Jewish Life in Thailand
By Henry and Elaine Levy
Spending Rosh Hashanah in Bangkok can cause emotional turmoil when one has not previously spent this important holiday away from home. Or it can be an adventure...a challenge to find the proper way to observe the High Holy Days in such an exotic and faraway country. Chabad arranged to conduct services, and serve a holiday dinner at the Viangtai Hotel in Bangkok to us and over a thousand other Jews (mostly Israeli students who were on school break) visiting Thailand. It was touching to hear the words, "Happy New Year!" and listen to the blowing of the shofar, surrounded by our own people in a country so distant and different.
In addition to the services in Bangkok, Rabbi Kantor was asked to send a rabbi to Chiang Mai in the north so that other Israeli visitors could attend Rosh Hashanah services as well. The Chabad, the Rabbi said, serves all Jews regardless of their degree of observance.
Rabbi Kantor, who was born in New York in 1969, has been running the Chabad House in Bangkok since May of 1993 primarily for the approximately fifty thousand Israelis who visit Thailand each year. There are about twenty families who compose the Rabbi's immediate community. Jewish residents who work as gem dealers, lawyers, realtors and embassy staff also participate from time to time.
One touching story told by the Rabbi concerned a seventy year old man he encountered who was sick with emphysema and dying of cancer. The man told the Rabbi that his one regret was that he was never Bar Mitzvahed. Rabbi Kantor, who always carries his tefillin and prayer book, performed the Bar Mitzvah ceremony at that moment. He told me this story as he was leading me to the sanctuary so that I would lay tefillin as well.
Chabad House, which also runs its own Kosher restaurant, is located at 108/1 Rambutri Road, Khao San Road in Banglampoo, Bangkok. Its website address is: www.jewishthailand.com
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