HONG KONG, former British crown colony (1842–1997), S. China. The *Sassoon family arrived on the scene when Hong Kong was ceded to Great Britain in 1842. They transferred their offices from neighboring Canton to Hong Kong and helped to develop this new port. The Sassoons and the *Kadoorie brothers made it their policy to employ only Jewish managers and clerks, mainly of Baghdadi origin. The Hong Kong Jewish community was first established in 1857 and the Ohel Leah synagogue, built by Sir Jacob Sassoon, was opened in 1900. The outbreak of World War II and the consequent Japanese occupation of Hong Kong temporarily suspended all Jewish activities there. The Jewish population numbered 60 Sephardim in 1882; 100 in 1921, mainly Sephardim; 250 in 1954, half Sephardim and half Ashkenazim; 230 in all in 1959; and 200 in 1968, 70 Sephardim and 130 Ashkenazim. An honorary consul of Israel resided in Hong Kong.
In 1974 it was stated that the Ohel Leah Synagogue and the Jewish Recreation Club in Hong Kong had a combined membership of some 450, but two years later the number was given as a mere 200.
In 1973 Rev. Solomon Truzman, a graduate of the Montefiore College in England, was appointed minister. In the same year Father Hubert Vogt, a German Franciscan Friar, brought to the notice of Sir Lawrence Kadoorie that four Sifrei Torah (donated in 1915 to the Hong Kong congregation) were for sale at the open-air "Thieves' Market" in Hong Kong; Sir Lawrence and his brother, Horace, purchased them and presented them to the synagogue. It is thought that they must have been taken to China some years ago and brought back from Hankow by a refugee immediately after the war.
In 1973 an official Israel Consulate was opened on the island, but was closed at the end of 1974 with the interests of Israel subsequently served by Honorary Consul-General Victor Zirinsky. By the mid-1990s the Hong Kong community was substantial in size. Its population was estimated at 3,000–4,000 in the mid-1990s and at about 3,000 in 2004. The increase consisted mainly of single people. Americans and Israelis constituted two-thirds of the community. There were four congregations with three rabbis, and the community opened a new Jewish community center, replacing the old Jewish Club. A full time Jewish day school was also opened. There is little antisemitism. The takeover of Hong Kong by mainland China in 1997 had no real effect on the local Jewish community. There was an Israeli consulate-general on Harcourt Road.
I. Cohen, Journal of a Jewish Traveler (1925), 115–21. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: C.B. Pluss, A Social History of the Jews of Hong Kong: A Resource Guide (1998).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.