Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau visited Taiwan last week in what is likely to have been a first-ever visit by an Israeli chief rabbi to the island nation and its Jewish community.
The chief rabbi spent three days in Taiwan, participating in a dedication ceremony for the new Jeffrey D. Schwartz Jewish Community Center in Taipei. He also attended a regional summit of some 30 rabbis from Sydney, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Cambodia. He met with Israeli and Taiwanese officials as well during his stay.
Funding for construction of the center was provided by Jeffrey D. Schwartz – a businessman who has lived in Taiwan for mor than 50 years — and the NaTang Jewish Cultural Association (JTCA).
“It was an honor to visit Taiwan and meet with the Jewish community here,” Rabbi Lau said in a statement following the ceremony.
“I was impressed by their dedication to Jewish culture and traditions, and I am confident that the community will continue to thrive in the years ahead.”
The community center had originally planned to open officially in 2021, with Rabbi Lau in attendance, but the COVID-19 pandemic short-circuited those plans.
The $16 million center includes a Judaica museum, a mikvah and a kosher restaurant, in addition to hosting tours and events for the Taiwanese public.
The center also includes a synagogue and event space used by the local Chabad congregation, led by Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Shlomi Tabib, and the Taiwan Jewish Community, plus a living space for Rabbi Tabib and his family.
As of 2016, there were approximately 800 Jews living in Taiwan, most of them in Taipei.