Jewish settlements in Burma date from the first half of the19th Century, consisting primarily of Jews from Bombay, Cochin and Calcutta. It was not until the 1870's that the Jewish population was large enough in Rangoon to create normal communal activities. In 1893-96, the Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue was built in Rangoon to replace a wooden structure. Smaller communities existed in Mandalay, Bassein, Aykab and Toungyi. At its peak, the Jewish population in Burma was about 1,200. The Japanese invasion of Burma forced most of the Jews to leave, primarily to Calcutta. After the war, most of the Burmese Jews did not return. Only a few Jews remain in Rangoon.
The Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue is still maintained. Below is a postcard depicting the interior of the synagogue. Also, below are pictures of the interior and the exterior wall of the synagogue. These items are the courtesy of Nancy Freedman of Los Angeles, a recent visitor to Rangoon.
Encyclopedia Judaica, CD-Rom Edition, Keter Publishing
Copyright © 2002 Edward Victor