Naim Dangoor, the philanthropist who invested millions of pounds over the years into improving education in the UK, has died at the age of 101.
His death, yesterday, comes five months after the entrepreneur and self-appointed “Exilarch”, leader of Iraqi Jews living in Britain, was made a knight – the oldest Jew to be given the title.
His son David Dangoor said: "Dad passed away peacefully with his four sons at his side.
"He will forever be a great inspiration to all his family and to many others whose lives he has touched for the good. He was a proud Jew who was keen to demonstrate the positive part that Jewish people bring to the wider communities in which they find themselves."
Born in Baghdad in 1914, Sir Naim studied engineering in London in the 1930s, before returning to Iraq and running the country’s Coca Cola franchise.
There, he married Renée Dangoor, the former Miss Baghdad who died in 2008, and had four sons. When it became too difficult for Jews to remain in Iraq in the 1960s, he sought asylum in the UK, bringing his family in 1964.
According to David Dangoor, who is president of the Board of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, his father always felt indebted to the UK.
He told the JC earlier this year: “Dad felt what allowed us to come here was education. He also felt, and still feels, that if you teach people when they first come to this country, you give them the tools to make a contribution.
“He felt it important for his children to see him giving something back.”
For this reason, Sir Naim set up the Exilarch Foundation, with the intention of guaranteeing a future for those in need of an education.
Fifty years later, the Exilarch Foundation has helped to provide schooling for the neediest in society. In 2004, they created the Dangoor scholarships, offering £1,000 to people applying to 1994 group universities – amounting to £1 million.
They also created the Eliahou Dangoor scholarships, sponsoring 4,000 students with funding that the government then matched, leading to a £4 million investment into higher education. They have also been responsible for sponsoring schools, universities and the development of new academies, such as Westminster Academy on Harrow Road (renamed the Naim Dangoor Centre).
Sir Naim’s philanthropic efforts also stretched around the world. In 2011, he was made a consultant professor of China’s Nanjing University, after funding scholarships and investing in the study of “universal monotheism”.
A spokesperson from the S and P Sephardi Community, said: “We send our deepest condolences to his sons, David, Michael, Robert and Elie; sisters, Doreen Dangoor and Eileen Khalastchy; and to all his grandchildren.”
The emeritus spiritual head of the S and P Sephardi Community, Rabbi Abraham Levy, said: “Over 40 years ago Sir Naim felt that it was his duty to gather together his fellow Iraqi Jews living in London.
“The task was not an easy one. The Iraqi centre he founded and the periodical The Scribe which he edited did much to give Iraqi Jews the confidence to face their new lives in London.”
Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush said: “Sir Naim was a man of outstanding talents and versatility. His reputation as a philanthropist and an extremely gifted businessman were evident by his great success in his career.
"What was unusual was that he combined this with a powerful intellect, a gifted writing style and, above all, a humane vision. Philanthropists who have been able to articulate so well a vision of a liberal and humane Judaism practised both in this country and in the State of Israel have been few and far between. Above all he was a fine and decent person.”
The funeral will take place on Sunday in Golders Green.