Updates by Email

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Prashan Rodrigo?? "The Jew who came from Nowhere" or "Diminishing Sri Lankan Royal Jews",

In 2009 I posted an item on Prashan Rodrigo who had self published a book on Jews in Sri Lanka. The books title is "The Jew who came from Nowhere" or  "Diminishing Sri Lankan Royal Jews",

I have had no responses for more information about the book or how to contact Mr Rodrigo. I do not have a copy of the book. So I am making a new appeal - if you have any further information, no matter how small - please contact me.

Book update

Plugging away slowly. Sometimes two sentences might take weeks of research and verification! I estimate that the book will run to around 77,000 words. I have spent a lot of time making sure all findings are verified for the purposes of evidence but also for use by future researchers. I have just finished the chapter on the Portuguese period which is about 5,000 words and am happy with the result.

Looking back at my essay which is online - I can see it's flaws and gaps. I know that the book will overcome these problems. The challenge also is the write for multiple audiences - the general learned public, family historians, academics, people with a knowledge of Sri Lanka (those with none), people familiar with Judaism (people totally unfamiliar) ... so hopefully there is enough for everyone.

Did you know?

Did you know that the notorious Jan Pieterszoon Coen Director General of trade policy in Asia for the VOC (Dutch East India Company) was a crypto Jew?

Monday, May 20, 2013

New Book on the Way?

Well eventually!!!! I am currently upgrading and correcting the unpublished article I wrote in 2007 (this is circulating on the web) into a book. New information and argument is being added, so if you have any new information, this is the time to email me (jewsinsrilanka@gmail.com). I am planning to have each of the time periods of colonisation constitute a separate chapter.

 I have been currently plowing though many source materials on Jews in the ancient Ceylon (Yes, many book sources will probably result in only a couple of paragraphs!). In June I will be in London and hope to access the Rothschild Archive to get more information on the (De) Worm brothers who first planted tea in Sri Lanka.

THE WHEELS TURN SLOWLY ... I am still working on the book (2015)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The usual anti semitic stuff

I am afraid I have had no news items to report in the months since July. Thanks for the comments on the posts. The good news is that I have not had to delete any obscene comments like I have had to in the past. This favourable atmosphere cannot be extended to numerous Sri Lankan media reports that I have filtered on 'Jews in Sri Lanka' which are laced with anti semitism, rehashing Jewish world conspiracy theories, anti Israeli diatribes and holocaust denials.Email me if you have any news items.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vale: J. B. Muller (3.2.1943 – 19.6.2011)

Mr. J.B. Muller, journalist to now defunct Independent and Times of Ceylon newspapers  expired of a heart attack while going to Hospital on 19 June 2011. He was interred at the General Cemetery, Borella, on Tuesday, 21st of June, 2011.
J.B. Muller was the author of the book “The Burghers”, (ISBN 955-1535-00-6) and the book became Sri Lanka’s first audio book launched on 4th January 2007 at the Sri Lanka National Library in Colombo.

I had the pleasure of meeting J.B. in 2007 and whilst I have certain issues with the way J.B. built a case around burgher Jewishness and the lineage of Sri Lankan Jews, J.B. was a man known to be passionate and take risks. He was the first to put  Jews and Burghers together in the Sri Lankan media. This was in an environment where there is still a degree of tension around the nature and parameters of racial hybridity amongst certain sections of the burgher community. Muller was keen to support my own research and offered to assist people in the burgher community process their own ‘newly discovered’ Jewish ancestry.

As I said to Andrew Harris in his recent article in the Asian Jewish Life, Issue 6, 2011 “He [J.B.] is to be commended, … Although he tends to work not with hard evidence, but with inferences, Fiona freely admits that hard evidence is difficult to come by. (Harris, 201).

Daily News, Monday, 20 June 2011

MÜLLER - JOHN BARRY of 25, Poonagala Road, Bandarawela - 90100, (born in Colombo on the 3rd of February 1943). Beloved husband of Indrani, loving father of Claire, Carolyn, Esme, David and Lance, son of late Lionel Terence Müller and of Ethel Annlyn Rôdè (nee Van Langenberg), brother of Therese and Maurice. His mortal remains lie at A.F. Raymond’s Funeral Parlour. Cortege leaves at 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday 21st June. Burial at General Cemetery Kanatte (General Christian Section). No. 364/1, Polgahakottunuwa, Batakettara, Piliyandala. 

Link to a series of letters to the Burgher Association about the complex racial/ religious connections, including Jewish;


EḤAD MI YODE'A (Heb. אֶחָד מִי יוֹדֵעַ; "Who Knows One?"), song incorporated in the Ashkenazi rite among the concluding songs of the Passover Haggadah, whose aim was "to keep the children awake" until the end of the seder (cf. Pes. 108b–109a). The song consists of 13 stanzas, made up of questions (Who knows One?.. Two?.. Three?.. etc.) and their corresponding answers. The reply to each succeeding question also repeats the previous answers. The last verse reads: Who knows thirteen? I know thirteen. Thirteen are the attributes of God; twelve the tribes of Israel; eleven the stars (in Joseph's dream); ten the Commandments; nine the months of pregnancy; eight the days of circumcision; seven the days of the week; six the books of the Mishnah; five the books of the Torah; four the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel); three the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob); two the tables of the Covenant; One is our God in heaven and on earth. (SomeHaggadot have substituted other answers for the eighth and ninth questions of the traditional form. They read: nine are the Jewish holidays of the year, eight the Ḥanukkah lights.) In some places the song is chanted responsively: one person, usually the leader of the seder, asks the questions, and the whole company answers, each person responding as quickly as possible in an effort to finish the answer first. Eḥad Mi Yode'a is first found in Haggadot of the 16th century and only in those of the Ashkenazi ritual. Many scholars believed that it originated in Germany in the 15th century. Perles showed its similarity to a popular German pastoral song, "Guter Freund Ich Frage Dich" (one of the "Hobelbanklied" German folk songs), the first stanza of which ends with the same words as the Passover song. In fact, the identical words of this line of the pastorale are given as the German translation of the first answer of Eḥad Mi Yode'a in many early Haggadot. The Christian theme of the original was changed to one of Jewish content. Zunz discovered that the Hebrew song was used in Avignon as a festive table song chanted on other holidays as well, and Geiger noted other German counterparts. Since then it has been found among the liturgical music of Jews from Ceylon and Cochin, where it forms part of their Sabbath songs for the entertainment of bride and groom. Some scholars have even traced it to Greek or English church songs and Scottish nursery songs.
(emphasis added)


D. Goldschmidt, Haggadah shel Pesaḥ, Mekoroteha ve-Toledoteha (1960), 98; C. Zibrt, Ohlas obradnich pisni …(1928).

Web source:


Tag International Development Project with Sarvodaya : “Children’s Stories about Peace.”

Tag is promoting two projects for youth at Sarvodaya @ Wattala. There’s the “Children’s Stories about Peace” project, described above, which aims to produce a series of stories for video and print, written, narrated and illustrated by children and teenagers from conflict zones and also Trash-Inc., which through the creation of an animated world for Internet and TV and a focus on environmental peace-building, offers an innovative, multi-strategy approach to the promotion of conflict mitigation and the building of mutual trust and empathy among children and youth. Tag is also involved in several additional projects in Sri Lanka, in partnership with Sarvodaya and supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).

See full article from the Jerusalem Post

Grave photos added to 2007 post

Go to the Archive for 2007:


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who is this man - Prashan Rodrigo?

The Island Newspaper, 13/01/2010, p 4.
Who is this man - Prashan Rodrigo?
This blog has no association with the site Sri LankanJewish run by Deshamanya Bastian Koralalage Jude Quintus Prashan Rodrigo.

There are Youtube clips of this man's book launch. He says some unusual things about Jews , some which gets lost in the quality of English syntax used. Any information would be great - the blog is plural, but I am careful that we have 'legitimate' information here?

The Island Newspaper, 17/12/2009, p. 2.

Conservative/Masorti Tradition teshuvot on ‘Jewish identity’

The Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative/Masorti Tradition has published a teshuvot on ‘Jewish identity’ that maybe useful to blog readers of Sri Lankan Jewish origin who wish to claim / consider recognition. Remember this does not apply to orthodox tradition, which would appear to only offer ‘conversion’ as an option (if you do not have documents). In either case, you should consult with a Rabbi (more than one possibility) for guidance:
A mystery Cigarette Card sent to me by Rabbi Mendi Crombie. Here's the fruit of my enquiry thus far. Of course answers provoke even more questions:

This card was produced in 1889 by the Duke Cigarette Company and is called a "cigarette cards". The actress on the card is Belle Urquhart (1881 - 1882) and the card is from a series called Actor & Actresses Series #1.

This actress is obviously modelling what they believe to be the clothing of Jewish women in Ceylon in the 1880's. What unclear - is why choose clothing from Ceylon and (Jewish at that?). Is this representation of fashion based on reality - stories of travellers or, is it a fantasy that is a part some theatrical drama? It seems strange that the company picked an Island where Jews supposedly were so few in number to even be noticed?

Lost in Kandy ... A Passing Encounter

I received this email from a blog reader "JP", and he has agreed to have me share it with you. Obviously the encounter took place in the early 1980's. The Jewish man concerned may not be alive - any update to this story please add them to the comments below.

I came across your blog and thought to share my anecdotal experience with respect to jews in sri lanka as to this day it remains a unique event in my life.

Upon graduating university in 1982 I set out on backpacking journey that took me through the south pacific, australia, and ultimately into Indonesia and asia.  After about a year and a half into my journey I found myself in Sri Lanka.Though I landed in Colombo, the only thing I can remember about the city is the dusty bus station that took me immediately out into the countryside.  I moved from beach to beach around the perimeter of the island until I finally decided to head inland toward Kandy. 

Whatever vestiges of western clothing and look i had at the time I left los angeles had long been discarded by the time I reached Kandy.   My hair was to my back, my skin dark, and my clothing was local shorts and sandals.  I share this only to say that there was nothing about my appearance that would give much about me away.  In fact, all throughout this part of world, “travelers” like myself were relatively common and we looked like each other more than anyone else from anyplace else.

During afternoons in Kandy there would be a procession of people making offerings of flowers and incense in the local temple.  People would line up, there coal black faces contrasted against their traditional white wraps.  I enjoyed this and like other travelers would join in this and other local customs.One afternoon, no different than any other, I was in line waiting my turn to bring  flowers into the temple when a very old man approached me.  Like every other Sri Lankan, he was dressed in white, his skin as dark as coal, yet there was still something different about his look. 

Sri Lankans had for the most part very consistent facial features, large brown eyes, oval yet defined facial structure, average noses.  This man’s face was far more angular, with a nose my uncle larry would be proud of.  He looked for all intents and purpose like an extraordinarily tan version of one of the old guys from my father’s golf club.

You see, I’m jewish, and I know an old Jew when I see one, heck I grew up around them.  To be clear, my nose is small, I am tall and athletic, and there was nothing about my outward appearance that would suggest religion at all.  What was amazing is that this very old Sri Lankan came up to me and the first words he said to me, in thick sri lankan accent was, “I know your jewish, right?” 

“Right”, I responded, though completely dumbfounded.  “How did you know?” I asked.

“I just know.  I am too.  Can you help me?”  He asked.

“How?” I asked.

He asked if when I went back home if I could arrange for Torah the Talmud to be sent to him and his people.  That they did not have them and that they’re Jewish tradition was passed along orally.  He told me that he and his family had lived there for hundreds of years. Tears formed in his eyes as he shared stories with me and about the excitement of getting the books he had long hoped form  He gave me the address where  to send it and left.

When I returned to the U.S. I had spent so much time in and out of South East Asia, going back and forth between countries that the customs officials viewed my with caution and went through every micro possession I had including giving me a strip search.  By the time I collected everything, left the airport, and finally unpacked I realized to my sadness that the slip of paper with the address on it had gotten lost.

I went to my families’ temple to inquire about jewish community in sri lanka and sending what I had promised.  I was told that there is no indigenous jewish community to contact and that the only jews to speak of are the ex-pats from Israel, America, Australia, etc.  I explained that there is a historical community there, but no one here had any knowledge of it.

It was my hope to fly back and fulfill my promise, however, very shortly after my return to the states the conflict with the tamils really erupted which lasted until now.  I found your blog because the event still resonates with me and  I would still love to fulfill my promise if it’s needed, but even now in 2010 there little if anything that can be found written or mentioned about a group of people I know are there.   Hopefully this story finds you and you find it interesting.

Secrets of Ceylon: What happened to the Jews of Sri Lanka, from Asian Jewish Life, Issue 6, 2011

Andrew Harris' latest piece. I think Andrew has diplomatically covered many of the complex issues.
Here's the link:

Wikipedia post on Sidney Abrahams has an error: Correction here

Sidney Abrahams, Chief Justice  was married in 1914 to Ruth Bowman and had two children, Valerie, and my husband Anthony.  There was indeed another Sidney Abrahams married to Rebecca Berkon, but this was not the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka.
Information supplied by Elizabeth Abrahams

Albert Einstein visited Ceylon

Albert Einstein visited Colombo Ceylon on the way to Japan during 28-30 October 1922. Any newspaper details would gratefully received.

Back Online

I have finally recovered my email address jewsinsrilanka@gmail.com and have been wading thru spam and correspondence. I have some leads to follow up and will in the next week or so upload new posts (I promise!).
However I should say what I am/this blog is NOT: I am not an accommodation finder nor a living person searcher. If you want details about shul activities currently in Sri Lanka, Rabbi Mendi from Chabad Sri Lanka is the best to contact.

I cannot undertake personal genealogical searches for you or give verifying information as the whether you ancestor is a Jew or not. I may because other people read this blog put up your information because often this involves piecing material together. Because people are not told about their religious pasts, and there are many myths ... I have learnt that nothing is certain. This is a big issue in proving one's Jewish status, like myself you probably don't have any papers/records -- that's what colonisation does, it destroys lineages. I will write more about this soon as there are some sections of Judaism that now recognise this important excluded group.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

needles in the haystack

Looking for Sri Lankan's of Jewish descent or Jew's with Sri Lankan descent is a slow mining activity. Even when people "come out" they often wish to remain underground! Even Chabad who have set up in Sri Lanka have not had much contact with Sri Lankan Jews as such - there main constituency being Israeli's, expats etc (not that thats bad). I am wondering how it is possible to create a safe space for individuals exploring their heritage and religious beliefs can meet without expectations? There is by the way a group on Facebook: Jewish and Asian: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2205164688 - worth joining but that is a public group. In my own case, despite coming from a recognised jewish family (the van Dort's) I need to convert for recognition under Jewish law, as there are too many broken records and missing links. Bummer really! I will be undergoing this process this year (and it can take years). Please email me if you have any more information jewsinsrilanka@gmail.com

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Updates etc

It's been some time since I have put a post on this blog. I have returned to Australia and am awaiting confirmation about my Sri Lankan citizenship. G-d willing, all will be well. Speak of which, I have been unwell since contracting dysentery in the June Colombo floods, one thing after another. I have been asked about my research on Jews in SL up until 1949. The article was sent to 2 Jewish journals and REJECTED ... I am used to sending in pieces and so was surprised. Usually one is asked to undertake revisions. I believe that there is a level of politics involved here. One aspect involves possible claims to another lost group of Jews in Sri Lanka (we all are aware of the Indian controversies), the other concerns "evidence", "proofs" etc - a very difficult point for underground communities and the destruction of historical materials, which I might add is not unusual in the Sri Lankan situation. Another fine point is that my piece is not arguing for the existence of a community as such, but it about identifying Jewish "presence" - these are not the same. Enough of gripes, I will submit the piece in modified form to an intercultural journal. Meanwhile Chabad Sri Lanka have kindly hosted the paper on their web site.

Great News - Chabad has an Official Presence in Sri Lanka


First Jewish center in Sri Lanka.Sri Lanka too was placed on the map On November 2005, when Rabbi Mendi & Mrs. Talia Crombie arrived on the island to establish a Sri Lankan Jewish center for the first time in history. From November 2005 to April 2006 the Chabad house operated at the Hikkaduwa resort, where hundreds of Israeli surfers come for holiday. During those months the Chabad house held Evening activities, Shabbat dinners and Holiday activities on Chanukah and Purim. In the following months the activity expanded to Jews living in the capital of Colombo and gatherings began to be held for them also, mostly on holidays.n April, the Chabad House was permanently situated in Colombo in order to establish a Jewish community there and to provide Jewish necessities for the Jews living in the city and for businessmen and tourists who visit it.Within a short period of time, the Jews living in Colombo were forged into a vibrant active community. The activity included gatherings on Shabbat and Holidays and many Jewish related activities for adults and children. The peak was in the Yom Kippur prayers held at the Hilton hotel, with all of the community members participating. This was the first time Sri Lanka saw a Jewish Minyan in High Holidays prayer. Chabad House also became an address for Jews visiting Sri Lanka and are looking for Kosher food and other Jewish services.We are now working G-d willing to establish a Jewish Center in cooperation with Ascent of Zefat. The center will include a Synagogue, a Mikva, a Kosher Restaurant and a library. We are also working to complete the writing of a book of Torah.Let's be partners, and may the almighty bless you and bestow upon you goodness both physically and spiritually from his ever full hand.

In U.S.A: 170 College Ave. New Brunswich, New Jersey. 08901

For Tax Deductible donations please write checks for: Ascent of Zefat - CSL Project.

Tax ID#: 11-2879462

In Canada: Ascent, 20 Shenstone Rd., willowdale, ON M2R 3B5

For Tax Deductible donations please write checks for: Ascent of Zefat - CSL Project.

In Israel: 221/11 Kiryat Chabad, Tzfat. 13410

In U.K: 3 Sunny Gardens Parade, London NW4 1JA, Charity #: 328625 (please send us your gift aid form).

For Tax Deductible donations please write checks for: Friends of Ascent – CSL Project.