The Sassoons

Extracts from a lecture given by the Hakham, Rabbi Ya'aqob Menashe, hy"w.
The Hakham is a great-great grandson of Sir Albert ('Abdallah) Sassoon.

he Sassoons were an influential and famous family for many centuries. They were known to be in Baghdad from around the 12th century and were bankers to the Mesopotamian rulers. There is a sparsity of documentation, however, until the time of Sheikh Sason ben Saleh who was born in 1750 in Baghdad.
In keeping with family tradition, Sheikh Sasson was a
Sarraf Bashi (chief banker) and held the honorary title of Sheikh. In 1778 he became a Nasi (Prince), which was a position of great importance among his people and one that he held for 38 years. His responsibilities included the collection of military and other taxes which were levied on his people. Above all, Sheikh Sasson was a deeply religious man and a great benefactor who helped support many of his people.
This was a period of some instability, however, in particular vis-ŕ-vis the Turkish rulers, and the position of the Jewish population was precarious at times. Sheikh Sasson had to go underground for a while due to problems with the Pashas and City Government

and could not permit himself to be seen in public. The problems with the Government made many Jews leave Baghdad for various destinations including India, Persia and Australia.
In the first stages of this emigration, the primary Indian destination was Calcutta, with emigration to Bombay coming later as we will shortly see. Among those emigrating  to Calcutta were the Ezra family (to whom Sir David Ezra would be born and who would marry Lady Rachel, a descendant of the Sassons).
Sheikh Sasson married Amam Gubbay who bore him 7 sons. The one upon whom we shall concentrate is his son Dawid (David) who was born in 1792.
Dawid entered the family business from a very early age and proved to be very capable. In keeping with his family, he was deeply religious. At the age of fifteen, he married Hannah Joseph.

In 1817 Sheikh Sasson stepped down from his public positions, no doubt hoping that his son Dawid would succeed him. However, Sheikh Sasson's friend, Suleiman Pasha fled Baghdad, and that upset any hopes that Dawid would succeed him. It would appear appear that Suleiman Pasha fled Baghdad as a result (in part, in any case) of the efforts of two Jewish brothers who were competitors of Sheikh Sasson and whose best interest (they felt) would be served by having Daud Pasha replace Suleiman Pasha.
Daud Pasha did, indeed, succeed Suleiman Pasha through the assistance of these two highly placed Jewish brothers. As a sign of "gratitude" to them, one of his first official acts was to execute one of the brothers. The other brother Ezra, who had taken over from Sheikh Sasson as
Nasi, was imprisoned.
Dawid Sasson would not stand for the position of

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