Oldest farang community in Thailand now here for over 300 years

Jewish community
in Khao San Road, Bangkok

According to several sources there are about 1000 Jewish people permanently living in Thailand, the major part of them are concentrated in Khao San Road, Bangkok, but smaller communities exist in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Koh Samui. In the 17th century the so-called Baghdadi Jews from Russia first arrived here and later the Ashkenazi Jews fled from Russia to Thailand as well, prior to Russia they used to live along the Rhine river in Germany. Their community in Thailand expanded even more when Persian Jews were fleeing from persecution in Iran in the 1970s and 1980s. Nowadays they have own shops, restaurants, synagogues, schools including kindergartens and own cemeteries. (The latter one was obtained after a one year debate with the authorities.)
Technically the term ‘farang’ refers to a Western Caucasian, so some might argue, this is not the case for every Jewish individual living in Thailand, but hey, Israel even joins in with the European song contest, don’t ask me why.

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6 Responses

  1. Paul Garrigan
    Paul Garrigan October 28, 2010 at 12:06 am |

    Interesting stuff, I remember noticing Jewish symbols near the Khao San Road a few years ago. I wonder how integrated these folk are in the local community. If they are true farang then they probably still won't be able to speak the local language – joke :-)

  2. I-nomad
    I-nomad October 29, 2010 at 8:28 am |

    Hi Paul,
    With their own schools, shops and everything, it looks to me like an isolated community, however if it was only for the sake of doing business with locals, they probably picked it up by now, (after 300+ years) :-)

  3. Mike
    Mike October 29, 2010 at 11:27 am |

    Interesting. I never realised there was a Jewish community here in Thailand.

    BTW I like the I-nomad handle and the "job description."

  4. Catherine
    Catherine October 30, 2010 at 2:04 am |

    Interesting post. I wonder how many other small expat communities are dotted around Thailand. I knew about the ones in Auttaya, but I assumed they were long dead.

  5. I-nomad
    I-nomad October 30, 2010 at 11:12 am |

    I din't know either, but coming to Phuket from the airport for the first time, I took a mini-bus to my mansion and was talking to an Israelian. Later he was dropped off at a guesthouse which had signs in Hebrew script only. No English or Thai whatsoever, that triggered my curiosity..
    And thanks for the compliment!

  6. I-nomad
    I-nomad October 30, 2010 at 11:31 am |

    Leaving out the hill tribe people in the north (eg. Karen) from Myanmar and the Latioans living in Isan. Both communities are very large anyway.
    The Jewish community is tightly bonded by their religion and traditions.
    Being more individualistic most farang expats will not bond together in the same way to classify as a community. Technically the Russians, Ukrainians and Georgians living in Pattaya could perhaps be identified as real expat communities. I am not talking about their motives and way of live :)


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