Community in Thailand - World Jewish Congress

Thailand is home to roughly 200 Jews. Of Sephardic and Ashkenazi descent, Thai Jews have found Thailand to be open and welcoming and play a large role in the economy and cultural life of the country. The Jewish community in Thailand is represented by the Jewish Association of Thailand – the Thai affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.

WJC Affiliate
Jewish Association of Thailand

(66) 2 050 7774
(66) 2 663 0245

Social Media:
Facebook: Jewish Thailand
Instagram: @jewishthailand

Executive Director: Rabbi Chaim Kantor

The presence of Jews in Thailand dates back to the 1600s, when Spanish missionaries reported Jewish merchants living in the Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya. In 1683, the first documented Jew in Thailand, Abraham Navarro, arrived in the country as an interpreter for the East India Company, and even attended the court of King Narai in Lopburi. Despite these developments, there was not a permanent Jewish community in Thailand until the end of the nineteenth century, when a number of Eastern European Jewish families arrived in the country around 1890. Largely merchants, these Jewish arrivals settled in Bangkok and immediately contributed to the economic development of the city.

Following World War I, there was an influx of Jewish immigration from Russia. Fleeing persecution and discrimination by the Soviets, these Russian Jewish immigrants settled mainly in Bangkok and became quite successful in various enterprises during the interwar years. After World War II, the Thai Jewish population increased with the arrival of several American Jews in the 1950s. Jews from Iraq, Iran, Israel and Afghanistan also settled in Thailand during this period and contributed to the country’s growing post-war economy.

In the 1970s, a number of American Jewish servicemen were stationed in Thailand, and with them, came military chaplains. These chaplains served as the first resident rabbis for the Thai Jewish community and it was during this period that a Jewish religious school and several Jewish social and religious events became established. Later in the decade, Persian Jews from Iran arrived in Thailand, having fled persecution and a regime change.

Today, Thai Jews continue to play a large role in the economic life of the country, and recently, many Israeli businesses have begun to establish themselves in Bangkok. As has been the case with Jewish life in Thailand, Thai Jews continue to live peacefully with their non-Jewish neighbors and experience almost no anti-Semitism.

The years of the Holocaust

In the 1930s, roughly 120 German Jews arrived in Thailand with the help of local Jewish residents. Despite the protests of the German government, who insisted that they be refused entry, these Jewish refugees were admitted into the country. Additionally, several Syrian and Lebanese Jews settled in Bangkok over the course of World War II, and become established in several industries, especially in textiles.

Japan invaded Thailand in 1941 and quickly assumed control of the country. Some Bangkokian Jews were interned by the Japanese as enemy aliens and at least 150 Allied Jewish soldiers were held in the Japanese POW camp in Kanchanaburi. At the war’s end, most of the German Jewish immigrants who had arrived in the 1930s left Thailand.


Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that are between 200 and 400 Jews in Thailand, as of 2015, out of a total population of 68,414,135 – 0.000029% of the population. Thailand is almost entirely a Buddhist country, with 64,719,771 Buddhists – 94.6% of the population. Other religious figures include 2,782,950 Muslims – 4.3% of the population – and 684,141 Christians – 1% of the population.

Nearly all Thai Jews live in Bangkok, the capital.

Community Life

Jewish life in Thailand is centered around Bangkok, where the Jewish Association of Thailand acts as the communal representative organization out of the Jewish Community of Thailand Community Center. It works to ensure that Thai Jewry is organized and able to practice numerous aspects of Jewish religious and cultural life, including weekly social events and a Jewish Bowling League.

The Thai Jewish community also devotes a considerable amount of effort to hosting the thousands of Jewish tourists, including a large number of Israelis, who visit the country. This is evident by the operations of the Thai-Israel Friendship Group, which works to connect people who have studied or trained in Israel and extends to non-Jewish people as well.

Religious and Cultural life

There are three synagogues in Bangkok: the Ashkenazi Beth Elisheva synagogue, the Sephardic Even Chen synagogue, and a Chabad house. Each synagogue is run through the Jewish Association of Thailand and Rabbi Chaim Kantor, the presiding rabbi of the Beth Elisheva congregation, serves as the community rabbi. Additionally, there is a mikveh at Beth Elisheva.

Kosher food is available in Bangkok, largely through the Chabad.

Jewish Education

Though there are no Jewish day schools in Thailand, there is a Hebrew school run by the Jewish Association of Thailand. Additionally, the community offers adult classes in both Hebrew and English.


There are some Jewish oriented youth programs run through the Jewish Association of Thailand.

Information for visitors

Jewish sites in Thailand are primarily in Bangkok, and include the Chabad House, which is renowned for the assistance it provides Jewish and Israeli tourists. There is also a Jewish cemetery near Chinatown.

Relations with Israel

Israel and Thailand maintain full diplomatic relations, with the countries having an employment cooperation agreement and Thailand being a huge tourist destination for Israelis.

Embassy of Israel in Bangkok
25th Floor, Ocean Tower II
75 Sukhumvit Soi 19
Bangkok, 10110

Telephone: +662 204 9200
Fax: 02-204-9239

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