Joseph Justus Belinfante

Portrait of Joseph Justus   Belinfante

J.J. (Joseph Justus Zaddik) Belinfante (11 March 1821, Amsterdam - 2 Dec. 1882, Den Haag - The Hague) was a Dutch publicist, self-taught historian and journalist who contributed to the English publication of Henri Mouhot's notes, journal and letters related to Southeast Asia and Angkor.

Born in an illustrious Jewish family who had emigrated from succesively Turkey, Portugal and Italy from the 17th century, son of Jacob and nephew of Mozes ben-Zaddik Ha-Cohen Belinfante, publicist brothers who had founded the first Jewish publication in the Netherlands, Joseph Justus started his career as a proofreader, both in French and Dutch languages.

He contributed to the Algemeen Handelsblad -- in particular in ‘Mengelingen. Verovering van Algerië. zeventienjarige strijd’ (Miscelleaneous on the Conquest of Algeria, a Seventeen-Year Campaign, 1847), to La Revue des Deux-Mondes --through wich he correspondent with Henri and Charles Mouhot --, to te Moniteur des Indes Orientales et Occidentales -- founded in 1846 by the baron Melvill van Carnbee -- , to Les Archives Israelites, and co-founded the review Weekblad van het Regt.

Married in 1837 to Bilha Lobato (1804-1880), he remained childless but was close to his several nephews and cousins, who affectionately called him Oom Joost, Uncle Justus. His Life of Michiel Adriaenzoon de Ruyter (Amsterdam, 1844-1852, 2 vols.) remains a reference biography of the Dutch admiral (1607-1676) who became a "folk hero" for his prowesses during the Anglo-Dutch Wars and the operations against pirates along the Barbary Coast (North Africa).

Photo: The Amsterdam Esnoga (Portuguese-Jewish Synagogue), of which JJ Belinfante's grandfather Zaddik was the chief-rabbi; coll. Jewish Portuguese Community