Naim Dangoor

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Sir Naim Dangoor
Naim Dangoor.jpg
Naim Dangoor (left) with his friend Ahmed Safwat in 1940s
BornApril 1914
Died19 November 2015(2015-11-19) (aged 101)
London, United Kingdom
Alma materUniversity of London
Known forPhilanthropy
Spouse(s)Renée Dangoor (1947–2008)
ChildrenDavid Dangoor and three other sons
Parent(s)Eliahou Dangoor
RelativesHakham Ezra Reuben Dangoor (grandfather)

Sir Naim Eliahou Dangoor, CBE (April 1914 – 19 November 2015) was a British-naturalised Iraqi-born Jewish entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Baghdad in April 1914, the second of six siblings. His father Eliahou Dangoor (1883–1976) was the world's largest printer of Arabic books,[1] and his grandfather Hakham Ezra Reuben Dangoor was the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad.[2]

In the 1930s, Dangoor made the five-day journey from Baghdad to London, at the age of 17, in order to enroll in an engineering degree at the University of London.[3] After graduating he returned to Iraq where he was conscripted into the army and became an officer. It was during his army training that he met his future business partner Ahmed Safwat.[3]


Initially on leaving the army he had hoped to become an engineer on the railways, but due to restrictions imposed upon Jews this was not possible, so he and Ahmed, a Muslim, decided to go into business together, setting up Eastern Industries in 1949.

Their first contract was to supply new windows to all Iraqi government buildings, and soon their portfolio grew to include property development and letting.[4] In 1950, Eastern industries secured the first contract to bottle Coca-Cola in Iraq.[5] Alongside Eastern Industries, Dangoor also ran factories producing matches and furniture.

With the founding of the State of Israel and the resulting conflict between Israel and the Arab states, the situation for Jews in the country worsened and in 1959 Dangoor took the difficult decision to take his family out. He continued travelling back and forth for business until 1963, when he decided that the worsening political situation made it too risky for him to return. As a result of laws specific to Jews, he lost his Iraqi citizenship, and his property and business interests were taken by the government.[6] He was eventually permitted to settle in the UK where he set about rebuilding his life, setting up a property business that his four sons went on to join.[7]

Personal life[edit]

In November 1947, Dangoor married his cousin,[8] Renée Dangoor (who had been crowned Miss Iraq earlier that year).[9] They went on to have four sons.


In order to preserve the heritage of the community he had left behind, soon after settling in the UK, he founded a community centre in West Kensington for new Iraqi Jewish immigrants, and in 1971 began editing and publishing The Scribe – Journal of Babylonian Jewry, with 4000 subscribers in 25 countries which continued to be published for 35 years.[7][10]

In 1970 he revived the title of Exilarch – an ancient title held by the supreme leader of all the Jewish communities in Babylonia, up until the 13th Century.[11]

In 2003 he demanded £12 billion ($20 billion) from Iraq's leaders as compensation for what the Iraqi-Jewish community had lost in Iraq after the Second World War.[12]

As his business in the UK grew, he wanted to give back to the country that had taken him in. In 1980 he set up the Exilarch's Foundation, a charity that has made numerous donations to causes relating to education and health.[13]

In 2004 he created the Dangoor Scholarships to help one thousand undergraduate students who had no family history of further education, at the 1994 Group of universities.[13]

A few years later in 2009 he created the Eliahou Dangoor Scholarships, in honour of his father. These were awarded to four thousand undergraduate students, with limited means, studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.[13]

In the same year Dangoor was made honorary President for the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq.[14]

The Exilarch's Foundation also sponsors the Westminster Academy in West London, whose pupils hail from over 60 countries, many in the Middle East. Dangoor's family have been closely involved with the running of the school and have seen it go from being issued with an Ofsted 'Notice to Improve' in 2009, to being rated as 'Outstanding' in 2013.[15] Since the Academy opened the number of students achieving five A*-C GCSE grades including both English and Maths has increased from 17% to 70% in 2014.[16][17]

Dangoor also donated a significant amount to Cancer Research UK to support their website, in memory of his late wife Renée, who died from breast cancer in 2008.[18]

At Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Dangoor set up the Dangoor Centre for Personalised Medicine in the Galilee, which partners with hospitals to analyse the genetic makeup of individual patients, enabling doctors to implement the most effective treatments.[19]

In 2014 he made the largest gift to the Royal Society of Medicine in its history. The donation is being used to help support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who would like to pursue a career in medicine, as well as supporting the society's post-graduate education provision.[20]

Dangoor was also the largest private individual donor to the Francis Crick Institute in London, Europe's largest biomedical research centre.[21]

Dangoor Walk, a pathway that runs beside the Francis Crick Institute and links Midland Road with Ossulton Street, is named after him.

Through his foundation Dangoor promoted the idea of 'Universal Monotheism' a concept that he believes can bring about unity and create a framework for a global religious ethic. He has sponsored the setting up of a centre for Universal Monotheism at Bar-Ilan University from which he received an honorary doctorate in 2006.[22]

He made contributions to the University of Nanjing in China, and had a particular interest in China because his late wife Renée was born and grew up in Shanghai.[23] In Nanjing he funded scholarships for the university's Jewish Studies Institute and sponsored an international symposium on monotheism, attended by delegates from all over China, the US, Australia and Israel. In 2011 he was made a consultant professor of the University of Nanjing in recognition of his contributions.


He received an OBE in 2006, a CBE in the 2012 New Year's Honours List, and was made a Knight Bachelor in the Queen's 2015 birthday honours list.[24][25] He became the second-oldest person to be knighted, and the oldest to be knighted for the first time – Robert Mayer was 101 when he was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, but he had already been made a Knight Bachelor at the age of 60.

In 2012 Dangoor was made a fellow of Birkbeck College, part of the University of London.[26] This was in addition to his honorary fellowship of the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences, awarded in 2007.[27]

In April 2015, to mark his birthday, Coca-Cola published a piece on the first Coca-Cola bottler of Iraq sharing a centenary with the iconic Coca-Cola bottle.[28]


  1. ^ Millman, Joel (5 July 2003). "Iraq's forgotten exiles seek redress". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  2. ^ Millman, Joel. "Iraq's forgotten exiles seek redress". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  3. ^ a b Jamal Booker. "Two Centenarians: Iraq's First Coke Bottler Shares a Birth Year With the Coca-Cola Bottle". Retrieved 20 November 2015.
  4. ^ "Funding education runs in their family". The Jewish Chronicle. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  5. ^ Group, IPD. "Two Centenarians: Iraq's First Coke Bottler Shares a Birth Year With the Coca-Cola Bottle". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  6. ^ Curtis, Polly (26 November 2004). "Keeping promises". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Dr Naim Dangoor". University of Leicester. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  8. ^ "Sir Naim Dangoor, businessman - obituary". 2015-12-03. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2017-12-16.
  9. ^ "Dangoor family donates £1.1m to Cancer Research UK". UK Fundraising. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  10. ^ "The Scribe – Journal of Babylonian Jewry". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  11. ^ "EXILARCH – Encyclopaedia Iranica". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  12. ^ Millman, Joel (5 July 2003). "Iraq's forgotten exiles seek redress". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  13. ^ a b c Charlotte Oliver. "Funding education runs in their family". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  14. ^ "Association for Jewish Academics from Iraq".
  15. ^ "Ofsted | Westminster Academy". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Westminster Academy Documents" (PDF).
  17. ^ "Ofsted School Data Dashboard for Westminster Academy". Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  18. ^ "Funding and Partners". Cancer Research UK. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  19. ^ "Bar-Ilan University and the British Friends of Bar-Ilan proudly announce the establishment of the Dangoor Center for Personalised Medicine at the University's School of Medicine in the Galilee – British Friends of Bar-Ilan". Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  20. ^ "Royal Society of Medicine celebrates £2m donation from Naim Dangoor – RSM press release". Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  21. ^ "Europe's superlab: Sir Paul's cathedral". Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  22. ^ "Bar Ilan University | Honorary Doctorate Recipients". Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  23. ^ "Which country has 10 Jewish study centres? (And it's not obvious) | The Jewish Chronicle". Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  24. ^ "Jewish philanthropists, scientists and artists honoured on New Year List". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  25. ^ Amy Willis. "Queen's birthday honours: Here's the full list". Metro. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  26. ^ "Birkbeck welcomes new Fellows — Birkbeck, University of London". Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  27. ^ "Current supporters — Royal Albert Hall". Royal Albert Hall. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  28. ^