The original Farah, far right, Shanghai circa 1917. Pictured with her five siblings, each born along the trade route from Bombay to Shanghai.
I would like to start this new year, which brings exciting changes for Rachel Farah Selections, by sharing the story of the original Farah. My grandmother Farah was born in 1910 in Hong Kong to the Nissim family, Iraqi/Indian Jewish traders whose lineage has its roots in the Sephardic Jewish diaspora from Portugal and the Iberian peninsula in the late 1400s. The Nissims traveled to China on a trade route with extended stays in Bombay and Burma. After Farah's birth the family moved from Hong Kong to Shanghai, living in the city's bustling Jewish neighborhood.
The Nissim family made their final immigration from Shanghai to San Francisco in 1920s, traveling under the Golden Gate Bridge making their grand entrance to America; Farah was 18. Farah became an elementary school teacher teaching immigrants both in San Francisco's China Town and on the US-Mexico border in a box car.
Farah Nissim, San Francisco, mid 1930s.
Farah met her future husband Earl while playing tennis in SF's Golden Gate Park. Earl was given up by his parents to an orphanage as an adolescent at the onset of the Great Depression. He worked delivering mail at the Shell building in San Francisco but dreamed of going to college and becoming a doctor. Farah and Earl got married and she put him through medical school on her teacher's salary. He became a doctor.
My middle name Farah was given to me by my parents to keep the original Farah's spirit alive. When launching my business a few years ago most of my contacts in the wine world were skeptical of my idea to import wine from small producers in Portugal, bypass the traditional distribution system, and connect them directly to customers in the US via the internet. I could think of no better light to help guide this vision of a modern trading company than the original Farah.
The original Farah, far right, enjoying some vinho! Little Rachel Farah bottom middle circa 1990.
When Covid hit last year my calendar of events evaporated. I thought it would take a miracle to make it through the year. By building deeper partnerships and online offerings with my Portuguese producers and the outpouring of support of online orders from all of you across the US, I am now expanding the business.
For the past few years I have been conducting all aspects of RFS (including packing boxes!) myself with the help of some seriously amazing friends and family. The success of 2020 has pushed me to embark on raising a round of seed capital to help hire a team, split between Portugal and the US, and expand my Portuguese product line to grow the vision of this modern trading company.
With the help of the Foreign Trade Division of San Francisco's Portuguese Consulate, I will be traveling to Portugal this spring to procure new Portuguese wine as well as textiles, ceramics and other products from independent Portuguese producers. Please stay tuned for updates and new product releases!
I would like to end this story of the original Farah with the meaning of the original Farah's name in Hebrew - Farah is joy and Nissim is miracle. Thank you again for your support of my small business, stay safe and happy new year! - Rachel Farah