In Muslim Indonesia, Small Jewish Community May Face Intolerance by the Forward

In Muslim Indonesia, Small Jewish Community May Face Intolerance

Across the archipelago of Indonesia, a more intolerant strain of Islam has risen in recent years, which may cause challenges for a small community of Jews here.

Jews in this Muslim-majority country worship in secret, according to a recent AFP report, and can face faith-based intolerance. According to the AFP, the politics of Israel can play a role here in religious divides.

“Problems between Israelis and Palestinians are a liability for me — when someone is stabbed there, it makes me uneasy here,” Indonesian rabbi Benjamin Verbrugge said. Verbrugge is head of United Indonesian Jewish Community an outreach group for “Jews by choice and Jewish descendants,” according to the organization’s website.

The UIJC estimate there are around 200 practicing Judaism who are “believed to be the descendants of traders from Europe and Iraq who came to Asia to trade,” the AFP reported

But much of the Jewish activity here has a more recent history worth noting.

According to a Dutch website associated with the Jewish Historical Museum, in recent years, small communities throughout Indonesia have shown “tremendous dedication and thirst to know the truth and to seriously return to the faith of their ancestors.”

Since at least 2012, a series of Israeli, Australian and American rabbis have acted as religious guides of sorts, including facilitating religious conversions to Judaism. These Jews from abroad were “moved by this strange wave of Indonesians celebrating Shabbat and praying to the G-d of Israel,” according to the website.

Email Sam Kestenbaum at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum


Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum

Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .

In Muslim Indonesia, Jewish Community Faces Intolerance

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