Leader of Myanmar’s Jewish Community Dies Aged 65

The leader of the tiny Jewish community in Myanmar (Burma), Moses Samuels, passed away on Friday in the city of Yangon where he lived, at the age of 65.

A statement by the Myanmar Community Dispatch eulogized Samuels, who led the community for 35 years, as a leader who "kept Judaism alive with a profound love for his heritage and was an inspiration to many people, a helping and warm hand to all visitors who came to the synagogue in Yangon, Myanmar.

"He treated everyone with equal respect and dignity with open door – no matter if they are Jewish or Buddhist, Muslim or Christian, Hindu or Baha’i."

"During his leadership he had done remarkable job to advocate for a better understanding between different faiths and peoples, invited leaders from different communities to the Synagogue to exchange dialogues and share proud history of Jewish Community of Myanmar," the statement continued.

"His memory will be a blessing to all of us, such a kind person and dedicated to the Jewish people. His kindness, generosity, and dedication touched many people hearts and will not be forgotten."

Of Iraqi descent, Samuels leaves behind his wife Nelly and three children: daughters Dinah and Kaznah, and son Sammy.

Sammy – who is a graduate of New York's Yeshiva University – is set to take on his father's position as community leader following the seven-day shiva mourning process.

The Jewish community in predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar once numbered several thousand – most of them migrants from Iraq and India – but is now home to just a few dozen Jews.

The first recorded Jew in Myanmar was one Solomon Gabirol who served as a commander in the army of King Alaungpaya in the mid-18th century.

According to a 2007 report in the Jewish Times Asia, the community once boasted two synagogues, 126 Torah scrolls and a Jewish school.

Jews were expelled from Myanmar by invading Japanese forces during World War Two, and some of them were imprisoned or killed. Most of the 500 or so who returned after the war fled once more during the country's 1962 military coup.

Today, Israeli embassy staff often help make up the required 10 men for a prayer quorum in remaining synagogue.

The country has not had a rabbi since 1969, and kosher food is virtually inaccessible.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/196122

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