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Burma’s 20 Jews

Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, Rangoon A few years back I received a group email that linked to a chart listing the number of Jews in every nation in the world. The two figures that most blew my mind were those representing … Read More

By / October 5, 2007

Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, Rangoon

Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, Rangoon

A few years back I received a group email that linked to a chart listing the number of Jews in every nation in the world. The two figures that most blew my mind were those representing the number of Jews in Iran: 20,000, and the number of Jews in Afghanistan: 1. The first number surprised me because I had no idea so many Jews remained in Iran after the Revolution. The second number gripped me on a purely existential level. I imagined, rather dramatically, this lone Jew living out his days against a monochrome landscape of bleached sand and rubble, without a single co-religionist in sight. Practically a sci-fi existence. The chart linked to this guy’s story, and I was pretty fascinated. For a while there was one other Jew in the country, but the two fought over a bible and became hateful enemies. Then the second to last Jew in Afghanistan died. You can read more about the last Jew in Afghanistan here.

I just came across another interesting statistic, though. There are twenty Jews left in Burma. Their mini-community is in the capital, Rangoon, and they occasionally celebrate holidays with Buddhist monks. Here’s Ynet News on what it’s been like for them lately:

"These are the saddest Rosh Hashana and Sukkot we've had in a very long time… we had to adjust the prayer services to the military's curfew, the streets are crawling with soldiers and the situation here is very unstable. The Jews, like many others here, fear for their lives," said Samuels.

The tensions between the military junta and Buddhist monks have made the Jewish community take extra precautions and they have recently hired a private security company, to guard Yangon's only synagogue.

"The unrest here makes it hard for us to even find the quorum needed for prayers," said Samuels. "There are usually a lot of tourists here this time of year, but this year, because of the riots, there are very few of them. Everywhere you look all you see are people rushing home," he added.

"We all pray that the UN negotiations will help restore the peace and quiet to this country," the article quotes one of the twenty as saying. Pray, indeed. Today, China’s ambassador came out against sanctions, and Burma’s ambassador said he can’t understand why there would be need for international action of any kind. Once again, we witness U.N. paralysis at the hands of sinister opportunists treated as statesmen. Here’s to justice for the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and all other good people of Burma.

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