Jewish Existence in Nusantara Revisited: A Historical Analysis on Identity

Friday, March 7th, 2014, 14:54 WIB

wedforumJewish history and reality in Nusantara are indefinite for most of Indonesian. Therefore, it is important  to understand the dynamics of Jewish by analysing manifest and hidden facts throghout Nusantara history and contemporary discourse. Accordingly, there is considerable growing of discussions and debates on the topic. In this sense, historical existence of Jews in Indonesia is relevant to be explored. Furthermore, there are challenges and transformation of Jews reality in the context of Indonesian culture. For instance, most of works on Jews in Indonesia tends to be justificatory and apologetical. Even, they ignore historical methodology, like less attention to data accuration and verification.

Leonard C. Epafras, Ph.D presented this enlightening topic at the ICRS-CRCS Wednesday Forum on 12 February 2014. Dr. Leo is a core Doctoral Faculty in the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS). He teaches several couses, including History of Religions in Indonesia at the ICRS’s international Ph.D Program, Gadjah Mada University (UGM); and the courses of Biblical Hebrew, Judaism, and Christianity at the Duta Wacana Christian University (UKDW).

Dr. Leo critically argues that discourses of Jews in Indonesia are limited to certain incidental and even anecdotal issues instead of factual reality. Moreover, the discourses contain spectacular and conspiratorial stories. For example, there are publications of translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which are being printed since 1970s-present and play significant role in conceiving the partial outlook on Jews in Indonesia. Accordingly, discourses of Jews identity are perceived as monolythic and homogenous. For instance, there is unclear separation of different signifiers: “Jews,” “Israel,” “Zionist,” Freemason,” Theosophy,” and “Mossad.” In addition, he comprehensively describes issues of Jewish identity in Indonesia by connecting it to broader international context of Jewish identity, including impacts of Jewish diaspora in many countries, Western collonialism, the establishing of Israel as a ‘Jewish state,’ and many other issues.

Using Alon (2002) perspective on Jewish identity, Dr. Leo explains development and dynamics of Jewish identity in Nusantara since pre-collonial until post-independence periods. Interestingly, he presented the topic by focusing on the historical process of how and why Jewish identity is contested and transformed. In this regard, he argues that Jewish identity is complex, dynamic, continuously changing, and unstable; this is just like any other social identities and belongings. Thus, processes between self-perception and social imposition motually determines the construction of Jewish identity. Moreover, it provides valuable evidences on different paths of identity formation throughout Nusantara history, including the emergence of a new Jewish identity in the present day. These historical analysis and critical explanation are very valuable to understand the complexity of Jews identity, especially in nusantara. (admin,che)