A Native Papuan is a Regular Worshipper at the Hague Synagogue

– Damianus Barnun is a regular worshipper at the synagogue in The Hague. He is the only worshipper who is a Papuan, a native of New Guinea, the easternmost island of the former Netherlands East Indies which is now known as west Irian and is part of the Republic of indonesia.

How Barnun came to discover his Jewishness was the subject of an article in the Dutch weekly NIW which did not, however, disclose the name of his mother or other relatives who still live in Indonesia although their names, according to the writer, are distinctively Jewish.

The story began during World War II when Dr. Samuel Abas, a Jewish physician from Amsterdam, escaped from Holland just as the Nazis invaded the country and made his way to New Guinea. He worked at the hospital in Biak where Barnun was a medical orderly. When the doctor informed him that his family name was Jewish, Barnun was surprised. He showed Abas a prayerbook that he possessed written in strange characters which, he believed, were Chinese. Abas told him it was Hebrew.

Barnun’s father died in a Japanese concentration camp during the war and the son was baptized a Protestant. He come to Holland some 15 years later and joined a Protestant congregation. But he did not feel at home there, he said, and subsequently joined The Hague synagogue and formally converted to the Jewish faith.

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