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Rangoon - A Jewish tour of Burma

Published on: December 20, 2009 09:43 AM
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The Musmeah Yeshua synagogueRangoon - Only a handful of Jews live in Burma today. For more than 35 years, my family has taken care of the synagogue, cemetery and what remains of the once flourishing Jewish community.

Burma has been our home since 1890 or even earlier, when my great-grandparents left Baghdad to start a new life in the vibrant city of Rangoon.

During World War II, my grandfather, Isaac Samuels, risked his life for the synagogue, and today we still revere the same building, which has been at the center of Jewish life in Burma for the last century.

Every day, my father, Moses Samuels, sits in the quiet synagogue, waiting to greet Jewish visitors and share with them the rich and unique history of theJewish community here. Every Friday, my father and I used to wait at the synagogue for Jewish visitors until we can gather a minyan to begin services.

My father posted this sign on the front door of the synagogue: “A tree may be alone in the field, a man alone in the world, but a Jew is never alone on his holy days.” It is my father’s fervent belief that no Jew should be alone during the holidays - and yet most of the time, the two of us found ourselves alone in the synagogue.

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But even if only he and I are present, I always feel the echoes of the many Shabbat services that have taken place in this beautiful shul, and hear the melodies of the songs our grandparents used to sing when the community was at its peak.

Jewish life in Burma today is quite different from what it was during colonial times. Before World War II, it still was the case that “the sun never set” on the British Empire, including in Southeast Asia.

Read the full story at The Jerusalem Post 



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Read Comments (5)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Dec 20, 2009 at 10:50 AM Loshon Hora Says:

Does the Asra Kadisha know?

2

 Dec 20, 2009 at 11:52 AM Anonymous Says:

Are any of these people really Jewish lehalacha?

3

 Dec 20, 2009 at 12:37 PM Milhouse Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Are any of these people really Jewish lehalacha?

Why on earth wouldn't they be?! Why would you even ask a question like that?

4

 Dec 20, 2009 at 01:40 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Are any of these people really Jewish lehalacha?

it's probably not that hard to trace back. if the community has only been around since the 1890's and we know where those who came originally came from, you could probably trace back mother to grandmother fairly easily.

5

 Dec 21, 2009 at 06:24 PM Anonymous Says:

There is a book called "Almost Englishmen" that has an index of all the families that lived there. Some of them can trace back to the Ben Ish Chai. The book is an interesting read with the whole history of the Jewish community of Burma. They were actually called the "Baghdadi Jews" since that is where they came from.

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