A Decade of Jewish Unity


by R. Wineberg - BROOKLYN, NY

March 28, 2003

Celebrating 10 Years of Chabad in Thailand” was held last Monday at the Brooklyn Marriot Hotel, drawing over three hundred friends and supporters of Chabad activities in Thailand.

Chabad activities in Thailand, explains Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor of Bangkok, is a three-track program: “In an average year,” he estimates, “Chabad will work with several hundred Jews living in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, about one thousand Jewish business people who travel in and out, and twenty to thirty thousand Israeli backpackers.”

The numbers are staggering, and, not surprisingly, Kantor admits that the fundraising for Chabad’s activities- which include open Shabbat meals, services and holiday programs for thousands- is a heavy task that somewhat outsizes the small local community in Bangkok. “Unlike other communities, the bulk of people who benefit from our programs are unable to support them,” he notes.

Fundraising within the local community is not enough to cover Chabad’s expenses, so for the last ten years, Chabad has relied heavily on traveling businesspeople from America and Israel for most of their budget.

In celebration of their 10th anniversary, Chabad of Thailand decided to “bring the celebration to the home turf of the people who make it possible,” says Kantor.

“A Decade of Jewish Unity- Celebrating 10 Years of Chabad in Thailand” was held this Monday at the Brooklyn Marriot Hotel, drawing over three hundred friends and supporters for a reunion and an overwhelming display of mutual appreciation for the work Chabad does, and the people who support it.

William Nussen, a businessman from New York who travels to Thailand once every two or three months to oversee operations at a factory he owns in Bangkok, received the “Builders Award”, for his steadfast support since Chabad’s earliest days in Thailand. Expressing his amazement at Chabad’s impact on the community, particularly on young Israelis passing through, Nussen said, “You see people who would otherwise never step into a synagogue, all of a sudden connecting to Judaism in Thailand. There are incredible things going on there.”

According to Rabbi Kantor, who, along with his family and the families of Thailand’s four other Chabad representatives, flew in to New York for the occasion, Chabad didn’t start out as outreach for travelers. “We were brought out to lead the local community,” he says. “But as the need came up to branch out into other fields, we expanded our activities.”

With such a transient community, Kantor explains, success would only be possible with the financial help of visiting American and Israeli businessmen and family and friends back in the States.

Today, says Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, Vice Chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch and chairman of the dinner, “Chabad of Thailand personifies the proverbial “Abraham’s open house” and has succeeded in bridging the gap between Jews of diversified backgrounds.”

For thousands of backpackers, businessmen and local Jews who benefit each year from Chabad of Thailand and their supporters abroad, Monday night’s dinner reflected “a fantastic partnership,” Kantor says, one that will continue to enrich and inspire thousands in the years ahead

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