a new religion

Scattered across islands in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, Indonesians of Jewish Dutch heritage are converting back to their ancestral religion. Assisted by Rabbis and religious leaders from Israel, the US, and Australia, the groups have begun to form a unified central Indonesian Jewish organization, complete with a prayer book translated from Hebrew into Bahasa Indonesia.

Seventy-seven Jews have been officially converted, while almost 200 more are lining up for their conversion, while studying Hebrew, prayers, and Torah over Youtube, FaceBook, and email correspondence. Without any official Jewish spaces in Indonesia, individuals and families have created their own: Friday night services in dining rooms, Saturday morning prayer sessions held in small rented office spaces or home synagogues. As the movement is spread out across the country, families often travel hours to attend such a service. When asked how and why the conversion movement is spreading among islands now, everyone I spoke to said, essentially, ‘it is our calling’. 

While Jewish communities across the globe are shrinking as Jews assimilate or move to Israel or the US, the Indonesian community is just beginning to grow. In a country which does not even officially recognize Judaism as a religion, the community is encountering very little resistance. Perhaps the Indonesian community is a sign of international coexistence and tolerance.