The leader of Burma's small Jewish community and the caretaker of the country’s only synagogue has died.
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Moses Samuels, 65, passed away on May 29, his son, Sammy, wrote in an email to Coconuts Yangon, a media source. No cause of death was identified, but Samuels had been battling cancer for several years.
“For over 35 years he has been taken care [sic] of Yangon Synagogue and the Jewish community” Sammy Samuels wrote. “And he made sure [of] keeping the Jewish Spirit alive in Myanmar. He is great person with very good heart. His legacy will continue to live in the hearts and minds of everyone who came across to know him. May Hashem [the Lord] bless his Soul.”
The Samuels family has looked over the Mesmuah Yeshua synagogue in Yangon – Burma's former capital and largest city, with a population of over 5 million – for generations. Moses Samuels inherited the task of synagogue caretaker from his father and grandfather. Now his son will assume the role of keeping the synagogue open.
Along with his son, Samuels is survived by his wife, Nelly, and two daughters, Dina and Kaznah, who graduated from Yeshiva University in New York a few years ago.
Before World War II, Burma's Jewish community flourished, and Yangon’s synagogue had 126 Torah scrolls. Today it is estimated that only a few dozen Jews remain in the country.