Chesed-El Synagogue

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Coordinates: 1°17′50″N 103°50′33.2″E / 1.29722°N 103.842556°E / 1.29722; 103.842556

Chesed-El Synagogue
Chesed-El Synagogue 3, Mar 06.JPG
Basic information
Location Singapore
Geographic coordinates 1°17′50″N 103°50′33.2″E / 1.29722°N 103.842556°E / 1.29722; 103.842556
Affiliation Sephardic Judaism
Status Active

Rabbi Avraham Haim Soussan

Hazzan Jean Pierre Fettmann
Architectural description
Architectural type Synagogue
Architectural style Renaissance Revival
Completed 1905

The Chesed-El Synagogue is a synagogue in Singapore. It is located at Oxley Rise in the River Valley Planning Area, within the Central Area in Singapore's central business district.

The synagogue was constructed in 1905. As the Jewish community grew beyond the capacity of the Maghain Aboth Synagogue, there was a need for this second place of worship, which was built in the late-Renaissance style. It was also one of the first places to use gaslights in Singapore.


As the Jewish community in Singapore continued to grow, the Maghain Aboth Synagogue that was opened for use in 1878 frequently became rather crowded. By 1902, some felt the need for another synagogue.

There was another reason why another synagogue was needed. The Jewish community in Singapore was now made up of Jews from Europe as well as from Asia. Different backgrounds in the community led to disagreements over the order of service and specific rituals. Manasseh Meyer, who established the Maghain Aboth Synagogue, was very sensitive to this friction and was finally prompted to build his own private synagogue near his home in Oxley Rise.

Named Chesed-El which means "Bounty of God", the synagogue was completed in 1905. The attendance was good on holy days, but less so on ordinary days.

Today, Chesed-El and Maghain Aboth coordinate their services because the Jewish community is now small. When Chesed-El Synagogue has a service, Maghain Aboth does not. Service is usually held just once a week. Both, however, are open for festival celebrations.

The Chesed-El Synagogue was gazetted as a national monument on 18 December 1998.


Built in the late Renaissance style, Chesed-El Synagogue was the work of Swan and MacLaren, the largest architectural firm in Singapore at that time.


  • Flat-sided pillars resting on rectangular bases run along the sides of the building. They are aligned with the second-storey pilasters that curve out into arches round the windows.
  • The gallery deck extends beyond the entranceway into the hall, creating a small upper floor for the use of the women in the house. Women do not normally attend the synagogue but when they do, they are seated apart from the men. Separate entrances lead to the women's upper gallery.
  • The synagogue was one of the first places to use gaslights in Singapore. The original lights have since been replaced by electric lights. The metal gas pipes are still in the prayer hall beneath the roof.
  • The interior columns are fluted and intersected with two sets of moulding. They have square moulded capitals and are joined with arches at the top. They rest on flat-sided bases.
  • Moulding and small pilasters edge the walls above the arched columns. They can be seen above the railing along the second-storey gallery deck where the women sit.
  • The initial "M" for Meyer can be seen in the decorative moulding just below the ceiling and in two panels facing the congregation.
  • To the right of the entrance is a plaque stating that the synagogue was built by Manasseh Meyer and the designer of the building.
  • The floor is of white marble. The original combination of white marble with a gold trim that no longer exists once gave the interior an understated richness.
  • The rails on either side of the Ark are for hanging oil lamps to commemorate the dead in the community. They are kept lit for a year. At the end of the year, those who can afford it can donate the silk hangings to replace the lamp.
  • The raised platform or bema leading to the Ark where the scrolls of the Torah are kept was originally of marble. It was destroyed during the Japanese Occupation. It is now made of wood. The panels of the raised platform are ornamented with the Star of David as are many other parts of the synagogue.
  • There are three entrances to the Ark where the scrolls of the Torah are stored in special holders. The scrolls are handwritten on a single continuous piece of parchment.
  • The Hebrew inscription above the Ark says: "Lo, in Thine abundant love I enter Thy house; in reverence to Thee I bow towards Thy holy temple." There are also other panels in the synagogue that originally had inscriptions in Hebrew.
  • Manasseh Meyer had a special chair set out in the front of the congregation. The place of honour is close to the Ark.
  • The wooden windows are double-leafed and topped with round and half-moon fanlights edged out in wood. There are air vents running just above the ground.
  • Some of the windows on the upper floors above the entrance and inside are rectangular with wooden louvres.
  • A little vestibule situated near the entrance allows worshippers to clean themselves and put on their headgear before entering.


  • Lee Geok Boi (2002), The Religious Monuments of Singapore, Landmark Books, ISBN 981-3065-62-1
  • Preservation of Monuments Board, Know Our Monuments

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