The Jewish Association of Thailand

Shalom and Sawadee,

The Jewish Association of Thailand, known locally as the J.A.T welcomes you to our community.  The JAT has a membership of almost 200 local residents but we host thousands of visitors from all over the globe every year.  Besides families that have lived here for generations our community members come mainly from the United States, Israel, and Europe.

The Jewish Association of Thailand is located off of Sukhumvit Road, Soi 22 on Soi Sai Nam Thip.   You can always call the J.A.T. at 02- 663- 0244 or 081-837-7618 or email us by clicking here for directions and other information.  There are many hotels of various price ranges in walking distance of the synagogue. The Rabbi and Board of the Jewish Association invite any Jewish visitor or resident to attend our prayer services, and meet members of our Community.   For both residents who are new to Thailand or who have lived here for a while, we welcome you and hope you will see the JAT as your home away from home.  We also invite you join the J.A.T. (see membership form) and register to receive Rabbi Kantor’s weekly email message which has an explanation of the weekly torah portion and announcements of community events.


Community History

Thailand, a country 95% Buddhist, has always been known for its hospitality and religious tolerance.  It is therefore not really surprising to discover a small but thriving Jewish community in this beautiful land of smiles.   In spite of our miniscule numbers, Jews have contributed greatly to the economy and cultural life of Thailand.   We have a history here that is surprising.  The earliest mention of any Jewish presence in Siam dates from 1601 when Spanish missionaries reported on Jewish merchants who lived in the Kingdom of Ayuthaya where they maintained a synagogue and were “zealous in the Law of Moses”.   In 1683 the first known Jew here, Abraham Navarro, an interpreter for the English East India Company, visited the Court of King Narai in Lopburi.  During the early 19th century we have several reports of visiting Jewish merchants in Bangkok.  But it was not until around 1890 that a few Eastern European Jewish families settled in the country.  The most prominent of these early families were the Rosenbergs who established one of the first modern hotels in Bangkok.   After World War I several Russian Jews settled here including Haim Gerson, who founded a very successful business and was the leader of the Jewish community for many decades. 

In the 1930’s about 120 German Jewish refugees including a number of physicians were admitted to Thailand with the help of local Jewish residents in spite of protests by the German Embassy.  During World War 2 several Syrian and Lebanese Jews settled in Bangkok and established businesses especially in textiles.  One of these Syrian Jews, Isaac Djemal was especially prominent in business and later served as President of the Jewish community.  His nephew, Selim Eubhani served as lay leader conducting religious services for our small community for many years.  During the war years some Jews in Bangkok were interned by the Japanese as enemy aliens.  There were also at least 150 Allied Jewish soldiers in the notorious Japanese POW camp in Kanchanburi.  Among the prisoners was a rabbi who held services in a makeshift synagogue in the camp.  During the 1950’s, several American Jews settled in Thailand and joined the community.  These were joined by arrivals from Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.

In 1964 the Jewish Community of Thailand (known as the JAT) was formally established.  During the 1960s the Vietnam War brought hundreds of American Jewish servicemen to Thailand.  It was during this time that the Community established a religious school, a sisterhood and regularly scheduled religious and social events.  For the first time the community had Rabbis through the services of the American military chaplains.  By the early 1970’s many Israelis began to visit Thailand  especially young backpackers.  Several Israelis established businesses here in Bangkok .

During the 1970’s a small Sephardic congregation (Even Chen) was established.  In 1979 Elizabeth Rosenberg Zerner, the Thai-born daughter of the first Jewish family in the country donated a parcel of land and a residence for the synagogue.  To honor Elizabeth Zerner, the Association’s synagogue was named Beth Elisheva.  During the community presidency of a prominent local businessman, Mr. Ebrahim Kashani, our synagogue was remodeled and the first Jewish cemetery consecrated.

In 1993 Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, accompanied by his wife Nechama Dina, and baby daughter, arrived in Bangkok to serve as our Community Rabbi.    Due to Rabbi Kantor’s inspiring leadership, the Jewish Community now enjoys regular Shabbat and holiday prayer services, kashrut facilities and an educational program

Compiled by Mr. Stephen Mallinger

For Membership click here