History of the Jews in Thailand
The history of the Jews in Thailand dates back to the 17th century, with the arrival of a few Baghdadi Jewish families, although the current community consists mainly of Ashkenazi descendants of refugees from Russia, and later the Soviet Union. Further augmenting the community were Persian Jews fleeing persecution in Iran in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1966 there was only 60 Jews in Thailand that held citizenship They arrived from The Netherlands in the 1930's The Star of Siam a sapphire gem company was Jewish owned Gershwin and sons was a company that built roads Mrs Zwern, owned jewelry concessions in hotels and she bought a large home and converted it to a synagogue I was there the evening when the Isreali Ambassador was invited to place the Mezzuah on the door entrance,there was also guest rooms for guest that could sleep Wat Yud was the way you would tell a taxi to get you there, the temple at time had no name it was located in an upscale residential neighborhood. The first religious service was conducted by an US Air Force Rabbi flown in from the Philippines to mark the historical event for the High Holy Days.
Most of the permanent Jewish community in Thailand, consisting of probably fewer than 1,000 individuals, resides in Bangkok (especially in the Khaosan Road area), although smaller Jewish communities with synagogues exist in Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Ko Samui. During Jewish holidays, these communities' numbers sharply increase (to several thousand) as a result of vacationing Jews, primarily from Israel and the United States. At the request of two of Bangkok's synagogues, Beth Elisheva and Even Chen, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, took up residence as the first permanent rabbi in Bangkok, in 1993. He has been in Thailand since 1993 (when the Jewish Association of Thailand was founded), and is a member of Chabad. He was joined in 1995 by Rabbi Nechemya Wilhelm, also of Chabad.
Chabad of Bangkok
Chabad of Bangkok is a large Chabad House in Bangkok, Thailand that caters primarily to young Israeli tourists. It was an important center of disaster relief after the 2004 tsunami. It serves Sabbath meals to hundreds of Jewish travellers every week, and draws hundreds more on Passover. Due to security concerns in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, entry, even to the restaurant, is restricted to the Jewish community.
Progressive Jewish Community of Thailand
Starting in 2014, a small group of progressive Jews from the UK, the US, Israel, and Thailand began organizing the Thailand Progressive Jewish Community (TPJC) in Bangkok, using social media such as www.meetup.com and www.facebook.com.
TPJC in September 2016 has more than 100 members. It meets monthly at various restaurants for Shabbat dinner and services. It also organizes High Holy Day Services, Passover seder, and Chanukah and Purim parties each year. Visiting rabbis from Singapore, the US, and Israel have come each year to lead High Holy Day services. TPJC has members in Chiangmai who organize services and events there.
Today there is a complete range of Jewish education available in Bangkok, from kindergarten through high school, including a recently opened Orthodox yeshiva. After years of governmental refusal, permission has also been granted for the establishment of a Jewish cemetery.
- The Jewish Community of Thailand
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