Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Shalom, Vietnam: A Jewish Culture Guide

Vietnam has so much to offer the traveler the options can be daunting. If one feels like a guided tour, Kosherica offers a seventeen-day tour of Vietnam and Cambodia.

By: Sarah Bauder

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

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, Vietnam


There has been a Jewish presence in what is now modern-day Vietnam, since the latter half of the 19th century during the French colonial period. Jews immigrated to Indochina (comprising present-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) where most settled in Saigon. During the Tonkin (northern Vietnam) campaign in the 1880’s many Jews fought in the French army.

The Jewish community steadily increased, and by the dawn of World War II, there were an estimated 1,000 Jewish individuals residing in Indochina. Unfortunately during the war, Jews faced anti-Semitic laws imposed by Vichy France including restrictions on professions amongst other things. Thankfully by January 1945, said laws were repealed with the return of French Republic rule.

During the French-Indochina War from 1946 to 1954, there were an estimated 1,500 Jews living in the region. However, after Vietnam attained its independence and Indochina was dissolved, Jews fled on mass. Throughout the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1956 to 1975, an estimated 30,000 Jewish-American soldiers served. As a result, temporary Jewish communities emerged throughput southern Vietnam.


Today, there are estimated 300 Jews living in Vietnam – 200 in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), and 100 in the capital, Hanoi. However, roughly 20,000 Jews visit the country each year as tourists, business people, or Israeli government officials. Suffice to say, Vietnam is a big draw for travelers of all sorts. In 2006, Rabbi Menachem Hartman opened the Chabad Jewish Center in Ho Chi Minh City.

The center offers everything from a synagogue, to Chabad House, to Mikveh. There is a kosher restaurant at the Chabad house, which also offers a delivery to hotels. Likewise, there are a number of grocery stores in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which sell kosher products imported from around the world.

Vietnam has so much to offer the traveler the options can be daunting. If one feels like a guided tour, Kosherica offers a seventeen-day tour of Vietnam and Cambodia.

However, if one prefers to light off on one’s own, there is everything from the bustle of the capital Hanoi, to pristine beaches, to taking a cruise in Halong Bay, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vietnam is certainly worth a visit.

Links:

http://www.jewishvietnam.com/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/531473/jewish/Visitor-information-Kosher-Mikvah-in-Vietnam.htm

http://www.kosherica.com/geoTours/vietnam.asp

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