Monday, May 11, 2009

Minority Report

Although predominantly Roman Catholic, the Philippines is home to followers of many other religious beliefs (and non-belief). Among the the assorted groups (just to name a few) are Animists, Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, and various Protestant denominations.

One of the smallest minorities in this country is the Jewish Association of the Philippines of which I am a member. Because our numbers here are so few (maybe a few hundred maximum, most of whom are concentrated in the Metro-Manila area) I'm interested in seeing our community grow. So I have proposed an outreach program to the Association to attract Jews in the Philippines who may not be aware that there is an such an organization with whom they an affiliate. Hence, the search is on for such prospective members.

One of the more challenging aspects of this recruitment program is trying to balance Jewish visibility with the need for security and protection. In this country, about 10% of the people are Muslims, and there is an element of that population who do not wish us well. And the attack on the Jewish community in Mumbai last year is always in the back our minds. But isn't such antipathy the case in almost every country where Jews have settled? Moreover, Jews have had a presence in the Philippines for centuries. For an excellent chronicle of this history, click here and see the article "Jews In The Philippines".

Personally, as a Jew and an atheist, I feel comfortable living in the Philippines, almost to the point of complacency. As we are about to see this is potentially harmful. It's true that in the almost four years that I've lived here, neither my ethnicity nor my personal views have ever been a serious issue. And there are other community members who have lived here a lot longer than I have who likewise have not felt threatened for being Jewish. The real hazard to our personal safety is the result of the high crime rate in this country, which is something that almost everybody living in the Philippines needs to be alert to and concerned about, regardless of background. So there is really no room or excuse for the complancency in which occasionally I indulge.

Many of the couples and families who are members of the Association are blended, typically Jewish foreigners and local Filipinos. Some of the latter have opted to convert to Judaism , but those who have not are no less welcome for it. My personal view is that both Jewish and Philippine cultures are enriched by this joining of ethnicities.

For more information about the community, please visit the website The Jewish Association of the Philippines.


Bruce said...

I just found your site through Expat Blog.
I am also Jewish by birth and probably agnostic.
I have a site about living in the Philippines and especially Davao.
Being Jewish you might like the article I did about the book "Escape to Manila..." a great book about the german jews comming here during WWII and then what happened when the Japanese invaded.
I like your writing and will a add you to my Blog List. If you like, put mine on yours if you do so.

Secular Guy said...


I would be glad to reciprocate in listing your blog. BTW thanks for your supportive comments about my writing. I'm working on a new post and hope to have it ready in a day or two.

I've heard about "Escape to Manila" but haven't read it yet. The history of Jews in the Philippines is indeed a fascinating topic. Fair to say that they are many Filipinos who have but are unaware of Jewish ancestry via the Maranos and Conversos who settled here during the Spanish era.

Bruce said...

If you like, there is a link to buy it from Amazon on my site.
I heard the Ayalas have Jewish blood in them too. Maybe that is why they are so good in business.

Feel free to email me through the "Contact me" tab.