The royal family of Cambodia has celebrated its first ever Jewish milestone – the bat mitzvah of Elior Koroghli, great-granddaughter of King Sisowath Monivong, who ruled Cambodia from 1927 until his death in 1941 when it was part of the French colonial protectorate of Indochina.
Elior, who lives with her family in Las Vegas, celebrated her actual bat mitzvah when she turned 12 on the fifth night of Hanukkah a year ago, but the family opted to have a follow-up celebration at the Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, because her mother, Suzie (Sarah Bracha), wanted her daughter to know about her royal roots, Chabad.org has reported.
The celebration, which took place this Hanukkah closer to Elior’s 13th birthday, was the first time many of the Cambodian royals had tasted kosher food, catered by Chabad of Cambodia. Following the bat mitzvah party, of which the highlight was the kindling of a large hanukkiah and the speeches emphasizing the beauty and depth of Judaism, the family formally met with Cambodia’s current ruler, King Norodom Sihamoni, and Queen Mother Norodom Monineath.
Susie Koroghli is perhaps an unlikely convert to Judaism. Born in Washington and raised in a Buddhist home, her father served as Cambodia’s ambassador to the United States. There she met Ray, a Persian Jew who left Iran to study and never returned, thanks to the Islamic revolution of 1979 that toppled the shah.
Ray informed her ahead of Rosh Hashanah that he would be out of touch for a few days due to religious observances, and she asked to be brought along. From there, she insisted on returning on Shabbat, kindling a life-long love of the Jewish faith and eventual conversion.
They are now an integral part of Chabad of Henderson, Nevada. The couple regularly host as many as 30 guests for Shabbat, and have been known to have 120 in their giant sukkah. Suzie also delights in hosting 500 guests each year for a Purim party, so the catering at the bat mitzvah event, overseen by chef Kobi Mizrahi and Suzie in the hotel’s kitchen, didn’t daunt her.
“She lights up the room wherever she goes. People are just drawn to her and are fascinated by her knowledge of Judaism, as well as her actions,” Ray told Chabad.org.
Although raised with all the formalities entailed by being the granddaughter of a king, Suzie never visited Cambodia until 2012 when she represented her mother at the funeral of Norodom Sihanouk. It was only then, she said, that she realized she truly was a child of royalty.