Virtual Lecture

The Sassoons in their Indian Context: Synagogues, Commerce, and Politics


Thursday, May 4, 2023
6:30 – 7:30 pm EDT
YouTube Video Premiere

This virtual lecture by Professor Shalva Weil, Hebrew University of Jerusalem focuses upon members of the Sassoon dynasty in India in their Indian context, from the advent of David Sassoon to Bombay in 1832 until their departure before and after Indian independence in 1947. It traces the relationships the Baghdadis forged with the Bene Israel Indian Jews of Maharashtra, and the Cochin Jews in southern India, and the philanthropy extended to other Jewish communities globally. It shows how the Sassoons traded in opium and other commodities, while divesting of some of their wealth through the construction of synagogues, and donations benefiting members of the Baghdadi community, Indian Jews and non-Jews, and representatives of the British Raj.

About the Speaker:

Shalva Weil is Senior Researcher at the Seymour Fox School of Education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she researches ethnicities, migration and femicide. She is editor (or co-editor) of several books on India’s Jews, including India's Jewish Heritage (Marg, 2002 & 2009), Indo-Judaic Studies in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007), Baghdadi Jews in India (Routledge, 2019), and The Jews of Goa (Primus, 2020). She has published numerous articles, chapters in books, and encyclopedia entries on different aspects of Jews and Judaism in India. Weil is Founding Chairperson of the first India-Israel Friendship Association (with Maestro Zubin Mehta as President) when diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1992. In 2017, as GIAN Distinguished Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, she taught the first course on Jews in India. In 2021, she was invited to research the Sassoons as Visiting Scholar at the Centre for Financial History at Darwin College, at the University of Cambridge. In 2022, she was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Great Britain.

Premiering on the Jewish Museum's YouTube Channel on May 4 at 6:30 PM.

Portrait of David Sassoon (b. Baghdad 1792- d. Pune, India, 1864) Oil on canvas; 41 ½ × 33 in. (105.4 × 83.8 cm) Framed dims: H 51 W 42 ½ D 2 ¾ in. Private Collection