Samuel “Sammy” Samuels sits in the furthest seat in the back of the empty building, sounds of the Muslim adhan and Buddhist chants bursting through speakers down the block and drifting into the building, echoing through the empty main hall.
“I feel more Jewish in Yangon than I did living in New York,” Samuels explains. “There every Friday I went to synagogue, but every synagogue was full. If I didn’t go to synagogue no one would care. But here if I don’t go then… who is going to open the gate?”
The gate that Samuels referred to is what separates the last synagogue, consecrated in 1896 and once the epicenter of Myanmar’s thriving Jewish community, from Yangon’s bustling downtown.
“We’re a very small community,” Samuels says, “But we’re here.”