See Inside Destroyed Surabayan Synagogue

“The last vestige of one [of] Indonesia’s oldest and largest Jewish communities is now just a pile of rubble,” begins a report in the Jakarta Globe, confirming that the Beth Shalom Synagogue at Surabaya, on the Island of Java, was “flattened” in May. The synagogue, a modest Dutch-style residence in the heart of the business district, had been one of only two remaining in all of Indonesia —and had previously been the focal point of an Islamist protest.

In the course of preserving Jewish historical sites in the Middle East and North Africa, Diarna has gathered unique documentation on other Jewish places around the world. In the case of Surabaya, we have exclusive footage, filmed several years ago, of every page of the Jewish cemetery’s burial book (which has since disappeared) and the majority of the gravestones in the cemetery. With the help of project partners, we mapped and proudly present rare photographs of the synagogue from the 1980s and 2007.

In 2009, the same year the building was designated a national heritage site, a large mob massed in front of the synagogue. The main organizer of the January 7th protest was the Indonesian Ulema Council of East Java, which claimed the Jews are its enemies and demanded the synagogue’s closure.

“[O]nly the timely intervention of riot police saved [Beth Shalom] from desecration,” according to an article in Inside Indonesia, written by an anonymous member of the handful of Jews who continue to call Indonesia home. “I thought of poor aunty Rivka who looks after the synagogue and adjoining cemetery. It was a traumatic experience, although she was none the worse for wear….,” the writer recalled. Rivka, as many Indonesian Jews, are of Iraqi or other Mizrahi (Middle Eastern) descent. Still others are Sephardi, having come by way of the Netherlands.

The director of the Surabaya Heritage Society says the cause of the destruction is unknown and artifacts inside, presumably including the Torah scrolls, were irreplaceable.

Gravestone with Corresponding Records

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Burial Book Videos (unedited)

This exclusive footage, courtesy of C. Motzen, was filmed on Dec. 29, 2005, and captures every page of the burial book as well as the majority of gravestones in the cemetery. Diarna has prepared a tentative transcription and translation of the burial book as well as a concordance between the gravestones and burial book. Scroll-down to see the synagogue in Google Earth and then click on the tablet icon to see a photo. The photos for the slideshows of the cemetery and synagogue, circa 2007, are courtesy of Project partners HaChayim HaYehudim Jewish Photo Library and Beit Hatfutsot: The Museum of the Jewish People. Please contact us at if you have information or additional documentation to share on these or other sites.


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Notes on Burial Book Translation

Register Afdeeling . G : unreadable, verification required from whomever filmed No. : Numero. Dutch: Nummer | English: Number dd.: de dato Dutch: Datum | English Date M. of V.: Man of Vrouw (Dutch) | English: Male or Female | Ind L: laki-laki P: perempuan Afd.: Afdeeling (Modern Dutch spelling: Afdeling) | English: Section v/h: van het (Dutch) | English: of (the) [ ] : used when source is not readable { }: used for other suggestions of spelling when unreadable Sorrabaia: other spellings: Soerabaia ; Soerabaja ; Sorrabaja ; S’baia Ind: Surabaya ; Surabaia aanr.:(A/n) aannemer (Dutch) | English: contractor/ctr (in this case most likely an undertaker) e’s & c’s in the handwriting is almost the same, pay attention to this for misspellings en Co. en Compagnie (D.) | Eng. and Company e/o: en ook (D.) | Eng.: and also Wed: : Weduwe/Weduwnaar (D.) | Eng: Widow/Widower. Tidak ada. Indonesian. | Eng: No/none geb: geboren (D.) | Eng: Born j. : jaar (oud) (D.) | Eng. years (old) |Ind. thn => tahun fr: | fa : firma (D.) | Eng: firm(as in company) tanah: aarde (D.) | Eng. dirt id. : idem (D.) | Eng: the same mevr.: mevrouw (D.) |Eng: Madam/Misses


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