There have been few Jews included among the peerage of the United Kingdom, and only one who was awarded the title of Marquess. Sir Rufus Daniel Isaacs, the Marquess of Reading, was born in London in 1860. His family was in the fruit business, but, at 16 years old, Isaacs went to sea as a ship’s boy for two years. Next he tried to make his fortune on the London Stock Exchange. When he ran out of funds in 1884, he began studying law and was called to the bar in 1887. Combining his new legal knowledge with his commercial experience, Isaacs had found his niche.
As Queen’s Counsel, Isaacs tried numerous high profile court cases. In 1904, he was elected to the House of Commons as a representatives of Reading. During this time, he served as both Solicitor General and Attorney General. In 1913, he left the House of Commons and was named Lord Chief Justice (the first Jew to hold this position.)
Isaacs made numerous diplomatic missions to the United States and spent a year as the United Kingdom’s Ambassador in Washington in 1918. In 1921, Sir Isaacs was appointed Viceroy of India. He later served briefly as foreign secretary.
In 1910, Isaacs was knighted by King George V. In 1914, he was made Baron of Reading, which was changed to Viscount in 1916 and Earl in 1917. In 1926, Isaacs was titled Marquess of Reading, the highest title in the British peerage ever attained by a Jew.
Sir Isaacs took personal interest in the British Mandate of Palestine and involved himself with several Zionist projects. Most significantly, he was one of the founding members of the Palestine Electric Corporation, which later became the Israel Electric Company.
Rufus Isaacs, 1st Marquess of Reading, died on December 30, 1935.
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