I’m writing this month’s column on a plane from Japayura to Bali at the end of an extraordinary ten days. I’ve had Shabbat in Jakarta and Jayapura, with a visit to Timika on the south coast of Papua squeezed in between. I’ve enjoyed wonderful reunions and had way too many tearful goodbyes. It only happens once each year, but I’m reminded that this is my second Jewish community.
My colleague Rabbi David Kunin from Tokyo has noted several times on this trip how neither of us could ever have imagined we would end up serving Jews across the Indonesian archipelago. Our travels have taken us thousand sof kilometres across the multiple islands that make up this fascinating country. I observed that many Australians think of Bali as its own country, surrounded by a strange and not particularly interesting Muslim nation called Indonesia. My experience has been entirely different: Indonesia has six different official religions, and even though Judaism is not officially recognized, there is definitely space here for religious expression. There are a variety of ethnicities, languages and dialects, and a large variation in food from one end to the other. What I love most about coming to Indonesia is how it enriches my own Jewish identity. Shabbatot in Adelaide are lovely, but it’s invaluable to celebrate Shabbat elsewhere and be reminded that it can be done differently. As far as I can tell, the Jews of Indonesia make each Shabbat special and precious. They count down the days until they can be together again to make a joyful noise to God. It’s a pleasure and privilege to celebrate with them. This visit to Indonesia was particularly amazing, because Rabbi Kunin secured the donation of two Torah scrolls from defunct congregations in North America. We delivered one to the community in Jakarta, and a second to the congregation in Timika. In Timika, members of our Jewish community wept openly as the Torah scroll was passed among the adults. It was a powerful reminder of what the Torah can mean to each of us if we are open to it. What a special gift to be a part of their Jewish journey!
Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky
To see more pictures and read more aboutthe rabbi in Indonesia, visit:
Viit Rabbi Kunin’s blog at: