Davening in Indonesia
Your latest lost Jews
The New York Times has another charming entry in its long-running series of what Slate’s Jack Shafer has termed “hey-folks-we’ve-found-some-Jews-living-in-a-strange-place” series (Tablet Magazine has also published its share of contributions). This time it’s Manado, on one of the northern islands of Indonesia, otherwise known as the country with the most Muslims living in it.
The explanation? A colony of Dutch Jewish merchants here dated at least to the 19th century; their descendants practiced the faith until Indonesia achieved independence in 1949, at which point most converted to Islam or Christianity for safety’s sake; about a decade ago, during an argument (what else?), somebody’s great-aunt (who else?) let slip what several other elders knew: That many Manado residents are descended from Jews. The Chabad rabbi in Singapore was notified (who else?), and he did the rest. “We’re just trying to be good Jews,” says Toar Palilinigan, a.k.a., Yaakov Baruch. “But if you compare us to Jews in Jerusalem or Brooklyn, we’re not there yet.” Oh, I dunno about that.
The interesting side-note is that this renaissance could probably not have occurred were it not for the strong Christian presence in Manado.
Increasingly strong pro-Jewish sentiments also appear to be an outgrowth of an evangelical and charismatic Christian movement that with the help of American and European missionaries has taken root here in the past decade. Some experts regard this movement as a reaction against the growing role of orthodox Islam in much of the rest of Indonesia.
“In Manado, Christianity has always had a strong identity mark in the belief that it’s opposed to the surrounding sea of Islam,” said Theo Kamsma, a scholar at The Hague University who has studied Manado’s Jewish legacy. Christianity and a reemerging Judaism share a “rebellious” nature, he added.
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.