The Jewish history of the Philippines begins with the Spanish Inquisition of the 1500's. These Jews had 2 choices, be forced into Christianity or flee the country to avoid death. Many of these Jews fled Spain to settle in the new Spanish colonies, such as the Philippines.
Those early settlers who fled to the Philippines soon found that it did not guarantee them the freedoms they sought. In the 1590's at least 10 of these Jews were tried and jailed by the Inquisition. Because there was no established tribunal in the Philippines, these court cases were conducted in Mexico City, Mexico. These cases led most of the Jews to practice their faith in secret, in fact the laws of the time would not have permitted any kind of a public Jewish community. This led to there being no organized community until the late 19th century.
The first group of settlers who arrived in the late 1870's were those from Alsace who were escaping the conditions left after the Franco-Prussian War. Some of these Jews were prominent businessmen who were very influential in future business ventures in the Philippines. This was the perfect time for them to establish themselves in the country because the opening of the Suez Canal brought more business from Europe. This also allowed more Jews to arrive which only made the community stronger. Jews from places such as Turkey, Egypt and Syria soon began arriving.
The freedom to be openly Jewish finally came to the Philippines in 1898, when as a result of the Spanish -American War, the United States took control of the islands from Spain. This was truly the beginning of the Jewish community. With the United States in control, many Americans travelled to the Islands. Many were military who stayed after the war, but there were also merchants, teachers and many other trades. The Jewish community in Manila became home to the largest group of Jews in the early 1900's.
In 1901, two men who would become very influential in the Philippines, Emil Bcharach and Morton Netzorg, arrived in Manila. These two men became very successful and were very generous, strong backers of the Jewish people. In fact the synagogue, Temple Emil and the community center, Bachrach Hall, were financed by the Bachrach family and bore his name. The population in the Philippines before 1930, probably never exceeded 500 people.
The period between the mid 1930's and mid 1940's was time that brought the majority of the Jewsto the Philippines. Some of these were the Jews fleeing Shanghai, which was discussed in an earlier post. These German and Polish Jews no longer felt safe living in their new home, having already fled Eastern Europe. The government and people of the Philippines were instrumental in thousands of Jews being able to flee the war. Eventually about 1500 Jews were able to flee Europe and settle in the Philippines. The Jewish population grew to between 2,500 and 3,000. The bravery of the people of the Philippines will long be remembered. Today the Jewish community in the Philippines probably is no more than 500 to a thousand, mostly located in Manila.