History of the Jews in Thailand
The history of Jews in Thailand began in the 17th century with the arrival of Baghdadi Jewish families. The modern community consists of the Ashkenazi descendants of refugees from Russia and the Soviet Union.
Most permanent Jewish communities in Thailand consist of fewer than 1,000 individuals, and are located 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 with the addition 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.Jewish people have always been welcomed in Thailand.These jews were announced to be living ¨zealously according to the Law of Moses¨.
Chabad of Bangkok is a small Chabad House in Bangkok, catering 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 travelers every week, including during Jewish religious festivals such as Passover. Due to security concerns in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, entry is restricted to the Jewish community.
Progressive Jewish Community
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. As of September 2016, TPJC has more than 100 members. It meets monthly at various restaurants for Shabbat dinner and services and 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 Chiang Mai who organize services and events there.
A complete range of Jewish education services is available in Bangkok, from kindergarten through high school. This includes a recently opened Orthodox yeshiva. After years of government refusal, permission has also been granted for the establishment of a Jewish cemetery.
Thailand Jewry numbers about 3000. Jews in Thailand are of European and Asian origin. Mixtures of Sephardim from Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, as well as Ashkenazim from Europe, America, and Shanghai are there.
- The Jewish Community of Thailand
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