Tag: Jews of indonesia

Indonesians mark Passover amid upsurge in hostility

In an unmarked warehouse in a commuter suburb of Jakarta, 20 Indonesians with Jewish roots  discreetly  sat down for a Passover Seder, officiated by Indonesia’s only ordained rabbi, Benjamin Meijer Verbrugge. Report in the Financial Times (with thanks: Laurence):

Fonny Ratumbanua holds up a piece of matzo at a Seder service in Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta (Photo: Krithika Varagur)

 It is not easy to be Jewish in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country but it is even harder this year, as anti-Semitic sentiment has grown since Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is holy to both Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians.

Hardline Islamists organised mass protests in Jakarta and top Indonesian leaders rebuked Israel.

“Every time the Israel-Palestine issue flares up, it gets harder for us to live in Indonesia,” said Mr Verbrugge. Mr Verbrugge, like many of the roughly 200 Jewish Indonesians today, is descended from Dutch Jews who came to the archipelago in the colonial era. His grandfather was a Dutch civil servant, and Mr Verbrugge lived as a Muslim and a Christian before converting to Judaism and founding the United Indonesia Jewish Community.

Judaism is not one of the six religions officially recognised by the Indonesian constitution.

“We aren’t ashamed of our faith but we don’t go around proclaiming it to strangers,” said Fonny Ratumbanua. “I still list my official religion as ‘Christian’ on my national ID card,” she added.

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Indonesian Jews hold multifaith seder

Fifty Indonesian Jews gathered for a Passover seder in Jakarta on Friday
night, with a guest list that included US Deputy Secretary of State
Antony Blinken and several local Muslim clerics, the Times of Israel reports: 

The festive Jewish ceremony took on special significance in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, just three years after radical Islamists pressured authorities to shut down the only synagogue in the Indonesian capital.

Members of the country’s tiny Jewish
community, which numbers only about 200 people, have kept a low profile
following the closure of the Ohel Yaakov synagogue and a series of
anti-Semitic attacks.

Indonesian Jews are mostly descendants of Iraqi and Dutch Jews who immigrated in the 1920s, according to the (Hebrew) news report.

Since Judaism is not recognized as one of the
country’s official faiths, the identity cards of most of the country’s
Jews identify them as Christians.

An Indonesian Jewish woman, who was not named
in the TV report, said Indonesian people’s perceived hatred of Israel
and Judaism stems from ignorance.

“When they say ‘I hate Jews, I hate Israel,’
you can’t really judge them, because they haven’t actually met any Jews
at all,” she said.

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Fact : last Indonesian synagogue destroyed

Inside the Surabaya synagogue: the city council was in the process of registering the building as a heritage site when it was demolished.

Reports have been circulating of the demolition of Indonesia’s last synagogue in Surabaya since May. Now, the Jerusalem Post has received independent confirmation of it. 

Indonesia’s last synagogue has been destroyed, a Dutch news site reported last week.

persons demolished the Beith Shalom synagogue in Surabaya on the island
of Java to its foundations sometime earlier this year, according to a
report on Indoweb.nl.

The synagogue has seen a number of
anti-Israel protests staged in front of it and was sealed by Islamic
hardliners in 2009, according to the Jakarta Globe.

Reports of
the synagogue’s destruction have appeared in the Indonesian media since
May and were confirmed last week by Indoweb.nl, which quoted the
director of the Surabaya Heritage Society as saying that he intended to
protest the demolition in talks with government officials.

“It is not clear by whom and when exactly the building was demolished,” Freddy Instanto told Indoweb.nl.

City Council of Surabaya was in the process of registering the building
as a heritage site. Istanto said that for that reason, the building
“should have been protected.”

The Dutch news site also quoted
Sachiroel Alim, the head of the Surabaya regional legislative council,
as saying that it was unknown whether Muslim extremists had anything to
do with the demolition.

Situated in in eastern Java, the small
synagogue was built in the 19th century by Dutch Jews when Indonesia was
still a Dutch colony. It had white-painted bricks and a Star of David
painted on the front door.

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Last Java synagogue demolished

The unstoppable march of sharia law in Indonesia has claimed another victim: the Surabaya synagogue in Java. The Jewish Press reports: 

Over the last few days there have been several articles bemoaning the
destruction of the last standing synagogue in Java, which is one of the
islands of Indonesia (south of Viet Nam, north of Australia, for the
geographically challenged).

The story had a human interest news hook: six American university
students were visiting Indonesia to learn about “pluralism and
democracy.”  Oops.  Not only was the only synagogue on Java demolished,
but it had already been sealed off in 2009 by Muslims who also burnt an
Israeli flag in response to the conflict in Gaza, according to the Jakarta Globe.

The Jakarta Globe article quoted lecturers from a local
university who claimed that the American students still learned one or
two things about pluralism from the city.

“They learned about how the residents form a pluralist and democratic
community,” said Diah Ariani Arimbi, dean of the Airlangga University
School of Literature.

That sounds awfully odd.  But sadly enough, it may be true.

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Java synagogue torn down (Mosaic)

Jews flee Indonesia: ‘The Islam is very bad’

Saul and Alfred Abraham fled for their lives

This story from the Jewish Journal of LA is two years old now, but I am posting it to put on record the rise of antisemitism in Indonesia, ‘ the world’s most populous Muslim democracy’. The community in Surabaya was founded by Iraqi Jews. There are only two dozen, intermarried, Jews living there now: (with thanks: Andrew)

Last October (2009), when Muslim extremists threatened to burn down the only synagogue still standing in the Republic of Indonesia, Saul Abraham, 69, the synagogue’s caretaker, and his younger brother, Alfred, 66, fled the country.

“We left the same night,” Saul said, in the LAX lounge with his Los Angeles-based relatives, waiting for the flight that will carry the brothers off to what they believe is their only real haven: Israel.

Fearing for their lives, the brothers, both retired technicians, booked the first flight to the West Coast via Singapore without any time to pack or say goodbye to friends in their native Surabaya. They were welcomed in Los Angeles by their eldest brother, Jacob (real name withheld upon request), an L.A. resident since 1976, and sister Lily, 67, an L.A. resident since 1990. Lily decided to move to Israel, too.

‘The Islam is very bad there,” Alfred said of Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Saul and Alfred are fluent in Dutch and Indonesian and proficient in Arabic. They speak some English and no Hebrew. Jacob, a retired lawyer, served as the family’s unofficial spokesman and translator. The Muslims never torched the 60-year-old synagogue and the million-dollar property on which it is situated, Jacob said. Indigent Indonesian Jews who are housed on the property protested. The Muslims are expected to leave the synagogue alone in part because it is now under the care of an assimilated Jewish couple whose children are intermarried. An estimated 25 to 30 Jews live in Surabaya today.

Read article in fullBeing Jewish in Indonesia


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