Chocolate, Tragedy, and Redemption

Cadbury Chocolate

Everyone loves chocolate and it’s so popular that it actually has its own holiday. While the Cadbury family is not only famous as one of the world’s premier chocolate brands, they were also excellent at promoting their brand. They packaged an assortment of chocolates in heart-shaped boxes to sell during Valentine's day and created the chocolate egg so popularized during Easter. But oddly enough, World Chocolate Day has recently been marked on July 7th. The Cadbury family and brand also have several streets and buildings named after them, including a wing of the Anglican International School in Jerusalem.

Richard Cadbury
Richard Cadbuy 1835 - 1899

But the story of how a school in Jerusalem has a wing named after Cadbury isn’t about the history of Chocolate, as interesting as that might be, but one of adventure, tragedy and redemption!

In 1899, Richard Cadbury traveled to Egypt for vacation. Having taken over a failing family business from his father in 1861 along with his younger brother George, Richard had already established himself as an entrepreneur and philanthropist in his own right. But sickness cares not for the rich, brilliant, nor the kind. During his trip to Egypt, Richard fell seriously ill with diphtheria and there were no adequate healthcare facilities in the country where he could receive treatment. However, the family had heard of a hospital that was both professional and modern but also built to serve the community and they held out hope for Richard’s treatment, that hospital was the CMJ hospital in Jerusalem.1

After a difficult journey, they arrived at the hospital where Richard was cared for and ministered to by the staff, including Bernard Heilpern–a Jewish Believer. Despite their best efforts, Richard Cadbury succumbed to his illness on March 22nd, 1899.

Despite this tragedy, Cadbury’s family was very grateful for the care they had received from the CMJ staff in Jerusalem, which went beyond medical care. In a letter to the hospital staff in 1949, Cadbury’s daughter Helen Dixon wrote of her memories from the time, saying in part “I shall never forget how the bells of the English church played ‘Thy will, not mine Oh Lord’ in memory of my father and his dear body was taken from the hotel to the little white-washed empty room in the hospital where we could hear the bells playing through the open window.”

The CMJ Jerusalem hospital, where Cadbury was treated. Located on the historical Prophets Street, it is now the site of CMJ's International School.
The CMJ Jerusalem hospital, where Cadbury was treated. Located on the historical Prophets Street, it is now the site of CMJ's International School. 

But the Cadbury family wanted to express their gratitude in more than just words, and they also wanted to participate in the work of ministering to the Jewish people, something the family had long taken an interest in.2 Therefore, the family donated a sum of £2,600 (valuing nearly $87,000 in 2023) for the general use of the hospital. Part of this money was used to complete a residential structure for the doctor and the rest was used to build a ward for treating infectious diseases and a memorial wing which was named after Cadbury.

Correspondence Between CMJ and the Cadbury Family
Correspondence between CMJ and the Cadbury family concerning the gift to the hospital

The care that was shown Richard was payed back in full, not just in terms of money, but the donation from Richard’s family allowed for a large upgrade in both the quality of care available to patients and also the quantity of patients who received this care. In a letter dated in August of 1899 sent to the Cadbury family and meant to express appreciation for the financial gift that enabled the hospital to expand, a hospital administrator mentions that as many as 140 patients a day were coming for treatment during an outbreak of [Ophthalmia]. This is a testament to the desperate needs of the population that the CMJ Hospital in Jerusalem served and continued to serve for many years. Beyond healthcare though, the hospital was one of the catalysts which brought Jerusalem into the 20th century and spurred the construction of other medical infrastructure in the city.

While medical infrastructure soon flourished in Jerusalem, our hospital premises was needed for some time by the local Israeli hospital, Hadassah, after 1949 until they could acquire their own land to build a new facility. The CMJ girls school for west Jerusalem also moved into the Doctor’s House that the Cadbury’s had helped build during this period. Soon the CMJ property on Prophets Street transitioned from being a hospital to being a school where it continues to serve the people of Jerusalem. The Anglican International School is one of the most elite educational institutions in the city, highly regarded for its challenging curriculum and the quality of its teachers, staff, and graduates, who often go on to study at world-class universities in Israel, North America, and Europe.

AISJ School Body
The student body at AISJ

The story of the Cadbury wing of the AISJ indeed begins with a tragedy, as the life of Richard Cadbury was cut short by an illness which he contracted while trying to enjoy a family vacation. But the reaction of his family to this tragedy was to redeem it by sponsoring the expansion of CMJ’s vitally important medical work in Jerusalem, from which many more good things came. The hundreds of lives saved by this work and the hundreds of lives enhanced by the ongoing educational work that the Cadbury wing is currently being used for are fitting tributes to the legacy of this redemptive act. That’s definitely worth remembering, and even celebrating, on World Chocolate Day and every other day.

1. Originally, the Anglican International School of Jerusalem (AISJ) was a hospital. There were no modern hospitals in the Levant when CMJ came to Jerusalem. It became apparent that a hospital and medical staff were urgently needed to minister to the mixed Arab and Jewish population. Jerusalem was already famous, as were many places in the Levant, for outbreaks of all kinds and epidemics. The first doctor that CMJ sent died only a year and a half into his service but others heeded the call and so a hospital was first built in the Old City of Jerusalem before moving out to the AISJ property.

2.  In 1992 another one of Richard’s daughters, Beatrice Boeke-Cadbury and her husband Cornelis "Kees" Boeke, were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for sheltering several Jewish children at their school in Holland during WWII.


It was great to read about the Cadbury family and Israel. As a supporter of both CMJ and chocolate(!), this was really interesting - not least because I only live a mile from the Cadbury factory in south Birmingham. Thanks for this article.

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