Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, Baronet (January 13, 1778 - April 27, 1859) was a financier and was the first Jewish knight of the United Kingdom.
The history of New Zealand involves a Jewish participation from early times. Jewish traders were recorded here as early as 1829, and these were probably sealers and whalers. There were a number of Jewish shareholders in the New Zealand Company which was set up by Edward Gibbon Wakefield in London, England to settle the colony of Wellington, the most prominent one being the director Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid, Baronet.
Goldsmid was born in London, and began in business with a firm of bullion brokers to the Bank of England and the East India Company. He amassed a large fortune, but he is chiefly known for his efforts to obtain the emancipation of the Jews in England and for his part in founding University College London. The Jewish Disabilities Bill, first introduced in Parliament by Sir Robert Grant in 1830, owed its final passage through the House of Lords in 1858 to Goldsmid's energetic work.
The importance of this legislation can hardly be overstated, since the “disabilities” in question referred to the legal restrictions and limitations that had been placed on Jews since the Middle Age. These included provisions requiring Jews to wear specific and identifying clothing such as the Jewish hat and the yellow badge, restrictions on Jews to enter certain cities and towns or in certain parts of towns, and rules barring Jews from certain trades. Disabilities included, as well, special taxes levied on Jews, exclusion from public life, restraints on the performance of religious ceremonies, and linguistic censorship.
Goldsmid helped to establish the University College Hospital in 1834, serving as its treasurer for 18 years, and also aided in the efforts to obtain reform in the English penal code. Moreover he assisted by his capital and his enterprise to build some of the railways in southern England and also the London docks. In 1841 he became the first (unconverted to Christianity) Jewish knight.
Image header (above): Headstone of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid sourced from http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6164/6227209990_e57e91e327_z.jpg