Generosity of a Jew saving thousands of lives

Generosity of a Jew saving thousands of lives

Generosity of a Jew saving thousands of lives

It is believed that Chhabad House was the original target but was changed at the last minute owing to heavy security around the Jewish centre.

The terror bombing claimed at least 17 lives and injured many. The casualties could have been higher but for the timely and quick treatment at the famous Sassoon General Hospital near Pune railway station. The hospital was built by a Jewish philanthropist David Sassoon.

The 1,500-bed hospital is one of the largest in the region and about 3,000 patients turn out for various OPDs every day.
According to Solomon Sopher, chairman and managing trustee of the Sassoon Trust in Mumbai, David Sassoon, before his death in 1864, made a generous donation to make the construction of the hospital possible. A whopping Rs 2,13,000 had been spent to complete the hospital in 1867 with 144 beds.
To reduce the congestion in the hospital, David Sassoon's nephew constructed Jacob Sassoon Hospital in 1905-06 on the same premises. Both have magnificent stone buildings. The clock tower of the David Sassoon Hospital was a landmark in the city for a long time.

It was in this hospital that Avtar Meher Baba, famous spiritual guru, was born in the old maternity ward in 1892, and the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi was operated upon for emergency appendicectomy in 1924, Sassoon hospital dean Dr A V Jamkar said. The surgery was conducted by a British surgeon Col Maddock with an Indian anaesthetist Dr Datey in attendance.

The hospital is now run by the state government. In 1952, the new building of the hospital and the college attached to it were inaugurated.
At the entrance of the old structure there is a statue of the philanthropist and an inscription in Hebrew. ‘‘Even now, patients returning home after prolonged treatment place a garland at the portrait of the benefactor in reverence," Sopher told Deccan Herald.

Who was David Sassoon?
Sassoon was born in 1792 in Baghdad where his father, Saleh Sassoon, was a wealthy businessman and the chief treasurer to the Pashas (the governors of Baghdad) from 1781 to 1817, and leader of the city's Jewish community. David assumed the role of the treasurer from 1817 onwards till 1829.

Following increasing persecution of Baghdad's Jews by the new and unfriendly Pasha, David fled to the Gulf and later to Bombay in 1832, with his large family. He had two marriages, and eight children.
In Bombay, he started his firm 'David S Sassoon', first acting as an agent between British textile firms and Gulf commodities merchants, then investing in valuable harbour properties.

His major competitors were the Parsis.  Capitalising on the opportunities, he ensured that his business prospered and set up a powerful empire.
 Although David Sassoon could not speak English, he became a naturalised British citizen in 1853. He kept the dress and manners of the Baghdadi Jews, but allowed his sons to adopt English manners.

David Sassoon was conscious of his role as a leader of the Jewish community in Bombay and built a synagogue in the Fort area and another in Byculla of Mumbai.
He donated Rs 60,000 in 1847 to start the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room, which is the third largest in Mumbai, and the building has been included for conservation by the municipal corporation.

The David Sassoon Industrial Institution and Reformatory is possibly the oldest institution for boys who are destitute and orphans or delinquents.
Then there is a clock tower which is situated on the premises of the Jijamata Udyan.
The Mogen David Synagogue was built in 1861. ‘‘Sassoon was very conscious about timing. If he would say he was coming at 5 pm, it was exactly at 5 pm he would come," Sopher said.

David Sassoon and later his family contributed generously to the construction of the famous landmark Gateway of India.

Largest synagogue in Asia
Pune's Ohel David Synagogue, better known as 'Lal Deval' (red temple), was built in 1863 out of donation from Sassoon. Built in neo-Gothic style with red bricks and stone, the synagogue is also the largest one in Asia.

The structure of the synagogue is mesmerising. Built in red bricks, its 90 feet spire has made the synagogue a prominent landmark of Pune.
Albert Abdullah David Sassoon (1818-1896) took on the running of the firm on his father's death, and notably constructed the Sassoon Docks, the first wet dock built in western India. Currently, Sassoon Docks mainly caters to fishing activity of the metropolis.
Charitable institutions supported by David Sassoon included an infirmary and leper asylum in Pune.

David Sassoon died in his country house in Pune in 1864. His mausoleum is housed in the precincts of the synagogue, where he lived.

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