Beside a handful of native-born Jews residing in Indonesia, seventy-seven Indonesians have officially converted, while 200 more are on their way to conversion, reports photographer Anna Clare Spelman, who documents Jewish migration to Asia, in Jerusalem Report (July 13). Scattered around islands of Indonesia, there are reported to be people of Jewish-Dutch heritage — since Dutch rule lasted from the 17th to the mid-20th century. Dutch settlers with Jewish roots are said to have often disguised their identity; they intermarried with Indonesian women, sometimes keeping a Jewish surname, but affiliating either with Christianity or with Islam.
A rediscovery of Jewish roots is often said to have been the starting point leading to conversion; in some cases, the knowledge of a Jewish legacy was reportedly transmitted within the family. But most of the new Indonesian Jews “found their path to Judaism by the way of the church,” writes Spelman. Messianic congregations allow members to combine Jewish tradition and ethnicity and faith in Jesus. Some felt, however, that this was going only half way, and decided to fully embrace Judaism. The United Indonesian Jewish Community (UJIC), which claims to welcome Jews of any background from Orthodox to Humanist, makes it very clear that it’s completely separate from Christianity and has severed links with groups suspected of still associating with Christian beliefs. The young and small community is experiencing divisions on various issues of religious practice. The Internet (especially Facebook and YouTube) is playing an important role for gaining knowledge on Judaism.
(The Jerusalem Report, P.O. Box 1805, Jerusalem 91017, Israel; http://www.jerusalemreport.com)