In an unmarked warehouse in a commuter suburb of Jakarta, 20 Indonesians with Jewish roots discreetly sat down for a Passover Seder, officiated by Indonesia’s only ordained rabbi, Benjamin Meijer Verbrugge. Report in the Financial Times (with thanks: Laurence):
Fonny Ratumbanua holds up a piece of matzo at a Seder service in Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta (Photo: Krithika Varagur)
It is not easy to be Jewish in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country but it is even harder this year, as anti-Semitic sentiment has grown since Donald Trump’s announcement that the US would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Jerusalem is holy to both Jews and Muslims, as well as Christians. Hardline Islamists organised mass protests in Jakarta and top Indonesian leaders rebuked Israel.
“Every time the Israel-Palestine issue flares up, it gets harder for us to live in Indonesia,” said Mr Verbrugge. Mr Verbrugge, like many of the roughly 200 Jewish Indonesians today, is descended from Dutch Jews who came to the archipelago in the colonial era. His grandfather was a Dutch civil servant, and Mr Verbrugge lived as a Muslim and a Christian before converting to Judaism and founding the United Indonesia Jewish Community. Judaism is not one of the six religions officially recognised by the Indonesian constitution.
“We aren’t ashamed of our faith but we don’t go around proclaiming it to strangers,” said Fonny Ratumbanua. “I still list my official religion as ‘Christian’ on my national ID card,” she added.