The Successful Sassoon Family
Imagine feeling unwelcome in your home country because of your religious beliefs. That’s what happened to many Jewish people, including members of the Sassoon family, who moved from Iraq to India and Asia to escape persecution.
Once in Bombay, David Sassoon formed an international trading company by sending his eight sons to establish branch offices all over the world, including Hong Kong. His family exported silk and tea from China while importing metals, cotton, and opium. Opium grew in India, where boats stopped on their way to Asia. Selling this nasty highly-addictive drug to Chinese people generated staggering profits. Many foreign companies were involved in this business in the early colonial days of Hong Kong.
But David and his sons were religious. They felt guilty about trading drugs. So, over the years, they also invested in property, shipping and banking. One son was a founding member of the HSBC bank. Another was a member of the Legislative Council. All of them donated generously to good causes. This included gifting a large piece of land in Happy Valley for a Jewish cemetery. To this day, Jewish people can be buried there.
From the 1930’s, the successful Sassoon brothers sold up their business interests in Hong Kong and invested more in Shanghai. But their legacy here remains: Sassoon Road in Pokfulam, and a beautiful place of worship called Ohel Leah Synagogue in the Mid-Levels. This synagogue is a meeting place for the thousands of Jewish people who currently live here. There’s also a Jewish Community Centre which offers interesting cultural and musical events. Some of these are open to the public. So if you want to know the difference between a tower and a Torah, a bar and a Bar mitzvah, do go along to visit some time.