Menu JTA Search

Finally, word from one of the last Jews of Burma

After not hearing anything for about two weeks, the Fundermentalist finally received word from Sammy Samuels.

The young Jewish man from Myanmar, and a graduate of Yeshiva University, lives in New York, where he works as the head of information technology for the American Jewish Congress.

But after Cyclone Nargis tore apart the country, he returned in mid-May to Myanmar, where his parents and two sisters still live, to deliver a suitcase full of water purification tablets and enough cash to buy a generator and some repair supplies to fix Yangon’s only synagogue, of which his father is the caretaker. His family is one of only eight Jewish families left in what is formerly Burma.

His mission wasn’t exactly stealth, but there was some trepidation upon his departure because the military junta that rules Myanmar was not allowing any aid to come in from Western countries, and after reports in JTA and several other news outlets, there was fear that the junta might intercept Samuels.

We finally heard from him – through Scott Klepper, who helped arrange Sammy’s mission home – today.

Klepper writes in an e-mail:

Mingala ba and Jesu Tin Ba Day,

That’s “hello” and “thank you very much” in Burmese.

Sammy emailed that he’s doing well, all things considered. He safely entered the country with the water purification tablets and cash and since has purchased a generator to supplement their electricity needs. Along with some volunteers from the neighborhood Sammy made two humanitarian runs to villages in harder hit areas outside Yangon where they’ve distributed some tablets and food. Moses, Sammy’s father, is putting together a more complete estimate of Synagogue repairs, the work on which should begin this week. Sammy has photos and video which I hope to share with you upon his return.

We’ve raised an estimated $3500 to date, $1500 of which represents the water purification tablets and cash for the generator taken to Burma by Sammy. The remaining $2000 and any future funds raised will be repatriated to Moses for the Synagogue repair and other needs as they arise.

I hope to hear from Sammy again before his return to NYC later this week. We are continuing our fund-raising efforts so please share this update as well as the press links below with your networks. Your friends may contribute to JDC (www.jdc.org) and then email me with their Name, City and State. This will insure that their donation is earmarked for our project.

The junta finally seems to be allowing some aid into the country, the New York Times reports today. The first 10 helicopters of aid arrived in Myanmar last Thursday, but there is still dire need, as only 500,000 of the 2.4 million survivors of the cyclone are still without any help.

To donate to the cause, click here.

NEXT STORY