I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and piety of our hosts here in Manado. They extended their generosity to us long before they even knew us; with their very meagre resources, they paid for our airfare from Jakarta and our hotel here. They've fed us lavishly, serving us tuna grilled on a wood stove in their front yard both nights, along with a choice of other lovingly-prepared local favourites. They have been generous with their time, giving up all of yesterday to spend with us. I can only say terima kasi—thank you so much for hospitality far beyond any expectation.
Last night Rabbi Kunin and I led a traditional-style evening service while Benny filmed us to train service leaders. One of the sons Vikki has created a prayerbook in Hebrew, transliteration and Indonesian translation. We discussed how he essentially transferred prayers from an Orthodox prayerbook into his own photocopied siddur. He assures that the next edition will incorporate egalitarian values, naming God as “God of our mothers” as well as “God of our fathers.” I was quite moved when we reached the Shema--the declaration of faith—and these voices rang out their affirmation from such a remote corners of the world. And I thought Adelaide was far-flung. At the end of the service, I suggested that we sing the hymn Adon Olam that some of us had sung earlier in the day. A request was put in for the traditional Germany melody, and everyone sang along with gusto and joy. I taught about the evolution of Shabbat from the Torah through to the rabbinic texts all the way to contemporary non-Orthodox understandings of the spirit of Shabbat. A family member asked for advice about dealing with his employer, who sometimes asks him to work on Shabbat. Certainly this is not a unique situation, and we talked about balancing the ideals of Shabbat observance with the realities that are sometimes beyond our control.
Benny believes that a significant percentage of the Manado population actually has some Jewish ancestry. The city was founded by Dutch traders, a large number of whom were Jewish. For now, there are only enough Jews here to fit into one room. Perhaps on a future visit, I won't find them quite so lonely.
Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky
I've been the rabbi of Beit Shalom Progressive Synagogue in Adelaide since 2006. As part of the Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, New Zealand and Asia, I'm now starting my fourth trip to Indonesia to teach, pray and celebrate with the communities here.