MEIR, JACOB (1856–1939), Sephardi chief rabbi of Ereẓ Israel. Born in Jerusalem, the son of a well-to-do merchant, Caleb Mercado, Meir studied Talmud under Menahem Bekhor Isaac and Kabbalah under Aaron Azriel. In 1882 he was sent to Bukhara, as the first emissary to visit that country. Meir, enthusiastically welcomed, was instrumental in encouraging the immigration of Bukhara Jews to Ereẓ Israel. In 1885, 1888, and 1900 he visited Tunisia and Algeria as an emissary. In 1888–99 he was a member of the bet din of R. Jacob Saul *Elyashar in Jerusalem. Meir was one of the promoters of the revival of spoken Hebrew in Palestine. Under Turkish rule, he often interceded with the authorities on behalf of the Jewish community; he also encouraged the construction of new Jewish quarters of Jerusalem. In 1899 he was appointed deputy head of the bet din of R. Raphael Isaac Israel. In 1906 he was a candidate for the chief rabbinate of Jerusalem, in succession to Elyashar, but his opponents, supported by the ḥakham bashi in Turkey, prevented his election. In 1908 he was elected chief rabbi of Salonika, where he remained until 1919. He was elected chief rabbi of Jerusalem in 1911, but the Jews of Salonika prevented him from assuming the office. When in 1921 the chief rabbinate was established in Palestine, Meir was elected (together with Rabbi A.I. Kook) as chief rabbi of Palestine with the title of rishon le-Zion. He was decorated by the sultan of Turkey and by the kings of Greece and England, and was awarded the French Legion of Honor. Meir even received decorations from Hussein, king of the Hejaz. Two manuscripts of his were lost in a fire in Salonika. To celebrate his 80th birthday, his friends published Zikhron Me'ir in his honor.
M.D. Gaon, Yehudei ha-Mizraḥ be-Ereẓ Yisrael, 2 (1938), 361–71; P. Grajewsky, Zikkaron la-Ḥovevim ha-Rishonim, no. 110 (1933).
[Geulah Bat Yehuda (Raphael)]