The Sassoon family originated in Baghdad, where they flourished as courtiers and merchant princes. In the late 18th century, Sheik Sassoon ben Salah (1750-1830) served as chief treasurer of the Ottoman pashas and Nasi (President) of the ancient Jewish community of Iraq, until political oppression forced him to flee to Bushire, Persia in 1828. His son David Sassoon (1792-1864), fluent like many family members in Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic and Persian, built on the family’s extensive connections and knowledge of the trade to establish them in Bombay and founded the modern Sassoon dynasty. There, Sassoon was responsible for the creation of much of India’s textile industry, the foundations of its philanthropic and charitable infrastructure and those of the local Jewish communal institutions. His son Abdullah (1818-1896), who stimulated the growth of Bombay into a great modern port city with the construction of the Sassoon Docks, would one day become Sir Albert Sassoon, First Baronet of Kensington Gore, and his brothers would become close friends of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
Flora Sassoon was born in Bombay on 18 November 1859 to Ezekiel and Aziza. She married Solomon, son of David Sassoon on 29 February 1876.
After her husband died in March 1894, Flora took over the family business as well as all the obligations of her late husband, who had ran a very successful business and was a leader and philanthropist for Jewish communities in India and abroad. She moved to London’s fashionable Mayfair district in 1901, continuing her scholarly work and philanthropy. With her strong mind, strength of character and charm she was able to achieve what few other women of that day and age could.
Flora Sassoon was invited numerous times to the Royal Court of St. James in London. She attended the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 and had a close friendship with the Duchess of Connaught for more than thirty years, dating back to the time the Duke and Duchess were in India.
She died on 14th January 1936 and was described by Chief Rabbi Herzog of Ireland as “a living well of Torah, of piety, or wisdom, of goodness and charity…” (Jewish Chronicle, 24 January 1936).
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