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Indonesia

INDONESIA, republic of Malay archipelago, S.E. Asia; former Netherlands East Indies (excluding former Netherlands New Guinea, now West Irian). Dutch Jews contributed to the development of the "Spice Islands." An early Jewish settlement existed in the Sunda Islands but its date and extent are not known. In the 1850s the Jerusalem emissary Jacob *Saphir, who visited Batavia (Jakarta), Java, met an Amsterdam Jewish merchant who named 20 Jewish families of Dutch or German origin there, including members of the Dutch colonial forces, and some Jews living in Semarang and Surabaya. They had few links with Judaism. At Saphir's request, the Amsterdam community sent a rabbi who tried to organize congregations in Batavia and Semarang. A number of Jews from Baghdad, or of Baghdadi origin, and from Aden also settled on the islands, and in 1921 the Zionist emissary Israel Cohen estimated that nearly 2,000 Jews were living in Java. The resident of Surabaya was a Dutch Jew; several held government posts; and many engaged in commerce. The Jews of Baghdadi origin formed the most Orthodox element. There were also Jews from Central Europe and Soviet Russia, whose numbers increased in the 1930s. In 1939 there were 2,000 Dutch Jewish inhabitants and a number of stateless Jews who underwent the trials of the Japanese occupation. Indonesian independence marked the decline of the Dutch Jewish element, and the Jewish population subsequently dwindled for political and economic reasons. There were 450 Jews in Indonesia in 1957, mainly Ashkenazim in Jakarta and Sephardim in Surabaya, the latter community maintaining a synagogue. The community had dwindled to 50 in 1963. There were about 20 Jews living in Jakarta and 25 in Surabaya in 1969. The community was represented by the Board of Jewish Communities of Indonesia with its office in Jakarta. By the turn of the century there were only around 20 Jews living in Indonesia.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

I. Cohen, Journal of a Jewish Traveller (1925), 209ff.; M. Wischnitzer, Die Juden in der Welt (1935), 308–10; A. Tartakower, Shivtei Yisrael, 3 (1969), 290–1.