Though a people without a nation for millennia, the Jews produced powerful rulers at some points of history in the countries where they lived in exile.
The Jews have held offices of esteem both in the ancient and modern times in countries where they lived as immigrant communities.
Joseph (Ruled from 1715 BC till his death in 1635 BC)
Ruled Egypt as prime minister under the Pharaoh who said, “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 41:40-44 (King James Version).
Joseph was the eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob, later called Israel (hence the name of the country, Israel), whose descendants came to be known as Israelites, or Jews after the predominance of the tribe of Judah, Jacob’s fourth son.
Joseph was a wise ruler and planner who saved the Egyptians from difficult famines and kept the royal treasury from draining out. He won the favor of the Pharaoh when he was 15 years old and ruled Egypt for 80 years.
The exalted legacy of Joseph and the patronage he gained from the house of pharaoh ensured that the Israeli people lived peacefully in Egypt for about 400 years, till the times of oppression and ultimate liberation under Moses.
Daniel (Ruled from 601 BC till his death in 522 BC)
The Persian King Nebuchadnezzar was so pleased with Daniel the Jew as he told the King’s dream as also its meaning without the King revealing the dream to him. The King made him “chief prefect” over all the wise men of Babylon and ruler of “the whole province of Babylon” and soon elevated him as “chief of the governors of the provinces of the Empire.”
Daniel was born in a noble family of the tribe of Benjamin, the twelfth son of Jacob. He was a young teenager when he was taken captive to Babylon in 606 BC by Nebuchadnezzar along with three other young noble men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
The Queen of King Xerxes (ruled 486 to 465 BC) of the Persian Empire, Esther was instrumental in saving the Jews in the Empire from the total destruction plotted by Haman. Her act of deliverance helped the Jews live in peaceful conditions in Persia till the seventh century AD when their freedom was disturbed by the Muslim invaders from Arabia who forcefully converted the Persians to Islam.
Esther was the daughter of a Benjaminite who lived in Susa (Shushan). She was charismatic and powerful as Queen of the Persians.
Mordecai was an uncle of Queen Esther. King Xerxes appointed him prime minister in the place of disgraced Haman. Mordecai was an able ruler and he made relationship between the Persians and the Jews harmonious and established lasting peace.
(The vast Persian Empire comprised of 127 provinces that stretched from Ethiopia to India during the times of Esther and Mordecai.)
The Diaspora Jews had a reputation for diligence and sincerity and excelled in many spheres of life in their countries of domicile. They occupied powerful positions as rulers and governors under the emperors of antiquity. Their perseverance and faithfulness helped them achieve similar positions in modern times too.
Jewish Dynasties of Ethiopia
The Jewish community of Ethiopia has its origins in the times of King Solomon of Israel and Queen Sheba of Ethiopia. The rise of Christianity saw the Jews withdrawing to the remote Gondar region. They regained power in the 10th century AD, established a new royal dynasty, and enjoyed power and influence during the next three centuries. A number of Jewish noble families governed large provinces till recent times.
Yohannes IV (ruled from 1872 till his death in 1889)
Born Dejazmatch Kassai, Yohannes claimed descent from Solomon. He took the title of “His Imperial Majesty Yohannes IV (John IV), Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Zion and King of Kings of Ethiopia.”
The son of Mercha the Shum of Tembien, and his wife Woizero Silass Dimtsu (Amata Selassie) of Enderta, Yohannes was distantly related to Solomon through his father’s Tembien family. He also had royal blood of Solomon through his paternal grandmother Woizero Workewoha Kale Kristoss of the Adwa family, a grand daughter of Ras Mikael Sehul, a prince of Adwa. He was also linked to Solomon through his wife Aster Eyasu, daughter of Melmal Eyasu, a Solomonic prince.
Haile Selassie (Ruled from 1930 to 1974 with a break in 1936)
Born Tafari Makonnen, Haile Selassie was the de jure Emperor from 1930 to 1974 and de facto Emperor from 1916 to 1936 and, after a break, from 1941 to 1974. His full title in office was “His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, King of Kings of Ethiopia and Elect of God.”
His father Ras Makonnen Woldemikael Gudessa was the governor of Harar. His paternal grand mother, Princess Tenagnework Sahle Selassie, was a descendant of Queen of Sheba and King Solomon.
Haile Selassie was a magnificent monarch with imperial grandeur.
Benjamin Disraeli, the Earl of Beaconsfield
Benjamin Disraeli served as Prime Minister of Great Britain from 27th February to 1st December 1868 and again from 20th February 1874 to 21st April 1880. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Lord Derby in Conservative governments of 1852, 1858 to 1859, and 1866 to 1868.
Disraeli was born on 21st December 1804 as the eldest son of Isaac D’Israeli and Maria Basevi at Bedford Row, London. Though a Jew by birth, he was baptized at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in 1817.
Disraeli purchased control of the Suez Canal for Britain. A powerful orator, he conferred the title of “Empress of India” upon Queen Victoria. He was made Earl of Beaconsfield in 1876.
The Treaty of Berlin (1878) negotiated by Disraeli ended the Russo-Turkish war of 1877. He claimed after the talks to have won “peace with honour.” Disraeli also prevailed upon the Turks and ensured that religious freedom was restored to Jews in Palestine that was part of the Turkish Empire at the time.
Disraeli was equally famous as an English author and wrote several books.
There are a few others whom one may add to this list.
One such powerful personality of our times is Henry Alfred Kissinger, a German Jew, who held the position of Secretary of State (Foreign Minister) of the United States of America from 1973 to 1977 under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Kissinger was an accomplished academician and shrewd statesman.