Maghain Aboth Synagogue
|Maghain Aboth Synagogue|
Maghain Aboth Synagogue
The synagogue was constructed by 1878. It is the oldest Jewish synagogue in Southeast Asia. Till today, there are still several Jewish buildings standing within its vicinity. Descendants of some of Singapore's earliest Jewish settlers are still living and doing business in Singapore.
In 1841, three Jews — Joseph Dwek Cohen, Nassim Joseph Ezra and Ezra Ezekiel — were given a land lease to build a synagogue in Synagogue Street. The area is the earliest settled part of Singapore that today still has many of Singapore's religious monuments and preservation buildings.
When Manasseh Meyer returned to Singapore in 1873, he found the synagogue in Synagogue Street in a deplorable state and set about planning a new one for the Jewish community. Meyer asked the government for land for a new synagogue. He was given the site in Waterloo Street, then called Church Street because of the presence of the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul nearby. The Jewish community soon began moving into the surrounding areas of Dhoby Ghaut, Waterloo Street, Prinsep Street, Selegie Road and Wilkie Road. Today, there are still several Jewish buildings standing there.
Construction of Maghain Aboth, which means Shield of Our Fathers, began soon after the community was given the land, and it was completed in 1878. A well was sunk for use as a mikvah (ritual bath). The consecration service was held on 4 April 1878 and conducted by either Lucunas or I.J. Hayeem or both men.
In 1924, extensions were made to the building. Nevertheless, with the growth of the community, Maghain Aboth became rather crowded, prompting Manasseh Meyer to build a private synagogue for his family and friends.
The synagogue was originally a single-storey building until a second-storey balcony was added. The balcony is reserved for female members of the community during the prayer service. Jewish women do not have the duty to learn Hebrew and read the Torah. Because the sacred duty of reading the Torah falls only on the men, the women's section is very simple. The section is also very small because few women attended the service. Jewish law exempts women because of their obligations at home.
- Lee Geok Boi (2002), The Religious Monuments of Singapore, Landmark Books, ISBN 978-981-3065-62-8
- Preservation of Monuments Board, Know Our Monuments
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