posted 9 Apr 2019, 12:40 by Charles Greene
Singapore’s earliest Jewish settlers were merchants from Iraq who came to trade as early as 1831. Maghain Aboth Synagogue (in spite of the unusual spelling, pronounced in the common Hebrew way as ‘Muh-gen Uh-vot’, i.e. the Shield of the Fathers) on Waterloo St. was constructed in 1878, and therefore is the oldest active synagogue in Southeast Asia.
It owes its birth to Sir Manasseh Meyer, a smart boy'chik from Baghdad who became one of the shrewdest businessmen in the British Empire. On his return trip to Singapore in mid-1870's, he found the existing schule in a sorry state and decided to erect a new and beautiful one.

Thirty years later, due to the frictions (what else is new!) between the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities, he built yet another one, Chesed-El (also very much operational nowadays though I personally prefer both the food and the vibe here at Maghain Aboth).

This is a community of businessmen, traders and their descendants (more than 100 of the original Iraqi Jewish families of Singapore are still around, most of them Orthodox). A community that lived through the colonial period, saw the Japanese occupation (during which Maghain Aboth was the major hub of Jewish life and news exchange,) the attempt to integrate Singapore into Malaysian kingdom upon its gaining independence in the early 1950's (Malaysia kicked Singapore out for not being sufficiently Muslim in its laws and practices; look where the Malaysian economy is today, and where Singapore's is), and finally, over half a century of independent market and politics.

Should you happen to visit Singapore, do not limit yourselves to the Jewish sights. There are imposing skyscrapers, opulent malls and trade centres, and of course the magnificent botanical Gardens by the Bay, of which the Singaporeans are justly so proud.
The polymer artificial supertrees behind me were planted a mere 5 years ago. Up to 50m tall, each is an independent vertical garden, In another 3-4 years, they are expected to be completely covered in those ferns, vines, orchids, and other plants growing at their own normal rate; as you can see, thus far they got just a bit over halfway.

Bidding you farewell for the moment, next week - see you in Europe!

Are you working hard to get rid of that chametz yet?

Shabbat Shalom, RE