JTA NEWS
24 May 2019 - 20 Iyyar 5779 - כ' אייר ה' אלפים תשע"ט
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Did Thailand top Nepal as site of world’s biggest Passover Seder this year? E-mail

The festival of Pesach has finished, but which community in Asia eventually held the largest Seder gathering? Jewish Times Asia is in the process of getting the nittygritty of the final numbers.

Nepal’s world-famous Passover Seder, held annually high in the Himalayas in the capital city of Kathmandu, reaching a peak of some 2,000 guests last year on its 30th anniversary, stands as a perpetual icon of Chabad-Lubavitch’s “no mountain too tall to climb” approach to Jewish education and outreach.

Well, a few countries to the southeast and a sea away in Thailand on the island of Koh Samui, the annual mega-affair in Kathmandu, commonly dubbed “The World’s Largest Seder”, now has company – lots of company.

This year, Koh Samui was threatening to outstrip Kathmandu’s numbers by as many as 1,000 guests. “Yes, in fact we are looking forward with much excitement to yet another great experience with even more people this year,” said Rabbi Mendel Goldshmid, who codirects the Koh Samui ChabadLubavitch organisation and its Seders with his wife, Sara.

Goldshmid added: “We are planning new features this year such as a separate Seder in English in addition to our usual large Seder in Hebrew, as the majority of our guests come from Israel. The whole affair is the high point of our year.”

Last year, one of his three Seders – three of 14 total held in the tropical Southeast Asian nation – was already in the 2,500-guest range.

Still, in the end, we all agree that it’s not really the numbers that matter. Chabad’s Asian Seder sprawl – from Nepal to Thailand to Cambodia to China – and elsewhere in the world is being produced by one big happy family with a common vision.

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Grand opening ceremony of a mikveh in Seoul E-mail

As reported in April issue of Jewish Times Asia, local dignitaries, Jewish community members and others gathered on 31 March for the grand opening event at the Grand Hyatt Seoul of the first-ever mikveh (a bath for ritual immersion) to be completed in South Korea.

Among those who attended the event were US Ambassador South Korea Harry B. Harris and US Army Chaplain Rabbi Henry Soussan, who served as master of ceremonies. The mayor of Seoul, Park Won-Soon, sent a video greeting with former South Korea National Assembly member Jin Park, who was in attendance.

“We were overwhelmed by everyone’s reaction,” Rabbi Osher Litzman, who serves as co-director of Chabad of Korea with his wife Mussy, told Chabad.org. “Everyone found the mikveh design appealing. Each person had their own reason for liking the design, but all about the unique and welcoming experience they felt by entering the mikveh room.”

In addition to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the mivkah, the dedication celebration included a gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Seoul. Among the evening’s speakers was Israel’s Consul in South Korea Anat Evyatar, who expressed her happiness at having a mikveh in the capital city.

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Strong trade earnings between Vietnam and Israel E-mail

According to the Vietnam Trade office in Israel, twoway trade between Vietnam and Israel hit US$131.29 million in the first two months of 2019, with Vietnam enjoying a trade surplus worth US$77.47 million.

Vietnam’s main exports to Israel include mobile phones and components, aquatic products, cashew nuts, footwear, garments-textiles and coffee. Notably, Vietnamese rice exports are also seen as having great potential to meet the demands of Asian workers and people living in Israel.

Meanwhile, Vietnam’s imports from Israel hit US$13.32 million in February, bringing the figure in the first two months to US$26.91 million with major products being fertiliser, machines and farm produce.

Israel is currently among Vietnam’s top partners in the Middle East in terms of economic and science-technology co-operation.

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Israeli diplomat initiates lifesaving project in Nepal E-mail

An Israeli diplomat who became the first Bedouin to serve in the country’s Foreign Ministry has helped to launch a life-saving project at his latest posting, Kathmandu.

Ishmael Khaldi has teamed up with local Chabad Rabbi Hezkl Lifshitz, to provide trekkers – many of whom are Israeli – with mini oxygen tanks to rent to protect them from altitude sickness.

Eighteen months ago a 26-year-old Israeli woman, Vered Aviyashar, from Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, was killed when her jeep overturned on the Annapurna ridge of the Himalayas. After the accident, a medical project was launched in her memory.

Khalidi said the project was “where Bedouin and Jewish values meet”. He was inspired to help when he heard about Vered’s death, and donated three months’ salary towards the project.

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Plaque to honour Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob unveiled E-mail

Israel has honoured the late Lt. Gen. JFR Jacob, one of the heroes of the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh, as a Jewish soldier who served with distinction in a foreign army.

A special ceremony in Jerusalem on 30 April marked the occasion, and in attendance were a number of special guests, including India’s Ambassador to Israel Pavan Kapoor. Ahead of the ceremony, Samuel Marshall, senior Jewish community leader in India, said: “Lt. Gen. Jacob will be honoured by unveiling of a wall plaque on the wall of Honour at Jerusalem Ammunition Hill for Jewish soldiers who served with distinction in foreign armies.”

Lt. Gen. Jacob is known for negotiating the surrender of Pakistani troops in Dhaka in 1972 that ended the 13-day war and led to the creation of Bangladesh. At that time he was a Major General and the Chief of Staff of the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command. He later became Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command.

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