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Reeling from the aftereffects of the barbaric pogroms of Eastern Europe, Jews in the mid-17th century began to feel a glimmer of hope when the news spread through the world that a Messianic era was soon to begin.

All eyes were on a charismatic scholar and mystic named Shabtai Tzvi, proclaimed as the true Messiah by Nathan of Gaza, a mystic healer. Nathan claimed Shabtai Tzvi would defeat the Ottoman Sultan who ruled Jerusalem and lead the Jews to reclaim their homeland.

Shabtai Tzvi rose in fame and was sought out by thousands of believers and skeptics alike, who wanted to determine if he was the true Messiah or not.

Ultimately, his face-off with the Ottoman Sultan would reveal the truth to the world when Shabtai Tzvi was told to convert to Islam, or die. In a shocking twist claimed as “God’s will” Shabtai Tzvi converted, changing his name to Aziz Mehmet Effendi. Three hundred Jews followed him in converting, and this group, now known as Dömneh, have remained a part of Islam until today, dooming the story of Shabtai Tzvi to be an embarrassing stain on Jewish history.

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Co-Executive Producers:
– Melinda Goldrich
– Shmuel Katz

Gold Level:
– Goldrich Family Foundation
– Melanie & Martin Glatt

Image and footage credits:
– Chrstphre/Flickr

About The Jewish Story: Understand three thousand years of Jewish history in these short videos based on the book Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith by the renowned historian Sir Martin Gilbert. Learn the Jewish story from the ancient Israelites of the Bible to Hellenization, the Jews of the Middle Ages to modern day, and more.

About Unpacked: We provide nuanced insights by unpacking all things Jewish. People are complex and complicated — yet we’re constantly being pushed to oversimplify our world. At Unpacked we know that being complex makes us more interesting. Because of this, we break the world down with nuance and insight to drive your curiosity and challenge your thinking.

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