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Iconic Jewish baker Nahoum passes away

Jewish bakery Nahoum and Sons was set up in 1902 by David’s grandfather Nahoum Israel, an émigré from Baghdad.


David Nahoum (in pic) joined the family business in 1990s. Nahoum bakery is presently being looked after by David’s Israel-based brother Isaac (below), who came to Kolkata last month.

he passing away of David Nahoum, 86, the owner of Kolkata's iconic Jewish bakery, Nahoum and Sons in New Market refocused ended an era in the city's 110-year-old tradition in Swiss-style baking. The bakery was set up in 1902 by David's grandfather Nahoum Israel, an émigré from Baghdad.

Nahoum became an instant hit with the British expatriates and the Anglo-Indian community before the local Bengali population began warming up to delicacies such as rich plum and fruit cakes, cheese straws, pastries and jam tarts. During Christmas, the queue outside the shop for plum cakes stretches up to the market gate.

An engineer by profession, David, who remained a bachelor all his life, quit his job at Martin Burn in 1964 to start a business, but decided to devote his full time to the bakery after the death of his two brothers, Norman and Solomon, in the early 1990s.

The bakery is presently being looked after by David's Israel-based brother Isaac, who came to Kolkata last month. "David used his engineering skills to modernise the bakery when he took over. He stopped using coal and switched over to gas fired ovens," Isaac told this newspaper.

David was also involved in charity and contributed money to the city's Jewish Girls School, the Elias Myer Free School, synagogues and burial grounds.

Atanu Chatterjee, a salesman at Nahoum's, who accompanied David to his dialysis sessions, said, "Sahib never made me feel like his employee, but always told doctors that I was a friend."

The bakery would be visited by many of David's friends who would sit in circles around the century-old teakwood furniture in the shop. "My brother used to go fishing and hunting wild boars with his Anglo Indian friends," remembered Isaac.Image 2nd

Isaac said that after taking over the shop, David made sure that the Swiss patisserie inspired Nahoum never compromised with its products.

When asked about the shop's famous clientele, Isaac, who used to visit Kolkata every Christmas, rattled off the names: "Cricket commentator Pearson Surita, Suchitra Sen, Bob Wright of Tollygunge Club, Aparna Sen, Usha Uthup, singer Manna De, filmmaker Anjan Dutt and many others."

According to Isaac, the shop's crowning moment was when Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury came to the city. "When we sent him a cake, Dr Fisher certified that it was the best fruit cake he had ever had," smiled Isaac.

To the city's vibrant Anglo-Indian community of the 1960-70s, Nahoum's was the place to do some "tucking in" after a spot of shopping. Anglo-Indians from all over the world visited the bakery last December, when the community reunited in Kolkata.

Isaac's visa is scheduled to expire in April but he is confident. He pointed towards the manager Jessica Baptist and the rest of the staff and said, "We have a dedicated staff, handpicked and personally trained by David. So business will be as usual at Nahoum's."

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