[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen it comes to living in the Philippines as an Orthodox Jew, sometimes it’s quite difficult to get kosher foods unless you order online. For example, in General Santos City at the far southern end of the Philippines islands, you’d need to travel an equivalent to 565.13 nautical miles to reach the one kosher food producer in the Philippines.
Not only is it on another island altogether, but you’ll only find locally produced kosher foods in the Makati Business District on Luzon in the far north. While there is a large Jewish presence in the islands, many people around the globe really aren’t aware of their plight throughout modern history. Just like one man, Dr Moshe Kantor is raising awareness of the history and plight of European Jews, one temple is doing the same for Jews throughout the Philippines.
A Quick Walk through History
The visible presence of Jews in the Philippines is dated back to 1870 when three brothers, the Levy Brothers, arrived on the islands being refugees from Prussia where there was a huge anti-Semitic force. From then on, the one community that flourished was in Makati and this is where you will find the Jewish Association of the Philippines, and of course, the only producer of kosher meats and cheeses on the islands. Here you will be able to celebrate at Beit Yaacov Synagogue, enjoy lunch with members of the community and become involved in local as well as worldwide Jewish affairs.
A Look at General Santos City at the Far South of the Islands
Most people around the world know General Santos City as being one of the world’s great canners of tuna. This is a huge industry in the region and one of the most popular food items on menus throughout the city, and in fact, the entire region. However, to Jews living or visiting the area, that will not help them with a kosher menu and on high holy days, this is something of major importance. For this reason, it is widely publicized where Orthodox Jews visiting, temporarily working, or living in the Philippines can get locally produced kosher foods online without the need to send so far abroad.
Thousands of Years of History in a Tight Knit Community
Jews who have made their home in the Philippines actually hail from various parts of the world. Many came over during the times of WWII when Nazis were rounding up those of a Jewish heritage and “Jew Sympathizers,” carrying them off to concentration camps. Many made their way eastward to freedom and this is where you’ll find the oldest Jewish families in the islands. Just like the Levy brothers more than half a century before them, Jews fleeing Europe found a welcome home and a place to enjoy the freedom they had once had in their homeland.
While Christians in the Philippines far outnumber any other faith, several hundred families now call the islands their home and it is good to know that Filipino Jews can celebrate their heritage with kosher foods and in a synagogue that has a long and interesting history.