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Tourists flock to Burma’s only synagogue

The Musmeah Yeshua is a 120-year old synagogue located on 26th street in Rangoon’s downtown.

It is the last remaining synagogue in Rangoon, making it the only one in Burma.

Caretaker Sammy Samuel said the synagogue is attracting more and more tourists.

“About three or four years back, when we received 10 visitors in one day, then we would call it a very busy day,” he said. “Nowadays, we get about 40-50 visitors every morning.”

Musmeah Yeshua is nearly top of the list of Rangoon attractions.

“The special thing is that this temple ranked third among top 41 attractions in Rangoon,” said Sammy Samuel.

The synagogue is also one of 188 archaeological heritage buildings in the city.

One of the big attractions to the synagogue is an ancient leather-bound Torah scroll.

Sammy Samuel said the synagogue attracts tourists from all religions and nationalities.

“There used to be only Jewish people visiting the venue but now we also receive Muslims, Christians, Japanese and Chinese – pretty much everyone,” he said.

Burma once had a thriving Sephardic Jewish community, mainly made of up Jews from the Middle East who had arrived in Burma during colonial times.

Before the Second World War, there were about 2,500 Jewish people in Burma, but many fled during Japanese occupation.

Now there are only about eight Jewish families left in the whole country.

The synagogue is still a hub; Sammy Samuel said they hold intercultural meetings and festivals throughout the year.

Musmeah Yeshua continues to inspire curiosity as more tourists flock to see this old colonial relic.