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Law Of The Jungle

Eliezer Eisikovits

He is not halachically Jewish, but this Christian-Muslim Indonesian, who sports a yeshivish black hat and traces his roots back to Jewish Dutch colonists, calls himself Yaakov Baruch and had built a shul for others like him who want to reconnect. “We are coming closer; it’s clear that we are far from the Jews of Meah Shearim, but we are learning,” he tells his Jewish visitors who are awed by his hand-crafted Judaica and shocked to find a twenty-five-meter menorah protruding from the jungle brush.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The next time you visit the Indonesian island of North Sulawesi, pay attention to the large structure at the top of a hill overlooking the capital city of Manado. No, it’s not a mirage. It’s a giant menorah, twenty-five meters tall — smack in the middle of a tropical wilderness in the world’s largest Muslim state.

Is it possible that some invisible Jewish spark is hiding in the depths of the jungle?

Amazingly, the answer to that question is — yes.

The story behind the menorah in the jungle is the story of the mixed identity and the unfortunate history of the Jews of Manado, but it is also, to no lesser degree, the tale of an Indonesian youth who happened to discover his Jewish roots and consequently set himself an ambitious goal: to restore an active Jewish community to the island, fifty years after it disappeared in the depths of the jungle.

 

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