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Obituary: Sir Naim Dangoor CBE

Philanthropist and businessman

Sir Naim Dangoor, who died on 19 November 2015, aged 101, first came to the UK to study engineering at the University of London in the 1930s.

Returning to his native Iraq he joined the army, and went on to build a successful property and manufacturing empire throughout the 1950s with his Muslim business partner. In the 1960s, following political unrest, he followed his fellow Jewish countrymen and left Iraq. He was exiled to the UK, forcing him to leave behind his friends, his properties and his business. Starting again with very little, Sir Naim once again built up a successful property development business.

Soon after settling in the UK, Sir Naim set up a community centre in West Kensington to support new immigrants. In 1971 he founded The Scribe as the journal of Babylonian Jewry. For over 30 years he was the editor and a prolific contributor to this journal, recording the history and experiences of the Jewish Diaspora and helping to bring together its world-wide readership.

In 1978 he established the Exilarch's Foundation, a charitable trust that helps educational and other projects in Britain and internationally. A £1 million gift for university scholarships in 2005 fulfilled a promise Sir Naim had made, saying at the time: 'I promised myself that if I was ever able to help a British university student I would, to assist the native people of the country that welcomed me. But I never dreamt I would be able to make such a big contribution.'

In 2006 Sir Naim sponsored the Westminster Academy, where a significant proportion of the intake have refugee backgrounds. In the same year he was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in recognition of his work for the Jewish community and for education. He was made a CBE in 2011 and was knighted early in 2015.

With the launch of the Eliahou Dangoor scholarships, worth a total of over £4 million including matched government funding, Sir Naim ensured that students across the country, including students at Birkbeck, were able to benefit from what was estimated to be the largest private bursary or scholarship scheme of its kind in the UK. The Eliahou Dangoor scholarship, along with countless previous acts of philanthropy, represented the fruition of his promise that he would find a way to thank the country that gave his family refuge after escaping Baathist Iraq. His charitable and community work was an enormous part of his life in the UK.