Rabbi Yaakov Baruch, the rabbi of Indonesia’s only synagogue, Shaar HaShamayim, appeared on the most recent episode of Podcast Against Antisemitism to discuss why he feels compelled to create education on the Holocaust for his country.
Rabbi Baruch discussed how, in partnership with Israel’s Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, he created Indonesia’s first ever Holocaust exhibition. His motivation behind the creation partly stemmed from his desire to commemorate his own relatives who were killed during the Holocaust, stating that his grandmother lost 40 relatives. Rabbi Baruch also wants to educate Indonesians about the Holocaust, which he believes is desperately needed.
Rabbi Baruch said that he believes that many Indonesians are still either ignorant of the atrocities of the Holocaust or think that it may have not occurred at all, with some even posting swastikas and images of Adolf Hitler to their social media accounts. He revealed that many visitors to his Holocaust exhibition thanked him for his work, saying that they never imagined that such events could have taken place. Rabbi Baruch said: “Many Indonesians don’t know about [the Holocaust], and [those] who know the Holocaust know mostly from Holocaust denial groups.”
Rabbi Baruch told our host that during a televised appearance in Indonesia, he was confronted by a Holocaust denier. “When I was on local TV talking about the Holocaust museum…he said that the Holocaust is a hoax on live TV. It so destroyed my heart. But what I can do is, I can tell him that this is not a hoax, that’s why I’m doing this.”
Despite this, however, Rabbi Baruch is pleased that the exhibition has largely received positive feedback from locals of all backgrounds, including the local government, though some Muslim groups had criticised it and accused Rabbi Baruch’s exhibition of attempting to normalise relations with Israel. However, this has not deterred him.
“I tell them what we do is nothing to do with the conflict in the Middle East…the Holocaust happened before the State of Israel, before the [creation] of Indonesia, even. I just want to share the history,” he says.
Podcast Against Antisemitism, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, talks to a different guest about antisemitism each week. It streams every Thursday and is available through all major podcast apps and YouTube. You can also subscribe to have new episodes sent straight to your inbox. Previous guests have included comedian David Baddiel, The Sunday Telegraph columnist Zoe Strimpel and actor Eddie Marsan.