Com­mu­nity in Burma ‘op­ti­mistic’

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY JEN­NIFER LIP­MAN

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.”

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