Spiro Ark

THE LEGENDARY KADOORIE FAMILY – JEWS IN CHINA

The Fourth and Final Lecture of Dr. Maisie Meyer's Mini Series on the Jews of China.

The Kadoorie Family is unique amongst Baghdadi commercial pioneers. One of the foremost families in Baghdad, they were "merchant farmers" in an era when the currency for trade was livestock. Eleazar (Elly) Silas Kadoorie (1865-1944) migrated to Hong Kong, via Bombay age 15 in 1880. We discover that he resigned his job as a clerk in the Sassoon firm and that the five hundred dollars his brother gave him launched him on his meteoric rise to fame and fortune.

We learn that in the 1890s, Elly travelled to England, where he married Laura Mocatta. The iconic Marble Hall in his Bombay residence was well known to a wide spectrum of visitors from all parts of the world, including high-ranking British Officers and Zionist emissaries. The Kadoorie family is pleased that today, under the People's Republic of China, Marble Hall has become a Children's Palace, where pupils are trained in the arts.
It has been a long tradition in the Kadoorie Family to share their good fortune with others. In Sir Lawrence's words "the best compliment ever paid me came from a gentleman, not a Jew, who said: "It's good that the Lord helps the Kadoories, because the Kadoories give (to others)." Sir Lawrence was knighted in 1926 which bears testimony to the value Britain placed on his worldwide altruism.

We discover that largely through the generosity of the Kadoorie Family a school was founded for children fleeing from Nazi persecution and that many of its former students are now successful professionals and businessmen.

The Kadoorie Family have maintained their pre-eminence in commerce and their status in the highest echelons of society in Southeast Asia, despite the repercussions of World War II and the Communists' rise to power in China. They have played a significant role in the economy of the south-eastern coast of China and of Hong Kong. In March 2010 the landmark deluxe hotel The Peninsula Shanghai, opened in that cosmopolitan city that played an essential role in the family's history.

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Dr. Maisie Meyer pioneered the research of the Baghdadi Jewish community of Shanghai, having appreciated over 30 years ago the unique mix represented by its various components. Over this period, she has forged relationships with many of the families and individuals who played a large part in this burgeoning community. Her ground-breaking book From the Rivers of Babylon to the Whangpoo: A Century of Sephardi Jewish Life in Shanghai (Lanham M.D.2003) is widely considered as the definitive history of the Baghdadi Jewish merchants who settled in Shanghai in the mid-19th century. Her determination to preserve the memory of this community and the unrivalled access that she has enjoyed to both the key characters and previously unseen source material has resulted in her recent publication Shanghai's Baghdadi Jews: A Collection of Biographical Reflections. Dr. Meyer is a double graduate in English and Humanities, both with honours and has obtained an MA degree in International History at the London School of Economics. The British Academy awarded her a scholarship to do a Phd. The subject she chose to research reflects her personal autobiography. It gives her a deeper understanding of Shanghai Baghdadi Jews, their emulation of a British lifestyle and their desire to appear as British as possible within the parameters of their faith.

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