The Shmooze

Embracing Judaism in Indonesia

By Michael Kaminer

  • Print
  • Share Share

A 62-foot menorah graces a mountaintop. Israeli flags flutter from taxi stands. The local synagogue shines after a government-sponsored renovation.

The images don’t immediately bring Indonesia to mind. But a tiny northern outpost in the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population “has become the unlikely setting for increasingly public displays of pro-Jewish sentiments,” reports The New York Times,, as a small number of Indonesians embrace the faith of their Dutch Jewish ancestors.

The reclaiming of Judaism in the city of Manado comes as “extremist Islamic groups have grown bolder in assailing Christian and other religious minorities elsewhere in Indonesia,” according to the Times. Last November, extremists protesting the 2008–09 war in Gaza managed to shut down a century-old synagogue in Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city. That left the synagogue near Manado — “founded by Indonesians still struggling to learn about Judaism and now attended by about 10 people,” the Times says — as Indonesia’s sole surviving Jewish house of worship.

To learn more about their heritage, the Jews of Manado joke that they consulted “Rabbi Google”; most of their research on Judaism took place at a local internet café. “They compiled a Torah by printing pages off the Internet,” the Times reports. “They sought the finer points of davening on YouTube.”

Indonesia and Israel, the Times notes, do not have diplomatic relations but have “discreetly shared military and economic ties over the decades.” Jewish businessmen from Israel and elsewhere have quietly traveled to Indonesia seeking business opportunities, the paper reports. A local legislator, in fact, proposed building the giant menorah after learning about the one in front of Israel’s Knesset, according to the Times, hoping “to attract tourists and businessmen from Europe.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Dutch, Indonesia, Israeli, Jewish, Judaism, Menorah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.