952), 200–3; J. Melkman, David Franco-Mendes (Eng., 1951), incl. bibl.; Schirmann, in: Beḥinot, 6 (1954), 44–52; Waxman, Literature, 3 (1960), 132–4; M. Gorali, in: Taẓlil, 6 (1966), 32–46. add. bibliography: A.Z. Ben Yishai, David Hofshi v-eha-Parodiya Haftara, in: Yed'a Am 15 (1971, 37–38; 74–76; L. Fuks, in: Studia Rosenthaliana 7 (1973), 8–39; R. Fuks-Mansfield, "David Franco Mendes as a Historian," in: Studia Rosenthaliana 14, 1 (1980), 29–43; Y. Michman, "Al Gemul Atalya," in: Mikhmanei Yosef (1994), 465–81; I.E. Zwiep, "An Echo of Lofty Mountains: David Franco Mendes, a European Intellectual," in: Studia Rosenthaliana 35, 2 (2001), 285–96.

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