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Taiwan to open its first-ever permanent Jewish community center

Non-denominational complex, funded by the Jeffrey D. Schwartz and NaTang JTCA, expected to launch in December; it will feature a synagogue, kosher restaurant, classrooms and more

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

  • NaTang, left, and Jeffrey D. Schwartz in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    NaTang, left, and Jeffrey D. Schwartz in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
  • The front facade of Taiwan's new Jewish community center, set to open in December 2021. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    The front facade of Taiwan's new Jewish community center, set to open in December 2021. (Glenn Leibowitz)
  • The rooftop plaza in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    The rooftop plaza in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
  • NaTang, left, and Jeffrey D. Schwartz inspect the rooftop plaza in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    NaTang, left, and Jeffrey D. Schwartz inspect the rooftop plaza in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
  • A mosaic floor in the rooftop plaze of Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    A mosaic floor in the rooftop plaze of Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
  • A glass mural in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    A glass mural in Taiwan's new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)
  • Construction of the ritual bath in Taiwan's new Jewish community center. (Glenn Leibowitz)
    Construction of the ritual bath in Taiwan's new Jewish community center. (Glenn Leibowitz)

Taiwan’s Jewish community announced Wednesday that its first permanent community center should open its doors by the end of the year. Construction on the 22,500 square-foot Jeffrey D. Schwartz Jewish Community Center of Taiwan began in 2020, and is on track to be completed by December 2021.

The $16 million complex will include a synagogue with a seating capacity of over 100, a mikvah, or ritual bath, Taiwan’s first kosher restaurant and kitchen, a 300-person banquet hall, a kindergarten and classrooms for adult education programs, a library, spaces for group and individual study, and a Mediterranean-style courtyard for outdoor events.

A private collection of nearly 500 rare Judaica and Jewish art objects belonging to the center’s namesake will also be on permanent display there.

Until now, the Jewish community primarily operated out of two rented spaces in downtown Taipei — a Chabad house and a small office space. Chabad Rabbi Shlomi Tabib arrived in Taipei with his wife and family in 2011 and opened a religious Sunday school program. Once the center opens, the majority of Chabad’s educational programming will be conducted there.

According to community spokesperson Glenn Leibowitz, who has lived in Taiwan for 30 years, the island has an estimated 700 to 800 Jews, half of whom are active community members involved in Shabbat meals and services, Jewish holidays, and other events.

Most Jewish residents live in Taipei, Taiwan’s largest city and the center of business and social life in Taiwan, said Leibowitz, with a small number spread throughout the island, living in central, southern, and eastern Taiwan.

A group photo at the Jewish Community of Taiwan’s 2021 Purim party. (Archi Chang/ via JTA)

The center is being funded, built and operated by the Jeffrey D. Schwartz and NaTang Jewish Taiwan Cultural Association (JTCA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the Jewish community in Taiwan and around the world.

Schwartz, a businessman, has lived in Taiwan for over 50 years. His wife, JTCA co-founder and co-chair NaTang, is a Taiwan-born actress, musician and author.

NaTang, left, and Jeffrey D. Schwartz inspect the rooftop plaza in Taiwan’s new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)

Despite its kitchens being strictly kosher and having a ritual bath constructed according to stringent Jewish law, the center is not intended for any one stream of Judaism — nor is it exclusively for Jews, said its founders.

“We welcome everyone regardless of denomination, affiliation or level of observance — including their families and friends,” said Leibowitz in an email to The Times of Israel.

“The JTCA honors and respects all other Jewish groups in Taiwan, including non-Jewish groups that support the Jews and Israel,” Schwartz wrote in a statement. “The more internally diverse and externally united we are, the stronger we will be.”

A glass mural in Taiwan’s new Jewish community center, currently under construction. (Glenn Leibowitz)

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