Thailand’s Jewish History and Population

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Thailand, a country situated in Asia and known to many, is a welcome home for the Jewish populace. With Chabad present in most of the larger cities, including Bangkok, there is a powerful orthodox presence which leads to a few thousand Jews visiting the country each year. Nowadays, there is an estimated 700-1,000-member Jewish community residing throughout Thailand, the most populated destination being Bangkok.

Thailand’s Early History with The Jewish Community

Although Thailand is mainly Buddhist, it is a very open and welcoming country and stands for religious tolerance. The Jews, along with many other religious communities, have been welcomed in Thailand and able to practice their religion for centuries. In the year 1683, the very first documented Jewish citizen was reported to be living in Thailand. His name was Abraham Navarro and he came over as an interpreter working for the EEIC (English East India Company). Throughout the 18th century, the majority of Jews arrived in the country as traveling merchants.

Thailand’s Recent History with The Jewish Community

The Second World War uprooted many German Jews from their home, with around 120 of them settling in Thailand, although once the war was over many moved back. The number of Jews really began to flourish in the 1960s as people arrived from Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and America. With this influx of Jews, the Jewish Community of Thailand was created in 1964. The war in Vietnam brought yet another influx of Jews to Thailand, mostly American soldiers. A large number of Israeli families came to Thailand in the 1970s, looking for both adventure and business opportunities. Social events, weekly services, and a religious school was erected during this time.

The Population in Thailand Today

With around 1,000 Jews currently residing in Thailand, this number is sure to grow in the coming years. Many of this population consists of Asian and European Jews, with only a few families being of Thai origin. Most of the Israelis are working or involved with trading and the production of jewelry. The largest number of these reside in Bangkok, as this is the capital city and has the most job opportunities.

Studying Opportunities for Ex-pat Jews Living in Thailand

Thailand is extremely forward-thinking and has many studying and learning opportunities for ex-pat Jews that live here. A large number of Israelis have taken part in MASHAV courses in Thailand and many of the Thai schools have based their curriculum on Israeli know-how and experience. Jews can improve their knowledge of business and learn to prosper in the changing markets with the lifelong learning center Thailand. They work with both large corporations and family-owned businesses alike, assisting Israeli families to build their very own empire in Thailand.

Bangkok’s Jewish Community

As Bangkok houses most of the Jewish community, most of the synagogues are situated here. There are two situated in the city, Sephardic and Ashkenazic, as well as a Chabad House. The Chabad House provides weekly Shabbat prayer services and has its own kosher restaurant. The Chabad House in Bangkok held the second biggest Passover Seder recorded in 2009. Bangkok is also the home to the Thai-Israel Friendship Foundation and has its own Kosher bakery and store.

The Jewish population in Thailand is expanding annually and there are a number of facilities available for the Jewish community within this country, mainly in its capital city.