This chapter traces the life of Jacob Sasportas prior to Sabbatianism. It places Sasportas in a series of different contexts: a member of a leading Sephardic family in Spanish Oran, a corrector in the printing house of Menasseh ben Israel in Amsterdam, and a minister to the fledgling congregation of Portuguese Jews in London. In each of these contexts, Sasportas emerges as “a man against,” challenging truisms and opposing received opinions, even as he sought patronage from wealthy Jews whom he scorned. Sasportas's response to the different centers in the western Sephardic Diaspora—Amsterdam, Hamburg, London, and Livorno—was conditioned by the fact that he experienced them as an outsider. Much of this was a rhetorical posture. Sasportas repeatedly placed himself on the margins of the places in which he lived, even as the Jews in these cities provided him and his family with material support. However, his marginality was not only rhetorical; or perhaps the rhetoric itself bears close scrutiny. What few accounts remain indicate that Sasportas was perceived by others, particularly other Jews, as an outsider as well. Occasionally, this led to comity and a meeting of the minds. More often, though, this posture of the outsider led to conflict, and these conflicts frequently left a long paper trail—a paper trail that offers a perspective, however partial, on the Sephardic Diaspora in western Europe in the seventeenth century.
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