THAILAND


THAILAND
THAILAND (Prathet Thai), kingdom in S.E. Asia, formerly known as Siam. Jewish merchants occasionally visited the court of Siam. In 1683 the London jew abraham navarro , sent by the East India Company as interpreter to China, spent several months in Siam. During his travels in the Far East in 1920–21, Israel Cohen tells of meeting a Russo-Jewish diamond merchant from Antwerp on his way there, and of a Jewish   musician who had performed before the king. The Siamese foreign minister wrote in 1921 expressing his government's accord with the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people. In the 1920s a few refugees from Soviet Russia arrived from Harbin and settled in the capital Bangkok. The size of the community was temporarily increased after 1933 by some 120 refugees from Nazi persecution, most of whom left after World War II. Communal activities were organized by P.B. Jacobsohn, who became Israel's honorary consul-general in 1953. An Israel embassy was opened in 1958, and friendly relations between Thailand and Israel were expressed through technical and economic cooperation. In 1964 a Jewish Association was incorporated, and in 1966 a Jewish community center with a synagogue was established. A number of Torah scrolls were presented to the community by the singapore Jewish Welfare Board in 1960. Sabbath eve services were conducted by a U.S. Army chaplain, who cared for the community's religious needs. There is no Jewish cemetery, and burials are conducted in a corner of the Protestant graveyard. In 1969 the permanent Jewish community of Thailand consisted of some six families in a total population of 31 million, with another 250 temporary residents. In the early 21st century a total of 250 Jews lived in Thailand, comprising Sephardim from Syria and Lebanon and Ashkenazim from Europe, the United States, and Shanghai. The Jewish Association of Thailand was housed in a three-story building in the residential area of Bangkok. It incorporated the Ashkenazi synagogue and the rabbi's home. There were also Sephardi and Chabad synagogues. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: I. Cohen, Journal of a Jewish Traveller (1925), 203, 222; M. Wischnitzer, Die Juden in der Welt (1935), 299; W.J. Fischel, in: PAAJR, 25 (1956), 45–53. (Shaul Ramati)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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