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Exploring the Jewish Face of Asia

Next January, those seeking a less traditional Jewish heritage travel experience will be given the opportunity to visit some of the points of Jewish interest, including not only places of historic Jewish settlement but also rapidly expanding contemporary communities, in Southeast Asia, as part of a program sponsored by the Foundation for Remote Jewish Communities (FRJC).

The two-week tour will take place in January 2018 and will be led by Rabbi Rachel Safman, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in New London. Before entering the rabbinate, Safman served on the faculty of the National University of Singapore. She lived for more than a decade in Southeast Asia, the time split between Northern Thailand and Singapore, and speaks several regional languages.

Founded by Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, who served for many years as a U.S. military chaplain stationed in Japan, FRJC has as its purpose the preservation and enhancement of Jewish communities located far from populous Jewish centers, in particularly the Jewish communities of East, Southeast, South and Central Asia. While the Foundation provides financial and, in some case, rabbinic support to some of these communities, one of its most central functions in recent years has been building connections between the Jews of Asia and Jews from other parts of the world, in particular, North America.

The tour itinerary begins in Singapore, a historic and contemporary hub of Jewish life in Southeast Asia with its three Jewish congregations and thriving ties with Israel, then continues to Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, ending in Vietnam, where organized Jewish life is just getting its first toehold with the formation of a small Progressive expat community. On each of their stops the group will meet with members of the Jewish community as well as touring points of more general touristic interest. The program is structured to accommodate the needs of Shabbat-observant participants (including Safman herself) and all meals will be from fully vegetarian or certified kosher establishments.

For more information visit FRJC.org.

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