Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Shalom, Mongolia: A Jewish Culture Guide

“Jewish communities are being revived even in those countries where no Jew seems to have ever set foot. The Jews of Mongolia have their own, though still little-known, history.”

By: Sarah Bauder

Published: July 8th, 2014 in Culture » Society » News

Shalom, Mongolia: A Jewish Culture Guide

And we’re off, to anywhere and everywhere, as we say ‘Shalom’ every week to different global travel destination. World cities, provincial towns, and even the most unassuming of suburbs are infused with Jewish history and culture, some of which is waiting to be discovered.

For the pious follower, the curious traveler, or the intrepid adventurer, we’ll unearth the best of what to do and where to go. Be it an emerging subculture, a historical landmark, or simply a triumph of art in any form, Jewish experiences are found around the world; and likely as well in your backyard.

It may be in the destination, the journey, or the company, but there is much to uncover and celebrate near and far, so hurry up and get going.

Shalom, Mongolia

Little is known of the early history of Jews in Mongolia. However, in the 19th century, trade routes had been established betwixt Mongolians and Siberian-Jewish merchants, resulting in a few Jewish families settling within the region. By the 20th century, a small Jewish community had been established in Outer Mongolia, according to Jewish Virtual Library, comprised mainly of Ashkenazi fleeing the Russian Civil War. In the 1920’s Mongolia was politically and economically dominated by the Soviet Union. According to Jewish Virtual Library, “a Russian-Jewish journalist came across a community of 50 newly settled families in a remote region of Outer Mongolia approximately 200 miles from the Manchurian border. In 1926, Ulan Bator (formerly Urga), the capital of the Mongolian People’s Republic, maintained a community of 600 Russian Jews who left Outer Mongolia due to increased Soviet influence. Most fled to Manchuria, and those who remained were government workers.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the subsequent transition from communism to democracy, many Mongolian Jews sought better economic opportunities abroad. Some relocated to Israel what for a visa-free agreement betwixt the two nations. This resulted after the Israeli government discovered that a substantial number of Mongols were illegally working in the country.

Perhaps the most famous Mongolian Jew is Sumati Luvsandendev. He is the country’s most respected pollster operating the Sant Maral Foundation, and chairman of the board of directors for the Mongolian chapter of the Soros Foundation, which funds socio-political activity and promotes democracy. There was even a 2001 piece in The New Yorker about Sumati (Mongolians generally use their first name only).

Find out more about Jewish culture and community in Mongolia on the next page!

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