Community in Burma ‘optimistic’
BURMA’S TINY Jewish community remains strong despite the country’s isolation, a Uk-born Hebrew rapper who visited recently said.
Samuel Green, who was in Burma to perform at a pagoda festival earlier this month, sat down with Moses Samuel, the nominal head of the Rangoon (now Yangon) community.
His visit coincided with celebrations in the south-east Asian country over the by-election victories of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.
Although there are only up to 45 Jews living in Burma — compared to 4,000 before the country gained independence — Mr Green said the community did not appear to be in danger of demise, with some younger members and frequent visits from tourists and the Israeli ambassador.
The community maintains relations across the political divide and, at the historic Musmeah Yeshua synagogue, there are photographs of community members with Suu Kyi as well as members of the government. There is also a shot of Israel’s former premier, Ben Gurion, wearing traditional Burmese dress; a reminder that Burma granted Israel recognition in 1949.
Services are held regularly at the shul and the traditions are kept alive.
Mr Green said that he found there was “great optimism and excitement and a feeling that there could be real change in Burma” among citizens.
He also noted that the synagogue required no security. “You could just walk in — there didn’t seem to be any issue with antisemitism and they have good relations with the people around them.”