The early history of Jews in Hong Kong

Jews were some of the earliest settlers to come to Hong Kong after the island was ceded to the British in the 1840s. So-called ‘Baghdadi Jews’ came to Hong Kong from Iraq and India to take advantage of the trade opportunities pioneered by the Sassoons. By the turn of the century, there were around 165 Jews living in Hong Kong (as against a total population of 221,441 in 1891), most of whom were Baghdadi merchants working in, or connected to, Sassoon firms. In 1902, the Ohel Leah Synagogue was opened on Hong Kong Island, which was financed by Sassoon brothers Jacob, Edward, and Meyer, and named in honour of their mother.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Russian and Eastern European Jews also arrived in Hong Kong to escape antisemitic pogroms. In the 1930s, they were joined by German and Austrian Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Europe. By 1939 there may have been 400 Jews in Hong Kong among a total population of 1.6 million. 

Timeline Hongkong

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