- EZRA, family prominent in India in the 19th and 20th centuries. JOSEPH BEN EZRA BEN JOSEPH KHLEF (d. 1855), one of the notables of the Jewish community in Baghdad, traveled to India at the beginning of the 19th century. Together with his sons Ezekiel and David, he settled in Calcutta, engaging in commerce and becoming very wealthy. After some time, he returned to Baghdad, where he died. The family was known as Baḥer (Ar. "sea"), possibly because they were among the first to cross the sea to India. The traveler benjamin ii first mentioned Joseph as among the most distinguished personalities of Calcutta in 1849. Joseph's son DAVID (1797–1882) was president of the Calcutta Jewish community and one of the outstanding Oriental philanthropists. Contributing generously to charitable institutions in India and Iraq, he assisted the Palestinian sheluḥim ("emissaries") who often visited India, and also provided funds for the ransoming of captives. A street was named after him in Calcutta, where he built two magnificent synagogues: Neweh Shalom (1856) and Bet El (1870). His son ELIAS DAVID (1830–1886) was also a wealthy philanthropist. In 1882 he opened a school for the poor in Calcutta and in 1883/84 built a synagogue named Maghen David after his father. He contributed 12,000 rupees toward the establishment of a zoological garden which became known as "Ezra House." In 1870, he married Mozelle (Mazal-Tov; 1850–1921), the daughter of Sir Albert sassoon . She founded a large hospital for the poor in Calcutta, named Ezra Hospital after her husband, and two yeshivot: Mazal Ẓome'aḥ and Knesset Eliahu in Jerusalem. Their son SIR DAVID (1871–1947), president of the Jewish community of Calcutta, was also a noted philanthropist. In 1912 he married Rachel (1877–1952), daughter of Solomon David Sassoon. Both were active in many spheres of public life: David was president of a scientific society for the study of nature in India; Rachel founded the League of Jewish Women in 1913 and administered two hospitals. In recognition of their services to India, David was knighted in 1927. During World War II, they gave generous relief to refugees from Europe. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.S. Sassoon, History of the Jews in Baghdad (1949), index. (Abraham Ben-Yaacob)
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.