Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue in Yangon
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue
Myanmar’s only Jewish house of worship, Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, downtown Yangon, stands as a testament to the once thriving and influential Jewish community who lived here during the first half of the 20th Century.
Located right on the busy lane off the 26th Street in central Yangon, this small synagogue is surrounded by traders from other faiths. As is the case in downtown Yangon, Burmese, Hindus and Muslims co-exist happily and peacefully.
Mushmeah Yeshua was constructed in the 1890s to serve the 2,500 Jews, who migrated here from the Middle East and formed part of the vibrant business scene in Rangoon, as it was known then. With the Japanese invasion during World War II, the Jews were forced to escape from Burma and settle in other countries. Some attempted to return after the war, but found it hard to re-establish what was once a prosperous livelihood. Today, only 20 Jews still live in Yangon.
The synagogue has kept its quaint blue-colour colonial-style façade. The interior is quite spacious thanks to the high ceiling and graceful columns. Decor is kept quite simple with the Star of David being the main design.
The adjacent cemetery housing more than 600 gravestones is a little run-down and overgrown. As one tourist blog puts it, “there’s a sense of sadness about the place.” But the keeper of synagogue Moses Samuels is determined to put some sort of life back into this small congregation.
He holds the minyan service every Friday and posts a sign on the front of the synagogue that reads: “A tree may be alone in the field; a man alone in the world, but a Jew is never alone on his holy days.” Moses Samuels is known to make every effort to welcome and give guided tours to visitors of all faiths outside opening hours.