Sassoon Family

views updated


Family of international renown, which originated in the Jewish community of Baghdad.

Sassoon ben Salih (17501830) was a banker to the vali (provincial governor) of Baghdad. His son David (17921864) fled from a new and unfriendly vali, going first to the Gulf port of Bushehr in 1828 and then to Bombay, India, in 1832, with his large family. In Bombay, he built the international business called David S. Sassoon, with the policy of staffing it with people brought from Baghdad. They filled the functions of the various branches of his business in India, Burma, Malay, and east Asia. In each branch, he maintained a rabbi. His wealth and munificence were proverbial, and his business extended to China and then to England.

His eight sons also branched out into many directions. Elias David (18201880), his son by his first wife, left the firm to establish E. D. Sassoon. Three of his other sons became prominent in England and were great friends of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. Of those who settled in England, Sir Edward Albert Sassoon (18561912) was a Conservative member of Parliament from 1899 until his death, and the seat was inherited by his son Sir Philip Sassoon (18881939) from 1912 until his death. Sir Philip served in World War I as military secretary to Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig and, during the 1920s and 1930s, as Britain's undersecretary of state for air. The English poet Siegfried Sassoon (18861967) is David's great-grandson. Intermarriage in England has caused the general loss of Judaism within this branch.

The branch that carried on the ancestral tradition has been represented by Rabbi Solomon David Sassoon (19151985), who moved from Letchworth to London and then to Jerusalem in 1970. He was the son of the David Sassoon who collected Jewish books and manuscripts and who catalogued them in Ohel David, in two volumes. This David was the son of Flora Abraham, who had moved from India to England in 1901 and established a famous salon in her London home.

sylvia g. haim