Magazine

The Rothschilds of India

'Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage' tells the story of the Baghdadi Jews of Bombay, more specifically those of the Sassoon family, through the buildings and monuments they built and left behind.

A man reads from a prayer book at a synagogue in Bombay
Photo by: REUTERS
When Prof. Shaul Sapir, an Israeli of Indian Baghdadi origin, came to my office and asked me to release his book entitled Bombay: Exploring the Jewish Urban Heritage, I was skeptical. Did he really mean urban heritage? As I went through his meticulously researched and visually appealing book, I realized that he did. The book tells the story of the Baghdadi Jews of Bombay, more specifically those of the Sassoon family, through the buildings and monuments they built and left behind.

Sapir says that urban historians have neglected the Jewish connection to Bombay’s landscape and he hopes his book will fill this gap. How many Mumbaikars know, for instance, that the famous Flora Fountain, a landmark in the heart of today’s Mumbai (Bombay), is probably named after Flora Sassoon? The Sassoons, who trace their ancestry to Spain, came to be known as the “Rothschilds of India” because of their wealth and philanthropy. The first Sassoon came to Bombay from Baghdad in 1832. The family flourished in the tolerant environment of Bombay and amassed a fortune, initially through their involvement in the opium trade between the British and China.



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