With some hesitation I decided to write a second part to my blog on Singapore.
As I mentioned, the thing which delighted me most in this stunning city/state was the Jewish congregation in this city.
Just to be entirely clear – there is much to do and see in Singapore. If you have never been to all the top attractions of the USA, like Universal Studios, Disney and all the fun glitzy Super Parks around the globe, fun is awaiting you here.
Yet where I found an unexpected jewel of interest for any Jewish traveler was upon discovering the amazing Jewish community in Singapore. For the Kosherica traveler, the visit to Singapore is the location of the start and end of a truly magnificent trip. The Holland America ms Westerdam boards here and returns back 15 days later. If at all possible, try to leave a free chunk of time either pre or post boarding the Southeast Asia Kosher Cruise. ;
In the first Singapore blog I gave you the highlights of the bustling city/state. Still, I’m reeling with excitement and the desire to share some more.
I’ve mentioned Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, clearly a very energetic, positive man with charm and a high purpose. He has been leading the community since 1994 and is deeply involved in everything that takes place in it. He seems to be exceptionally gifted at keeping the community united holding Shabbat meals during the Jewish holidays. The Lag Ba’omer bonfire is the highlight of the year and it is said to bring together 700 people.
In the wondrous compound of his kingdom, the Magen Aboth, aside from the Mikvah (ritual bath) and Sunday school for 150 students, there are the aforementioned kosher stores and kosher restaurants under Rabbi Abergels’ supervision. They serve breakfast lunch and dinner, Shabbat meals and catering services. The place also has a retirement home for elderly Jews and a Sunday school which is a co-creation of Rabbi Abergel and the Israeli Embassy. Locals claim the school serves as bridge between all the different facets of the community, locals and visitors, plus creates a feeling of home’ for visiting Israelis. Students use the Israeli education system and matriculate at exam period.
Here I want to comment on the Menorah on the main street and tell you how the rabbi managed to get it there. Four years ago, the Rabbi says, he felt a deep desire to place a Hanukkah menorah on Singapore’s main shopping street, Orchard Road. He set a meeting with one of the compound’s owners, a wealthy Singapore resident. On the man’s desk, the rabbi spotted three holy books: The Bible, the New Testament and the Koran. The millionaire accepted the rabbis’ requests within minutes, and the menorah has been standing on Singapore’s main shopping street ever since.
He believes in keeping good relations with the non-Jewish population, has close ties with the government so a watchful eye can be kept on any sign of anti-Semitism.
The Rabbi is a busy man – he has Rabbi Rivni as his right hand man, 6 yeshiva students and two Bnei Akiva emissaries to help him. There is a sense of caring and cooperation, so you’ll never feel alone when you visit.
The community is mostly Orthodox, wealthy and very inviting. Slowly, over the years, the community grew and expanded thanks to people who arrived from all over the world. There are several thousand Israelis who are assigned to Singapore by work. They go there on special projects and missions every year. The few Jews who remained in Singapore after the war stood out. For example, David Marshall, who was a successful Jewish lawyer and served as Singapore’s first chief minister from 1955 to 1956. To this very day, on the anniversary of his death, many residents from a wide spectrum of the country’s different religions pay their respects to him. It is stunning to find this in such a faraway corner of the world. There is also a great closeness
and a love of Israel in Singapore.
In 1965, when Singapore gained its independence and split from Malaysia, Israel was one of the few countries which helped the new republic. Singapore’s residents are still grateful to Israel to this very day, and the Israelis are very popular in the country.
Just in case you are planning to stay in Singapore for the Shabbat after the cruise, I’m attaching the times of prayer services:
Synagogue Maghain Aboth
24/26 Waterloo St, Singapore, 187968
Shacharit – 7:30 am daily (8am Sunday & Public Holidays), followed by breakfast.
Mincha – 6:45 pm daily, followed by Maariv.
Shabbat & Festivals:
Shacharit – 9:15 am, followed by Kiddush and Lunch.
Mincha – 6:15 pm, followed by Se’udat Shelishit and Maariv.
To book a tour of Maghain Aboth, please email [email protected]. For any other assistance prior to your visit you can contact Rabbi Netanel – +65 9232 7096
On April 4th, 1878, the service of consecration was conducted for the synagogue, marking the start of a memorable first Hundred Years for the Jewish community of Singapore. Today the synagogue continues to be the beacon of light in the Community and remains the focal point of all religious events.
It was officially named a national monument by the Preservation of Monuments Board on February 27, 1998. Having undergone extensive renovations, the Synagogue is now more beautiful than ever and is counted among Singapore’s most noted historical monuments.
The first record of Jewish existence in Singapore is found in the Jewish Synagogue Act.
It reads that a piece of land was leased “on a peppercorn rent for the purpose of erecting a synagogue.”
It is to the Trustees, comprising Joseph Dwek, Nassim Joseph Ezra and Ezra Ezra Ezekiel, that we owe our establishment as a Community as we know it today. It was through their initiative that the first synagogue was erected in the Boat Quay area. Tll today, the street in which the synagogue was built bears the name “Synagogue Street” although the synagogue itself was rebuilt on Waterloo st. and is no longer there. The Trustees also, in 1841, made for a lease of a plot of land in Orchard Road for a cemetery, thus making provision for both the living and the dead. ; ; ;