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From Orientals to Imagined Britons: Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai

Chiara Betta
1 January, 1900


From Orientals to Imagined Britons: Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai 

Author(s): Chiara Betta 

Reviewed work(s):

Source: Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Oct., 2003), pp. 999-1023Published by: Cambridge University Press 

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Modern Asian Studies37,4 (2003),pp.999-1023. © 2003Cambridge University Press DOI:10.1017/S0026749X03004104 Printed in the United Kingdom


From Orientals to Imagined Britons: Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai



Studies and réminiscences, which dissect the communities of the Baghdadi trade diaspora, have so far tended to over-emphasize the smooth Anglicization process experienced by Baghdadi Jews in British India, Singapore and China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century. The myth of the Sassoons as the ''''Rothschilds of the East'''' has, in particular, distorted and enhanced the représentation of Baghdadi Jews as wealthy, Anglicized and thoroughly integrated in British social circles.1 In reality, if we want to unravel the multi-layered history of Baghdadi Jews from India to Japan we must not only analyse in depth the complexities of the westernization process of the Baghdadi upper classes but also reconstruct carefully class divisions within Baghdadi communities. With this aim in mind, this essay will investigate the various Strands of identity developed by Baghdadis during their stay in Shanghai and will especially focus on the local allegiances forged between Baghdadi and British settlers, the so־called Shanghailanders. The following pages will, at the same time, delineate the social structure of the Baghdadi Community in Shanghai and will indicate that westernized affluent Baghdadis were forced to confront painfully their own ''''other'''': destitute vagrant co-religionists who hailed from the Middle East and India and roamed between the various nodes of the Baghdadi diaspora. The period con-sidered in this essay Stretches from 1845, the year the first Baghdadi trader set foot in the city, to the middle of the 1930s when large numbers of Jewish refugees from Europe started to flock to Shanghai in search of a safe haven.Shanghai holds a special place in the history of modern China and its history has in récent years been at the centre of scholarly debate, giving rise to what could be defined as the field of Shanghai studies. The uniqueness of Shanghai lies in its re-invention from a traditional trading centre of the Jiang''''an région into a cosmopolitan metropolis1 See especially S.Jackson, The Sassoons (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1968). oo26749־X/o3/$7.5o+$ and a major industrial centre, a process which unfolded gradually between its opening as a treaty port to foreign trade in 1843 and the end of the First World War. By the early décades of the twentieth Century Shanghai epitomized China''''s modernity and westernized commercial culture: sophisticated department stores teemed with foreign merchandise, young women sported fashionable attire and hybrid architectural styles dotted the landscape of the foreign Settle¬ments.2 Shanghai was also a divided city, with two sections—the International Settlement and the Concession Française—under the administration of foreign municipal Councils. These enclaves, which had not been officially ceded to any foreign power, enjoyed a high degree of autonomy—especially the International Settlement—not only from the Chinese State but also from foreign powers. Signifie-antly, the Settlements represented an ideal commercial base not only for entrepreneurial Chinese—represented in the early days espe¬cially by the figure of the ''''comprador''''—but also for ambitious for¬eigners—like Baghdadi Jews—determined to make Shanghai their permanent home. The issue of settlers in China has received revived académie attention of late but nevertheless still needs to be further explored as we need to understand more deeply the function of ''''ambiguous'''' groups such as Baghdadi Jews who in Bombay and Cal¬cutta were neither colonizers nor colonized and in China acted as reliable collaborators in the expansion of British commercial inter-ests in the treaty ports. In a few words, we need to dissect many différent threads before weaving the complex tapestry of foreign présence in China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century.3

The Sassoons and Shanghai
The history of Baghdadi Jews in India, the rôle played by the Sassoon family in Bombay, and the development of the early Baghdadi corn-2 S. Cochran (ed.), Inventing Nanjing Road: Commercial Culture in Shanghai, 1900¬1943 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999); L. Ou־fan Lee, Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930-1945 (Cambridge: Harvard Uni¬versity Press, 1999).3 F. Cooper and A. L. Stoler (eds), Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bour¬geois World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); R. Bickers and C. Hen-riot (eds), New Frontiers, Imperialisms New Communities in East Asia, 1842-1953 (Manchester University Press, 2000); much of the intellectual framework of this essay has been inspired by R. Bickers, Britain in China: Community, Culture and Coloni-alism, 1900-1949 (Manchester University Press, 1999). munity in Shanghai have already been dissected in a number of works. Nevertheless, the first pages of this essay will touch upon a number of themes related to the trade diaspora of Baghdadi Jews to provide the necessary framework for the discussion of Baghdadis'''' identities in Shanghai. Any accurate analysis of Shanghai''''s Bagh¬dadis should start in Bombay in 1830, the year David Sassoon (1792-1864), the scion of Baghdad''''s most eminent Jewish family, chose the city as his permanent commercial base. Once in Bombay Sassoon, who had been brutally persecuted by Baghdad''''s Ottoman governor, switched his allegiance from the Ottoman to the British empire thus acquiring a coveted sense of security and, at the same time, also vital access to fresh and unexplored commercial opportun¬ities. On the basis of his lineage Sassoon, who remained throughout his life an ''''Oriental'''' merchant-prince, proud of his Judaeo-Arabic heritage, imposed himself as the charismatic head of the local com¬munity of Baghdadi Jews. The latter definition in Bombay included not only Jews from Baghdad but also from more distant Ottoman lands such as Aleppo and Aden and even Jews from Persia. Under Sassoon''''s paternal guidance scores of indigent Jews, especially from Mesopotamia, found employment in his firm and were also able to secure an elementary education for their children at the David Sas¬soon school.4The Sassoons'''' presence in the Middle Kingdom dates back to 1843-44 when Elias David (1820-84), the second son of David Sas¬soon, sailed to Canton with the intention of reaping the potential benefits which could be gained by the cession of Hong Kong to Great Britain and the opening of five Chinese cities—the first treaty ports—to foreign commerce after China''''s defeat in the Opium war (1839-1842). During his sojourn in China Elias David Sassoon established the first two offices of David Sassoon, Sons & Co. respect¬ively in Hong Kong in 1843 and in Shanghai in 1845, which remained for the following century the main focus of the Sassoons'''' commercial operations in China. In the following decades the Sas¬soons expanded swiftly their presence in a number of treaty ports through the firms D. Sassoon, Sons & Co. and E. D. Sassoon & Co., which had been founded by Elias David after the death of his father.5 Until the 1880s, and probably even later, many of the Sassoon''''s4 J. Roland,/*HAT in British India: Identity in a Colonial Era (Hanover, NH: Univer¬sity Press of New England 198g), pp. 15-16.5 C. Betta, ''''Marginal Westerners in Shanghai: The Baghdadi Jewish Commun¬ity'''', in Bickers and Henriot, New Frontiers, pp. 39-41. employées who moved to Shanghai were born in Ottoman Baghdad and were brought up in British India. Albeit during their peripatetic lives they experienced différent political régimes—the Ottoman empire, the British empire, the treaty ports—and were compelled to adapt to alien cultural environments, they could constantly rely on the support of Baghdadi Jewish networks and the protection they offered. Nevertheless, as late as the turn of the twentieth Century solitude was a painful companion of young unattached Baghdadis working in Chinese treaty ports, even in Shanghai. A few eiders, such as S. J. Solomon, took care of young Baghdadi men as vividly expressed in the following Unes probably written by N. E. B. Ezra, the editor of the Israeli Messenger.The one outstanding communal figure was the late Mr S. J. Solomon (Zecher Sadik libracha). He wa [sic] a centre around whom all matters of communal interest were focussed. He looked with an indulgent eye upon every new visitor to Shanghai and sought for his comfort and welfare. His home was a temple in miniature. It was open to ail the young men in the Settlement on Sabbath and Festivals . . . Probably there were two or more such Jewish homes in Shanghai in those days where Queen Sabbath was introduced in such a rich cérémonial fashion. Gathering at the home of the late Mr Solomon was a festival in itself. Topics of ail Jewish subjects were discussed. We looked upon our host as the father of our community. Seder nights saw his home crowded with young men who came out to China in the service of the Sassoons. They had no actual homes of their own, save a small room for lodging and the four walls to stare at.6The oppressive sensé of isolation which accompanied junior Sas-soon employées was most probably eased when suitable brides were found, in other communities of the Baghdadi trade diaspora. Huge distances were not a hindrance to the arrangement of marriages since Baghdadis in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Subaraya, Ran¬goon, Calcutta and Bombay were in constant contact with each other, something which caught the attention of the Zionist envoy Israel Cohen who remarked . . (they) were almost as familiär with each other as the Jews of Manchester with those of Liverpool.''''7 Once the community grew to comprise a few hundred people in the 1920s, marriages within the Shanghai Baghdadi community became more fréquent thus contributing to shape and reinforce the local identity of Baghdadi  settlers.  Intermarriages  were  frowned  upon and
6 ''''Israel''''s Messenger Twenty-five Years Ago'''', Israels Messenger, 5 April 192g, p.18.7 I. Cohen, A Jewish Pilgrimage: The Autobiography of Israel Cohen (London: Valen¬tine, Mitchell, ig56), p. ig5. remained extremely uncommon as late as the 1920s. In this respect it is worth noting that the eccentric real estate tycoon Silas Aaron Hardoon (i85i?-i93i) married a Buddhist Eurasian, though he never converted to his wife''''s faith and sponsored the building of the Beth Aharon synagogue which was completed in 1928.8The early social and religious life of the Baghdadi Jewish commun¬ity in Shanghai rotated around the Sassoon firms. The Sassoons spon¬sored the foundation of the Beth El Synagogue in 1887, thus mark-ing the beginning of a stable religious Organization among Shanghai Jews. The founders were Baghdadis, either employées of the Sas¬soons or independent entrepreneurs, with the exception of Lewis Moore (1844-1903), an Ashkenazi British Jew who had established the first auction house of Shanghai in 1874. The Beth El, in reality only a large room, was situated in Foochow Road next to the offices of the Baghdadi traders R. J. Solomon and Moses & Elias.9 It was replaced in 1920 by the Oihel Rachel Synagogue, erected with a donation bequeathed by Sir Jacob Sassoon.10 According to the Amer¬ican traveller Simon Adler Stern, who visited the Beth El in 1888,. . . the society numbers between thirty and forty members in all, and, according to the Statement of my information, would long since have ceased to exist if it were not for the liberality of the Sassoon family. The Synagogue is a room about thirty or forty feet square, taking up the entire upper floor of the building. It is plainly yet neatly furnished, with the portion in which the women sit railed off from the rest, in true orthodox fashion, for the Jewish community of Shanghai is too limited in numbers to indulge in the luxury of dividing itself into sects.11It is highly arguable that if the Sassoon firms had not expanded their business to Shanghai, very few Baghdadi Jews would have had any incentive to seek fortune in the city. The early Baghdadi com¬munity was indeed formed almost exclusively by employées of the Sassoon firms and their spouses and remained the dominant force in the community even after individual Baghdadis started to set up their own companies from the 1880s onwards. According to a busi-
8 Deed of trust of the Beth Aharon Synagogue (1928), Shanghai House Property Administration Bureau Archives, Archives of the Hardoon Company, Yi 2023.9 Mendel Brown, The Jews of modern China\ Jewish Monthly 3 (June 1949), pp. 161-2; ''''An enterprising firm of auctioneers'''', Social Shanghai, Jan-June 1910, pp.10 M. J. Meyer, ''''The Sephardi Jewish Community of Shanghai 1845-1939 andthe Question of Identity'''', Ph.D. thesis, University of London (1994), pp. 102-6.11 S. Adler Stern, Jottings of Travel in China and Japan (Philadelphia: Porter andCoates 1888), p. 155. ness directory, in 1906 eleven Baghdadi Jewish firms and one Bagh¬dadi Jewish/British Company operated in Shanghai and employed together forty-two Baghdadis. Of thèse, as many as twenty־two worked for the Sassoon firms which definitely remained the central forces of the Baghdadi commercial community. Yet, in the late 1920s the overall significance of the Sassoon firms had substantially diminished as the majority of Baghdadi Jews were either self-employed or were working for other Baghdadis not connected to the Sassoon firms. By then, the Sassoons had relinquished the paternal-istic rôle they had played in early Baghdadi Jewish religious and social life in Shanghai.12Broadly speaking, probably until the arrivai of the first wave of Russian Jews at the turn of the twentieth Century, the Sassoon firms had represented a référence point for Jews, not necessarily of Bagh¬dadi origin, who sojourned or settled in the city. When in 1879 Moses Isaac Brunstein, a bookbinder by trade, sailed to Shanghai he believed that he could secure assistance from the local Sassoon firms by showing a letter of introduction which he had already used to seek aid at the Sassoons'''' offices in Hong Kong. Therefore his stay in the city was jeopardized when the letter together with his possessions were stolen by a British hoodlum.13 Quite clearly the Sassoons were Willing to help Jews who could vouch their own credentials, yet, as will be surmised below, they were not always inclined to aid poorer co-religionists, especially vagrant Jews of Middle Eastern origin who sought alms in the communities of the Baghdadi trade diaspora.

Baghdadis as Settiers
Baghdadi Jews started to settle in Shanghai as early as the 1880s when some young Sassoon employees and their families chose the city as their permanent abode. Some of them had the courage to leave the security of the Sassoons to Start their own businesses as general merchants and brokers, though not everyone eventually suc-ceeded in setting up a prosperous business. Benjamin David Benja-
12 The Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Stroits Settlements,Malay States, Siam, Netherlands India, Borneo, the Philippines & C. (Hong Kong DailyPress Office, 1906); The Comacrib Directory of China (Shanghai, 1928).13 ''''Moses Isaac Brunstein v. Alexander Triggs, alias Barney, Daniel O'''' Farrell,Joseph Moorhouse, and John Gregory'''', North China Herald (hereafter quoted asNCH), 28 March 1879. min, a former employée of E. D. Sassoon & Co., became nearly bank-rupt in 1883 after a short and meteoric rise as a sharebroker and real estate magnate and died in abject poverty and solitude, aban-doned by his wife, five years later. His story was, however, quite unusual as most Baghdadis carved out a long-term commercial niche in Shanghai.14 One of the early successful pioneers was Isaac Ezra, a native of Baghdad, who spent the years between 1868 and 1879 working for the Sassoons in the treaty ports of Tianjin, Zhifu and Niuzhuang before settling down in Shanghai. Ezra epitomized the first génération of Baghdadi Jewish settlers in Shanghai: he was born in the Ottoman empire, brought up in British India and still retained a strongJudaeo-Arabic cultural héritage. Once in Shanghai in 1879 he pursued an independent career as a broker and merchant and after his death in 1892, his family business was taken over by the eldest son Edward Ezra. The latter, born and educated in Shanghai, amassed a fortune by dealing in opium, became one of the most eminent figures in the International Settlement and had the distinc¬tion of being a member of the British Shanghai Club, which accepted among its ranks only a handful of Baghdadi Jews.15 Local British settlers, the Shanghailanders considered Ezra almost one of them: his home was Shanghai, and like them he benefited from ''''private enterprise imperialism'''' which in treaty ports acted independently from the British empire.16The relationship of Baghdadi Jews with ''''Britain in China'''' should be assessed on two levels. First of all we need to take into considéra¬tion the association Baghdadi Jews forged with the British empire in British India in the 1840s. Baghdadi traders were, in fact, eager collaborators of the British in the expansion, strengthening and defence of their economic interests in the colonies of Singapore and Hong Kong as well as in China''''s treaty ports, especially in Shanghai. Secondly, we must look at the interdependent ties developed between Baghdadi Jewish and British settlers in the Shanghai International Settlement. Both groups exploited to their own advantage the grey zones created by the unclear status of the Settlement and partook similar concerns in the administration of the local municipal Council.
14 G. Thirkell, Some Queer Stories of Benjamin David Benjamin and Messrs E. D. Sas-soon & Co: Wealth, Fraud and Poverty. Les Juifs entre eux (Shanghai: Celestial Empire,1888).15 ''''Sudden death of Mr Edward Ezra'''', NCH, 17 Dec. 1921, p. 767; 4Interment ofMr E. I. Ezra'''', NCH, 24 Dec. 1921, p. 833.16 Bickers, Britain in China, p. 6. Rather than in consular authorities, power over municipal afTairs rested in the hands of the local British oligarchy that was not neces-sarily inclined to follow London''''s policies. Its main local ally was represented by the Baghdadi Jewish elite, which between 1869 and 1921 elected a councillor almost every year as part of the British quota of six seats in the municipal Council. Until 1904 Baghdadi councillors were partners of the Sassoon firms thus giving the Sas¬soons a direct say in the management of the afTairs of the Interna¬tional Settlement. In the following years Baghdadi interests were protected by the sons of the early settlers Isaac Ezra and Benjamin David Benjamin: Edward Ezra, and Maurice Benjamin. Both were Shanghai-born Baghdadis whose own interests were inextricably tied up with British settlers to preserve the Status quo of the International Settlement.17As settlers and allies of the local British community, Baghdadi Jews enjoyed special ties with the Shanghai''''s British consular author¬ities, which granted British protection to the Sassoon employees and also to some self-employed Baghdadi Jews. In some cases, without any legal grounds, prominent Baghdadi Jews were even given the Status of British subjects. In reality, many Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai were Ottoman subjects until 1918 and, as such, were supposed to receive French rather than British protection. When in 1906 the Foreign Office eventually discovered the unorthodox practices of the Shanghai Consulate-general, it could not comprehend the flexible policies adopted in Shanghai. London''''s imperial concerns, in effect, often differed from those of Shanghai''''s British settlers, who on a local level were able to influence the decisions of British diplomats serving in Shanghai.18Under the aegis of the British empire not only Baghdadi Jews but also Parsis, Muslim Gujaratis, Sindhis and Peshawari Muslims, the last two from contemporary Pakistan, occupied distinctive economic niches in the India-China trade. Without any doubt Parsi traders were the most active group in the early days of the treaty port System though their prominent position deteriorated in the 1880s, when Baghdadi Jews, under the guidance of the Sassoons, adopted an

17 C. Betta, ''''Silas Aaron Hardoon (1851-1931): Marginality and Adaptation inShanghai'''', Ph.D. thesis, University of London (1997), pp. 36-8.18 Ibid., pp. 38-43 based on nationality files from the Public Record Office(London), FO 372 (Foreign Office General Correspondence, Treaty). increasingly aggressive commercial agenda in China.19 On this a Parsi writer commented in 1884Shortly after the first war between England and China, about 1842, the Parsis, who had until then monopolized the Chinese trade, began to encoun¬ter rivalry from other sections of the Indian population. Their rivals at first were the Khojas and other Mahomedan merchants from Bombay, who commenced to establish firms in China. But being as a class men of little or no education, they at first but slightly affected the position of the Parsis. Subsequently, however, some of the Jewish residents of Bombay and Cal¬cutta entered into competition, and, being keener and more highly educated men of business, succeeded in gradually displacing Parsis in the China trade. While the Parsi merchants of China remained in the old groove, the Jews took better advantage of the new treaty ports in China and the open¬ing up of new lines of business.20The Parsis'''' decline was indeed swift: at the beginning of the twen¬tieth century, they had turned into secondary players, well behind Baghdadi Jews. In Shanghai, the loss of commercial clout derived from the fact that the Parsi community was mainly formed by male sojourners for whom Shanghai never became a permanent home, something which definitely hindered the growth of their economic interests in the city. In contrast Baghdadis as settlers possessed an enormous entrepreneurial drive which was channelled especially in speculations and investment in the real estate market, one of the most profitable activities of the foreign settlements. As settlers Baghdadis bought and developed large tracts of land, as sojourners Parsis carefully avoided any speculative involvement in land dealings, thus failing to make considerable profits in the real estate market.In the second half of the nineteenth century the mercantile activit¬ies of Baghdadi Jews focused especially on importing opium from India to China, an extremely lucrative commerce which exploited the booming consumption of narcotics among Chinese of all classes. Despite their prominent role in importing opium to China, the use of the drug remained a taboo for Baghdadi Jews as well as for the majority of Shanghai westerners. Nevertheless, individuals, among
19 On Indian entrepreneurial networks in China see C. Marcovits, ''''Indian Com-munities in China, 0.1842-1949'''', in New Frontiers, pp. 56-68; on Sindhis in Chinasee C. Marcovits, The Global Worlds of Indian Merchants, 1J50-194J: Traders of Sindfrom Bukhara to Panama (Cambridge University Press, 2000), especially pp. 125, 128, 147-8, 195-6.20 D. F. Karaka, History of the Parsis: Including Their Manners, Customs, Religion andPresent Condition (London: Macmillan 1884), pp. 257-8. them also British housewives, did dabble with the drug and in the worst cases died of an overdose.21 So far the death in 1891 of David Levy, an employée of E. D. Sassoon & Co. represents the only évid¬ence of an ''''opium problem'''' among Baghdadis. According to the Celes-tial Empire Levy had ''''been in the habit of eating opium'''', a way of consuming the drug which was widespread in India and was reputedly less harmful than opium smoking.22 The maverick Silas Aaron Hardoon might have also occasionally smoked the substance for recreational purposes though this assumption is based on uncor-roborated reports.23 The opium trade between India and China was declared illegal at the end of 1917 thus closing a significant commer¬cial chapter for Baghdadi Jews as well as for Parsis and Gujarati Muslims, whose own fortunes in China had largely been built fîrst by smuggling and then by trading opium. The démise of the opium trade did, however, not significantly affect Baghdadis in Shanghai, who had shrewdly diversified their commercial interests already in the late nineteenth Century. The Sassoon firms and smaller Baghdadi companies were engaged in a wide array of entrepreneurial activit-ies, which ranked from real estate, to various forms of brokerage and the import and export of numerous commodities.

The Baghdadis as Orientais
According to an article published in the North China Herald in 1873 Baghdadi Jews were ''''British merchants by accident of Bombay and Calcutta being British possessions'''', and were ''''in reality not British merchants but Orientais under British protection.''''24 Nine years earl-ier Sir Bartle Frère had explained that both Baghdadi Jews and Parsis in Bombay were ''''oriental in origin and appréciation'''' and at the same time ''''English in their objects and associations''''.23 In both quotes we can detect an underlying tension between being Oriental and imagined Britons, which characterized the relationship of Bagh-
21 ''''Sad Death of a Foreigner'''', NCH, i8June 1897.22 Celestial Empire (hereafter quoted as CE) 13 Feb. 1891; and NCH, 13 Feb.23 Zhang Qionglin, Yangchang migong- Shanghai Hatong huayuan jianwen lu [the laby-rinth of Old Shanghai: recollections of the Hardoon Garden] (Beijing: Zhongguowenshi chubanshe, 1991), p. 55.24 NCH, 7 Sept. 1873.23 Sir Bartle''''s remarks are quoted in Roland, India, p. 17. dadi Jews and Parsis with the British throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth Century. Whether Baghdadi Jewish and Parsi traders, who became Anglicized slightly earlier than their Baghdadi counterparts, were considered as Orientais or imagined Britons depended upon many factors such as local circumstances. Most likely, in the setting of the Shanghai foreign Settlements social acceptance was slightly less problematic than in more rigid environments such as in the colony of Hong Kong. In this respect, a tiny incongruity between Shanghai and Hong Kong data in the 1908 publication Twentieth Century Impressions of Hong Kong, Shanghai and other Treaty Ports in China brings to light what might have been subtle yet also substantial différences between Shanghai as a treaty port and Hong Kong as a colony. The volume, which provides a broad profile of foreign life in China, présents Baghdadis and Parsis in Shanghai as being part of the community of European merchants, thus high-lighting their apparent intégration within the Western community. In contrast, in Hong Kong Baghdadi Jewish and Parsi firms are listed as belonging to the ''''Oriental Mercantile Community'''' together with Chinese companies.26As Orientais, Baghdadi Jews came from the fabled Middle East, which was readily associated with excess, opulence and tyranny by European co־religionists. The obituary of David Sassoon which appeared in the Italian publication // Corriere Israelitico—apparently a translation from the London''''s Jewish Chronicle—portrays Baghdad as a city celebrated in Oriental fiction where Sassoon had been at the mercy of an Oriental despot, the local Ottoman governor, and had consequently looked for safety and protection in Bombay.27 In many ways, Sassoon represented the last Oriental merchant-prince, at least among the Baghdadis of the trade diaspora. As an Oriental Sassoon stressed his Judaeo-Arabic cultural identity by wearing tradi-tional clothing, whilst his sons often wore Western dress.28 Baghdadi clothing visibly marked the Oriental origin of Baghdadi Jews, in the same way that Parsi dress stated the Oriental roots of Parsis. Bagh¬dadi clothing
26 A. Wright (ed.), Twentieth Century Impressions of Hong Kong, Shanghai and OtherTreaty Ports in China: Their History, People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources (London:Lloyd''''s Greater Britain Publishing Company, 1908), pp. 210-24; 224-34.27 ''''David Sassoon (Bibliografia) (sic)'''', Corriere Israelitico, vol. missing (1867), pp.30-1; ''''David Sassoon (Biografia)'''', Corriere Israelitico, vol. missing (1867), pp. 57-61.28 See picture of Sassoon with three of his sons (only one dressed in Westernclothing) in Jackson, Sassoons. . . . for a man consisted of aDagla (a long coat), Kamsan (long shirt), Labsan (undershirt) and Sadaria (undervest). The women wore ''''wrappers'''', lose cotton gown flowing from the shoulders to the ankles, with wide gathered collars and elbow length sleeves, often trimmed with lace. Married women covered their head with (yasmas /scarves) which were fastened around their buns or knotted at the forehead. When they went outdoors, the wrapper was covered with a shawl. Women wore a petticoat and drawers under the wrapper.29Once Baghdadis started to adopt an Anglicized life-style, tradi¬tional clothing was not necessarily discarded by Baghdadis in India nor by Baghdadis living in the other communities of the trade dias¬pora. Notwithstanding the pressure to Anglicize, Baghdadis, espe¬cially the least affluent, wore ''''Oriental'''' clothing as late as the twen¬ties in Calcutta, Bombay, Rangoon and Singapore, and maybe also in China. Israel Cohen recounts that at a meeting at the Rangoon synagogue men and boys wore ''''. . . white baggy trousers and embroid¬ered rounds caps, and one or two the flowing white garb and scarlet waist-band of Bagdad.''''30 Oriental customs were then kept by Bagh¬dadi men and women who enjoyed the hookah ''''which was smoked with dignity by venerable Jewish matrons.''''31As for Shanghai, having at the moment no available sources on how Baghdadis dressed in the nineteenth century, we can only make highly speculative suggestions. Probably Baghdadis as well as Parsi traders adopted western clothing from as early as the 1850s: the foreign community was tiny and conformity might have been more relevant than in other environments. Nevertheless, we cannot exclude that in the following decades some, especially women, might have continued to dress in accordance with the customs of their ancestors. Certainly, Baghdadis did not adopt Chinese dress since, like the British, they segregated themselves socially from the Chinese at least until the 1920s. The only exception was Silas Aaron Hardoon, who, at times, met people dressed in Chinese clothing. In some of the scholarly Chinese publications which he sponsored he was represented wearing the gowns donned by scholars, a visual
29 J. Silliman, ''''Crossing borders, maintaining boundaries: The life and times ofFarha, a woman of the Baghdadi Jewish diaspora ( 1870-1958) '''',Journal of Indo-JudaicStudies 1 (April 1998), note 19, p. 75; see also J. Silliman, Jewish Portraits, IndianFrames: Women''''s Narratives from a Diaspora of Hope (Hanover, NH: University Press ofNew England, 2001), pp. 32-3.30 Israel Cohen, The Journal of a Jewish Traveller (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1925),p. 225.31 Ibid., p. 204. assertion of his eagerness to form a new social identity in the Chinese environment.32 In his own way, Hardoon remained an Ori¬ental throughout his life: rather than copy the style of English gen¬tlemen, he modelled himself as a Chinese merchant-philanthropist, a figure that shared certain similarities with traditional Baghdadi merchant-princes.33The Baghdadis'''' Middle Eastern roots were, at times, sneered at by members of the western community. In 1918, a merchant com¬parée! the Baghdadis who had become members of Shanghai''''s lead¬ing British club as ''''Baghdad camel drivers''''.34 In the thirties Sir Victor Sassoon''''s entrance to bars was at times marked by the chant: ''''Back to Baghdad! Back to Baghdad.''''35 The Baghdadis'''' Middle East¬ern roots were also used in a derogatory manner by Russian Jews, who formed the core of the Ashkenazi community until the arrivai of Central European refugees in the 1930s. When complaining about the better off Baghdadis, they sometimes compared them to Arabs, stressing their Middle Eastern roots.36 Russian Jews were mostly refugees of pogroms or had been forced to leave their country by the fall of imperial Russia and had therefore arrived in Shanghai as refugees.37 Many of them endured severe economic deprivation, in stark contrast to the wealthy Baghdadi traders, who lived privileged existences marked by social events within the British community. The economic contrasts between Baghdadi and Russian Jews exaeer-bated relations between the two communities and led to the rise of mutual misunderstandings, which were still not dispelled in the late 1920s.38As Orientais Baghdadis spoke Judaeo-Arabic, an Arabie dialect written with Hebrew letters which, in its various forms, performed throughout the centuries a pivotai communication rôle between Jews from North Africa, to Egypt, Yémen, Palestine, Babylonia and
32 Kangxi zidian (Kangxi dictionary), vol. 1 (reprint. Shanghai: Guang cangxuequn, 1927).33 Betta, ''''Hardoon'''', chapter five passim.34 NCH, 12 Dec. 1918 quoted in Meyer, ''''Sephardi,'''' p. 157.35 R. Krasno, review of K. Cuthbertson, Nobody Said not to Go: The Life, Loves andAdventures of Emily Hahn (Boston and London, 1998), in Points East 16 (March 2001),p. 10.36 Personal communication of a former Shanghai resident.37 On the arrivai of Russian Jews in Shanghai see M. Reynders Ristaino, Port ofLast Resort: The Diaspora Communities of Shanghai (Stanford University Press, 2001),esp. pp. 21-6, 29-33.38 See G. Sokolsky''''s comments quoted in E. Yutkowitz, ''''Shanghai Fortunes'''', B''''naiB''''rith International Jewish Monthly 101 (March 1987), pp. 35-9. India.39 The fîrst two waves of Baghdadi Jews who sojourned or settled in Shanghai spoke Judaeo-Arabic as their mother tongue and had usually learnt to write it at David Sassoon''''s school in Bombay. English was definitely their second language as can be seen by Silas Aaron Hardoon who spoke English with a thick Arabie accent.40 Espe-cially the first génération of settlers spoke approximate English, something which in 1888 led a British solicitor to remark that his client Benjamin David Benjamin ''''expressed himself regarding my rémunération in an extravagant and oriental manner.'''' Benjamin spoke broken English and in his commercial dealings he therefore entrusted his brother-in-law, David Hai Silas to draft his English correspondence.41Many Baghdadis in Shanghai and Hong Kong could still speak Judaeo-Arabic in the fîrst décades of the twentieth Century, even if the younger génération was increasingly adopting English as its fîrst language. Arguably, Judaeo-Arabic was more résilient among the poorer sections of the Baghdadi population who engaged only in superficial social interaction with the local British Community. At the beginning of the thirties some Baghdadis, such as Joseph Judah Moalem the beadle (shamash) of a local synagogue, were still not proficient in English. Moalem possessed only basic knowledge of English, could not write it, and the whole Moalem family spoke in Judaeo-Arabic among themselves.42 Written Judaeo-Arabic was used to record commercial transactions at least until the early nineties by smaller Baghdadi firms.43 On this issue we can rely only on fragment-ary évidence from court proceedings since business records of Bagh¬dadi traders in Shanghai have not survived except those of E. D. Sassoon & Co. and Silas Aaron Hardoon. As for the Sassoon compan-ies they seemingly started to keep their accounts in English slightly earlier than smaller Baghdadi traders; certainly they already kept their opium files in English in the 1880s.44 Though Judaeo-Arabic
39 B. Weinstein, ''''JudaeoArabic in India'''', Journal of Indo-Judaic Studies 1 (1999),pp. 53-68.40 Wu Kaisheng zhuanlue (Profile of Wu Kaisheng), Shanghai Municipal Archives,unpublished manuscript.41 NCH, 26 May 1888, p. 591; NCH, 13 June, p. 684; NCH, 25 Sept. 1885, p.381; NCH, 1 June, 1888, p. 620.42 ''''Moalem Will Case'''', NCH, 27july 1932, p. 149.43 ''''Kelly Silas Kelly v. Raphael Sidka Raphael'''', NCH, 12 March 1884, p. 303.44 This Observation is based on the viewing of some files of E. D. Sassoon & Co.kept in the Shanghai House Property Administration Bureau Archives. provided a high degree of secrecy to merchants, it probably hindered modern business practices and the Sassoons were compelled to switch to English as a measure to rationalize their book-keeping. Yet, though Judaeo-Arabic disappeared from commercial records, it was still used by elderly Baghdadis such as Silas Aaron Hardoon to jot down notes in the late 1920s.45As Orientais, Baghdadis born or raised in India could also com-municate in Hindustani, a lingua franca used in India''''s ports. According to Jael Silliman, middle-class Jews in Calcutta in the late nineteenth Century spoke at home not only Judaeo-Arabic but also Hindustani.46 In Shanghai, Baghdadis with Indian links could also converse in Hindustani. Fluency in the language was useful for com-mercial purposes, and at least in one case a Baghdadi worked as a translator from Hindustani into English for a Sindhi firm.47 Less orthodox was the usage of Hindustani epithets such as ''''son of a pig'''', a brutally offensive term which was used during a dispute between two Baghdadi families which ended in the local British court.48

The Baghdadis as Imagined Britons
Soon after the middle of the nineteenth Century the Baghdadi Jewish elite in India started to discard its Oriental way of life, and gradually mapped an imagined British identity, thus moving from a Judaeo-Arabic to a Judaeo-British identity.49 In this respect, Baghdadis in Bombay in the 1830s defined themselves Jewish merchants of Arabia, Inhabitants and résidents of Bombay'''', but later identified as Sephardim.50 As for Shanghai they started to call their Community Sephardi not only to distinguish themselves from newly arrived Rus-sian Ashkenazi Jews but also to stress their European héritage.51 Though the great majority of Shanghai''''s Sephardim traced their roots in Baghdad, some originated from other areas, such as Tedofilo
45 Archives of the Hardoon Company, Yi 2123.46 Silliman, ''''Borders'''', p. 60.47 ''''E. Solomon v. Chotermoll & Co.'''', NCH, 24 Nov. 1905, p. 441.48 ''''Jacob v. Gazal, et al. \ NCH, 24 Dec. 1926; p. 594.49 Silliman, ''''Borders'''', p. 57.50 Roland, India, pp. 16, 115, 117, 121-4.51 On Baghdadis'''' identification as Sephardim see Meyer, ''''Sephardi'''', esp. pp. 54-60. Toledano, the honorary secretary of the Jewish Communal Associ¬ation of Shanghai, who was born in Leghorn, an Italian port city which hosted a flourishing Sephardi community.02The Anglicization of the Baghdadi élite in India should be corn-pared to a similar process undergone by the Parsi community, which was, however, a much larger and, at least in the first half of the nineteenth Century, also a more commercially influential group than the Baghdadis. Most likely, Parsis started to adopt English modes of life slightly earlier than the Baghdadis and as a whole probably became more English than the Baghdadis, though this affirmation rests on spéculative grounds and should be corroborated by further studies.53 What is certain is that both the Parsi and Baghdadi Jewish élite in Bombay embraced the model of the English gentleman whole-heartedly and led Anglicized life-styles characterized by visits to London, membership of clubs, and western-style résidences.In Shanghai Baghdadi traders and their families shed their Ori¬ental héritage gradually and underwent a process of Anglicization, along similar lines to those experienced by their co-religionists in Bombay, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore and Hong Kong. Already in the second part of the nineteenth Century Arabic-sounding names became unfashionable and were replaced by their Western counter-parts, Western dress was the norm—certainly for the younger gén¬ération—and the interior décoration of Baghdadi houses followed that of the local British community. English, especially in its written form, became the main language of the community, even if Judaeo-Arabic continued to be spoken, as highlighted in the above pages, by a section of the population as late as the 1930s.34 Judaeo-Arabic publications, in contrast to India, never appeared in Shanghai, mostly because the local Baghdadi population was too small, and when a community mouthpiece was needed it was published in English. IsraeVs Messenger, the officiai organ of the Shanghai Zionist Association, was first published in 1904 and continued to appear, with intervais, until 1941, remaining the most enduring Jewish pub-
52 IM, 29 Sept. 1909.53 For an early portrayal of an Anglicized Parsi family see I. Pfeiffer, A LadysVoyage Round the World (A selected translation from the German) (London: Long-man, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1851), pp. 163-5. See also T. M. Luhrman, TheGood Parsi: The Fate of a Colonial Elite in a Postcolonial Society (Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press, 1996).54 On the Anglicization of the Baghdadi community see Meyer, ''''Sephardi'''' pp.95-6, 98, 154, 161. lication in Shanghai. Under the rather despotic editorship of N. E. B. Ezra, a Baghdadi born in Labore (Pakistan), this publication pro-vided a comprehensive picture of Jewish life in Shanghai and still remains a precious source for researchers.55 It needs, however, to be used with great discrétion since many articles consciously manip-ulate the présentation of the Baghdadi community by striving to présent it as perfectly integrated and accepted within Shanghai''''s British society. Between the lines, we can, in effect, detect a strenu-ous effort by the Baghdadis to project a Westernized self-image.As imagined Britons the Baghdadi commercial élite together with prominent Parsis and Gujarati Muslims, displayed staunch support for the British Crown during events such as the célébrations held for Queen Victoria''''s Jubilee in 1898. As a reward for their loyalty, lead¬ing Baghdadi, Parsis and Gujarati Muslims joined the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce and were routinely invited to balls and offi¬ciai affairs of the British community. Many of these events involved Baghdadis interacting socially not only with British settlers, their main allies, but also with British expatriâtes, who were usually posted in Shanghai only for a few years.56 The importance Baghdadis placed on fostering their ties with British diplomats and managers— who spent only a few years in Shanghai—can be inferred in the per¬sonal correspondence of Silas Aaron Hardoon, probably the least Anglicized among the Baghdadi elite, with diplomats and managers of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation.57On a social level, Baghdadi traders in Shanghai sought acceptance in the British community by adopting an Anglicized way of life: they belonged to a club, acquired a taste for drinking whiskey and a pas¬sion for riding and breeding horses. However, as a whole, they never became keen sportsmen and did not play cricket, the most gentle-manly of sports, which ''''in Victorian England and its colonies'''' was considered to be ''''the perfect expression of the values of bourgeois
55 G. F. Neilist, Men of Shanghai and North China. A Standard Biographical RéférenceWork (Shanghai: Oriental Press, 1933), pp. 118, 121.56 The Queen''''s Diamond Jubilee Permanent Memorial Fund'''', NCH, 28 March1898; The Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce'''', NCH, 8 May 1891; ''''Pre-sentation to Mr E. F. Alford'''', NCH, 10 April 1899, p. 635; ''''St George''''s Ball'''', NCH,1 May 1891, p. 539; ''''Farewell Dinner to Sir R. T. Rennie and Mr P. J. Hughes,NCH, 3 April 1891, p. 408.57 G. S. Moss to Hardoon, 21 Dec. 1930; Moss to Hardoon, 9 March 1931; Har-doon to Moss, no date (draft); Moss to Hardoon, 19 March 1931; and 28 March1931; Tita Stephen to Hardoon, 13 June 1926; correspondence between Liza Har-doon and Catherine Lowson (no date), Archives of the Hardoon Company, Yi 2119. civility, Anglo-Saxon ethics, and public school morality''''.3H In contrast Parsis were accomplished cricketers in Bombay as well as in Shang¬hai where a Parsi team regularly competed on the local cricket pitch. Quite significantly, Parsis were apparently not included in any local British team, a conspicuous sign of the social barriers erected by the local British Community.59 Even as late as the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai Baghdadis, like Parsis, were not fully socially accepted within the British Community, something which is revealed by the callous reluctance of the Shanghai club, the city''''s most prestigious British club, to include Baghdadi Jews in its ranks.60 Nevertheless, most Baghdadi traders belonged to an international club such as the American club, the Cercle Sportif Français or the Race club.61Integration in British society might have been hindered especially in the last part of the nineteenth Century by anti-Semitism, which simmered quietly among some sections of the local British Commun¬ity. Anti-semitic remarks vented by local Britons were occasionally published in the 1880s by the Celestial Empire, the weekly édition of the Shanghai Mercury, a daily British newspaper. The depth of such feelings surfaces in a booklet centred on the rise and fall of Benjamin David Benjamin, whose financial problems had been fully disclosed by Shanghai''''s British press. The subtitle of the book Wealth, Fraud and Poverty. Les Juifs entre eux (the Jews among themselves), hints at disclosing the dark secrets of Shanghai''''s Baghdadis, their shady world of chicanery, impénétrable to the local British community. The author of the booklet, a certain George Thirkell, expresses his préju¬dices when he déclares that Benjamin was ''''only a Jew, and what British, American, German, or French merchant would be guided or influenced by him!''''62 He also draws upon anti-Semitic harangue and asserts that Benjamin''''s . . ways and customs left the impression that the Almighty Dollar was the God he worshipped.''''63Though we possess a relatively complète picture of Baghdadi men both as traders and as fringe members of the Shanghai British com-munity, we have little insight on quotidian existences of Baghdadi
58 S. Gikandi, Maps of Englishness: Writing Identity in the Culture of Colonialism (New-York: Columbia University Press 1996), p. 9.59 ''''Shanghai Public School C.C. v. The Parsees'''', NCH, 31 May 1907, p. 518.60 List of Members of the Shanghai Club (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1921).bl For club membership of Baghdadi Jews see C. Lunt, China Whos Who 1926 (Foreign) A Biographical Dictionary (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1926), pp. 23, 113, 250-1.62 Thirkell, Benjamin, 2.63 Ibid., 7. women in Shanghai, a thread of the history of the Baghdadi Com¬munity in China which is awaiting study and appréciation.64 Most likely in the fîrst décades of Baghdadi présence in the city, between the 1850s and 1880s, only a handful of women took up résidence in the Shanghai foreign Settlements. Two of them passed away between 1875 and 1883: Simha, the young wife of the settler Raphael Sidka Raphael and Ghaela, the aged widow of Moses David, originally from Calcutta.65 In the early days, women probably lived within a rather restricted Baghdadi world and had much less social interaction with westerners than their husbands. Arguably, their process of Angliciz-ation might have been slower than that undergone by men who, through their businesses, had daily contacts outside the Baghdadi Community.Most importantly women took care of their families and perpetu-ated Baghdadi traditions and culture in their homes: Mesopotamia always retained an important place in the collective memory of the Baghdadi diaspora.66 Israel Cohen recollects the visit to a home in Shanghai whereThe Sabbath table presented the traditional genial appearance, except that the ''''loaves'''' were like large, flat, blistered pancakes, though tasting unmis-takably like bread. I was told that the Sabbath bread of this shape was baked in the homes of all orthodox eastern Jews, and I afterwards came across it in Singapore, Rangoon and Calcutta. Most of the dishes were of the Bagdad or Levantine school of cookery, which is faithfully preserved in most of the Sephardic households throughout the East, and there was an unusual abundance of fruit, with diverse Oriental species such as the pawpaw and the pumelo.67At the beginning of the twentieth Century and most likely even before, well-off Baghdadi women decorated their home in a fashion similar to British dwellings, a conspicuous sign of their eagerness to adopt an Anglicized life-style. Living in a Westernized domestic place marked the adoption of European tastes for Baghdadi Jews as well as for Parsis, both in Shanghai and Bombay. In their own quest of imagining a British identity, well-off Baghdadi women participated in social activities fostered by British women, a confirmation that they could speak English and that they were Willing to seek integra-
64 On women of the Baghdadi diaspora see the récent Si\\ima.n, Jewish Portraits,passim.65 NCH, 22 Sept. 1883.66 Meyer, ''''Sephardi'''', chapter 3 passim.67 Cohen,Journal, 125. tion in Shanghais British circles. In this respect, Baghdadi women took up the very British passion of gardening and competed with British housewives in contests organized by the local horticultural society that were then reported by the magazine Social Shanghai.6* Baghdadi women then manifested their allegiance to the British empire during the First World War when they co-operated in charit¬able activities carried out by the local British Community to raise funds for widows and orphans of the Allied forces.69Marriage was without any doubt the core of Baghdadi women''''s lives, and weddings represented an important family event, which was celebrated with great pomp and display of largesse. The long and elaborate ''''Oriental'''' weddings that took place in Baghdad, were replaced in Shanghai by cérémonies where brides wore fashionable western wedding gowns and the choreography was enriched by bridesmaids and maids of honour. Wedding réceptions resembled those of British events and were either held in Baghdadi houses or were organized at local venues such as the Majestic and Astor House hôtels.70 On a gênerai level, weddings reinforced the kinship ties between Baghdadis of the diaspora since brides often originated from Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong and Singapore. Even when both spouses came from Shanghai their families still retained wide con¬tacts all over Asia. Such was the case of the wedding of Katie Moosa with J. S. Abraham when gifts were sent from Bombay, Hong Kong and Kobe.71

The Other Baghdadis
The above pages have attempted to give a gênerai insight of how affluent and wealthy Baghdadis imagined a British identity during their stay in Shanghai. Yet we should be aware that Anglicization among Baghdadis in Shanghai as well as in the other communities of the Baghdadi diaspora, was directly linked to class distinctions.
68 ''''The Chrysanthemum Exhibition'''', Social Shanghai, July-Dec. 1906, pp. 238—9.69 ''''Aili yuan yijihui zhi buzhi'''' (The préparation of the Allies relief meeting of theAili Garden), Shenbao, 26 May 1915; ''''The Garden Fete. Splendid Show for AlliesRelief Funds'''', NCH, 29 May 1915, pp. 627-8; ''''The Garden Fete. All Round theFun of the Fair'''', NCH, 5 June, 1915, pp. 696-7.70 ''''An Interesting Jewish Wedding'''', Social Shanghai, Jan.-June 1907, pp. 159-60;Meyer, ''''Sephardi'''', 93-6.71 IM, 3 April 1908, p. 9. The middle and upper-middle classes—such as the employées of the Sassoon firms—became less English than the upper échelons, who not only frequently travelled to Great Britain and belonged to a London club but also had their children educated in the country. As for the lower middle-classes, formed mainly by small traders who catered for the daily needs of the Baghdadi Community, they retained a strong Judaeo-Arabic cultural identity far longer than their more privileged co-religionists. The owner of the shop Abraham & Co., which in 1908 sold at ''''moderate prices'''' foodstuffs such as Indian condiments, butter and sweetmeats could not be expected to share the same Anglicized lifestyle of the Baghdadi upper-middle and upper classes.72 His business was small and did not appear in any commercial directory: he certainly did not socialize with the British commercial élite and had not been admitted to a gentleman''''s club. Nevertheless, his children might have received a British éducation, which would have furthered their own intégration into Western Shanghai.Westernization was not an option for the scores of destitute Jews of Middle Eastern extraction and their families who made a living travelling between Jewish communities from Jerusalem to Shanghai and survived on the edge of wealthier co-religionists either by asking alms or by taking menial jobs. Itinérant beggars, small peddlers and adventurers could not speak English and were not familiär with west¬ern customs: in their pérégrinations, they interacted almost exclus-ively with fellow co-religionists, thus moving across geographical boundaries but remaining within a familiär cultural world. Most importantly, the Baghdadis'''' westernization along class lines was not unusual among members of traditional trade diasporas such as in the case of the Greeks of Egypt whose elite was strongly westernized whilst the lower classes had adopted customs from the surrounding environment.73Poor Jews who reached Shanghai after stopping in other commu¬nities of the Baghdadi trade diaspora should be looked at in the wider framework of adventurers, swindlers and refugees who sailed to Shanghai, a port of easy access, from the four corners of the earth. The British, the dominant force in the International Settlement were compelled to cope daily with their own ''''other'''': poor Britons ''''. . . who
72 For an advertisement of the shop see IM, 20 April, 1906.73 I would like to thank Prof. Socrates Petmezas of the History department of theUniversity of Crète for having pointed this out to me. were felt to undermine the "prestige" of the "white race" in the city in the eyes of the Chinese, and the character of the Community in the eyes of the diplomats.''''74 Vagrants from the colonies, especially from India, were also not welcome as explicitly explained by a British resident ''''Indians of ail grades and castes . . . land here without employment and with no prospects of obtaining any . . .''''.75 These Indians were mostly Sikhs, Muslim Punjabis and Pathans who in the best of cases found jobs in the Shanghai municipal police or in the local gaol and in worst cases ended up begging in Shanghai''''s streets.76 Not surprisingly, Parsis were at pains to draw a line between themselves and the ''''other'''' Indians since poor unruly Parsis were certainly not an issue in Shanghai.77Peddling goods, especially clothes, to the more affluent members of the Community was one of the main means of survival for poor Jews of Middle Eastern origin. When they decided to spend longer periods in Shanghai they sometimes opened small shops, rather than selling goods door-to-door. Their lives and businesses were often pre-carious as can be seen by the story of Rachel Reuben, a native of Baghdad who, in association with her husband Sassoon Reuben, ran a muslin shop between 1895 and 1903. Yet Sassoon Reuben was a rather unruly character and in 1899 was accused with a fellow Bagh¬dadi of having assaulted a local silk dealer. During ensuing court proceedings both he and his wife Rachel gave évidence by speaking both Hindustani and English, which suggests that the Baghdadi lower classes did not speak fluent English. Notwithstanding the accusations, the Reubens''''s business continued until 1903 when Sas¬soon sailed to Bombay with the officiai excuse to conduct some busi¬ness. In reality, once in India he married a second wife without Rachel''''s knowledge. The latter refused to continue living with him on the grounds that she might have been forced to support him by begging and brought her case to court.78 Rachel''''s story shows how women represented the most vulnerable section of poor Jews: they were the ''''invisible'''' within the Baghdadis'''' ''''other''''. In another court
Robert Bickers, ''''Shanghailanders: The Formation and Identity of the British Settier Community in Shanghai'''', Past and Présent, no. 159 (May 1998), p. 192.75 Letter of Charles Prest published in NCH, 27 June 1908, p. 815.76 See for example ''''H.B.M. Police Court. R. v. Abdul Rahman'''', NCH, 12 Feb.1904.77 Letter from ''''Sensitive'''', NCH, 29 May 1909, p. 529.78 ''''Sassoon Reuben Assault'''', NCH, 11 Sept. 1899, p. 540; NCH, 2 June, 1904, p. case in 1905 a certain Michael Koodorah (Kadoorah) ''''was charged with maliciously and feloniously cutting, wounding, and mutilating the body of Sarah Abraham with a razor . . . causing her grievous bodily harm.''''79 The brutal attack might have been a unique case among Jews of Middle Eastern origin but nevertheless raises the disturbing problem of physical abuse, most likely endured in silence by indigent women of many différent origins and religious faiths in Shanghai.Itinérant Jews constituted a worrisome problem for the Baghdadi Community, which took care of its own poor but, at the same time, was also not inclined to give unrestrained aid to professional beggars. David Sassoon, Sons & Co. provided assistance to elderly employées who could not rely on family support but was not necessarily inclined to extend its aid to vagrant Jews and did not help a certain Isaac David who begged in front of the firm''''s premises in the summer of 1904. David''''s story was représentative of Jewish vagabond paupers: he was a shoemaker by trade, came originally from Persia and had attempted to make a living by moving to différent communities of the Baghdadi trade diaspora.80 Other paupers with similar back-grounds used ingenious ruses to attract the compassion of Shanghai''''s co-religionists and also of the city''''s western population. At the end of September of 1882 a woman with a child asked financial help to return to Palestine by using a pétition written in broken English and signed by ''''Sassoon Isaac and Rachel, his wife''''. It maintained thatOwing to the great famine the Lord visited upon us with that place about 121 years ago we were forced to quit the place and proceed to Cochin in hopes of meeting some of our countrymen, and unable to find any of our friends there was obliged to proceed to Singapore. We are at présent in great distress; we are undergoing the greatest hardships and difficulties to proceed to our country.81The woman apparently belonged to one of two groups of Jewish beggars who, after being arrested, were deported from Shanghai by the municipal authorities of the International Settlement, a measure often enforced in such cases.Beseeching alms was the worst fate which could fall upon Bagh¬dadis of the diaspora and a deep-seated fear of turning into mendic-ants seemed to be rooted among the poorest section of the popula-
''''S.M. Police v. Koodorah Michael'''', NCH, 29 Sept. 1905, p. 739. ''''A Mad Jew'''', NCH, 18 Jan. 1899, p . 71 ; CE, 12 Aug. 1904. 4Professional Beggars'''', CE, 4 Oct. 1882, p. 278. tion. This clearly émerges in a 1926 court case which involved Ezekiel Jacob, the ritual slaughterer (shohet) of the Jewish Communal Association against David Saul Gazai and his family. Gazai and his relatives were charged with having attacked Jacob, after accusing him of having badly slaughtered their meat. In reality Gazal''''s anim-osity stemmed from the fact that he had been previously removed from the position of slaughterer and had subsequently not been able to secure a stable occupation, a circumstance which had made him and his family ''''beggars by force''''.82 We cannot verify whether his version of events was exaggerated, but what certainly transpires from his words is what many Baghdadis considered as the last resort to make ends meet: total reliance on wealthier and luckier co-religionists. Quite clearly the world of Baghdadis in Shanghai was multi-faceted and not everyone lived the rarefied existences of the established Baghdadi traders.
According to the central argument of this essay, Baghdadi Jewish traders during their stay in Shanghai mapped an imagined British identity with local connotations that was inextricably linked to the treaty port mentality of British settlers in China. If London was a distant place for Britons who had set their roots in Shanghai, it was even more remote for Baghdadi Jews whose families hailed from British India and whose grandfathers and great-grandfathers origin-ated from Mesopotamia. The main point of référence for Shanghai''''s Baghdadis was the foreign Settlements, their permanent home, which had flourished into an international trade centre also as a resuit of their own entrepreneurial spirit. In the Settlements Bagh¬dadis forged a close alliance with the local British oligarchy, which in order to foster its interests relied heavily on the support of the Baghdadi merchant élite. In such circumstances, rigid social barriers, which existed in London and persisted in formai colonial environ¬ments, might have been bent, at least for the upper échelons of Baghdadi merchants, to accommodate the needs of British settlers. Nevertheless, the insularity of the British Community and other fac-tors such as latent anti-Semitism, did not imply füll inclusion of Baghdadi Jews within British circles: Baghdadis remained on the fringe of the British Community: trusted allies, yet still strangers.The Baghdadis'''' imagined British identity in Shanghai was charac-terized not only by a local but also by an imperial dimension, which82 ''''Jacob v. Gazal, et al. \ 24 Dec. 1926; p. 594; ''''A Tiff in Jewry and a Court Case'''', NCH, 4 Nov. 1926, p. 461. was shared with the Baghdadis of the trade diaspora. For pragmatic reasons in the second half of the nineteenth century Baghdadi Jews from India to Japan readily discarded their ties with the declining Ottoman empire and enthusiastically embraced the cause of the British empire. For Baghdadi children born and brought up in Bombay, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai the world was ruled from London; arbitrary sultans in Constantino¬ple and capricious governors in Baghdad were mere legendary fig¬ures. The imperial identity of Baghdadi Jews overlapped with the imagined British identity of Parsis and Gujarati Muslims, who, how¬ever, as sojourners never moulded a local identity in Shanghai. The Baghdadis'''' relationship to the British in Shanghai was therefore more complex than that of sojourning diasporas as it was articulated on two distinct levels: local and imperial.As imagined Britons Baghdadi Jews sought to distance themselves from their Oriental past and consciously discarded habits and modes of life, which might have been considered Oriental by the wider west¬ern community. Yet, we cannot exactly define when Baghdadis ceased to be perceived as Orientals and started to be regarded as imagined Britons: the borders between being Orientals or imagined Britons were in reality porous, especially in the late nineteenth cen¬tury. What is indisputable is that class fractured Baghdadi identities: the upper classes became Anglicized earlier than the middle and upper-middle classes, whilst the lower-middle classes had little necessity to integrate within the British community, though this might not apply to the younger generations from the late 1920s onwards. Finally, vagrant Jews of Middle Eastern origin constituted the Baghdadis'''' underclass and constantly challenged the westernized image that the wealthiest classes wanted to project among Shang¬hai''''s westerners. To conclude, whether Orientals or imagined Bri¬tons, we cannot overlook the fact that Baghdadi Jews in Shanghai as well as in the other communities of their trade diaspora retained deep emotional ties with Mesopotamia, the place of origin of their ancestors, thus providing a vital sense of cultural cohesion to their experience in South, Southeast and East Asia.