The Republic of Singapore, a city-state in Southeast Asia, is a crossroads for a number of international trade routes and has become the hub for IT, banking, and mercantile activities. Singapore is home to approximately 300 Jews, many of which are expats from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Morocco, Belgium, the UK, South Africa, and Israel. The Singapore affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Jewish Welfare Board of Singapore.
Jewish Welfare Board of Singapore
Telephone: +65 337 2189, +65 63 37 21 89
President: Mr. Victor Sasson
A Jewish community has existed in Singapore for more than 150 years. The first Jews to settle there were of Baghdadi origin, predominately from India, who migrated to Singapore in 1840. The Sassoons, a prominent Sephardic family, were amongst the first settlers to establish business interests. Early gatherings of the 40-person Jewish community were first held in a house on street that is still referred to as “Synagogue Street”. In 1878, the community consecrated Maghain Aboth Synagogue, a synagogue that still counts both Sephardim and Ashkenazim among its members. The synagogue possessed a number of Baghdadi Torah Scrolls in beaten silver cases. Chesed-El Synagogue was built in 1904 by Sir Manasseh Meyer. To ensure the 10 Jews required for a minyan, Manasseh Meyer employed “Minyan Men”, but in 1920 the men went on strike, demanding higher wages.
While the community remained largely Sephardi, Ashkenazi immigrants from England, the Netherlands, China, Russia, and Germany settled there. The 1931 census records that 832 Jews as well as a substantial number of Arab residents in Singapore were the largest house property owners. By 1931, approximately 1,500 Jews lived in the city.
The early 1960s witnessed the inception of trade relations between Singapore and Israel. In 1968, the two countries signed a trade agreement and Israel opened a trade mission in Singapore.
On the eve of World War II, there were 5,000 Jews in Singapore, and many were interned during the Japanese occupation. Jews were mandated to wear armbands and medallions with the word “Jews” inscribed on them; the men were forced to till the fields. After liberation, many Jews emigrated to Australia, England, the United States, Israel, and elsewhere.
Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Singapore Jewish community to number approximately 900 as of 2015.
The Jewish Community in Singapore is represented by The Jewish Welfare Board (JWB), a non-profit organization created after World War II. Of the multiple responsibilities held by the JWB, it also runs the Abdullah Shooker Home for the Aged in which elderly community members reside and are looked after by nurses who oversee their daily care. The Voronezh Jewish Center is a focus of cultural life where a Hebrew school, an auditorium, and a library are located.
Religious life at the Maghain Aboth and Chesed-El Synagogues is active, with daily services, adult education, and other community activities. A Progressive Ashkenazi congregation, United Hebrew Congregation of Singapore, holds services once a month on Friday nights, but does not have its own building. There is one officiating rabbi and a Sunday school for children. Kosher products are possible to find throughout the island, and there is a mikvah as well as a Jewish cemetery.
A few Jewish educational opportunities are offered in Singapore. In 1996, the Manasseh Meyer School (MMS) was established, the only Jewish School in Singapore. MMS provides a high academic standard of Judaic studies which aims to nurture a strong sense of a Jewish values and identity. The Talmud Torah Hebrew School, a Jewish Sunday school program, operates weekly to teach children about various topics related to Judaism. The UHC Religious School strives to deliver a Jewish education for children ages 3 to 13-years-old.
The Yeshiva Youth Leadership Program is a community outreach group that organize activities, hold study sessions, and assembles social events for the greater community. Additionally, the Jewish Welfare Board offers various Jewish youth activities designed to provide an opportunity to establish friendships with youth from different backgrounds as well as stimulate their intellectual, ethical, and social development.
The Jewish Welfare Board publishes a month newsletter called L'Chaim and the Progressive Congregation publishes their monthly newsletter, titled Singapore Shofar.
Awafi, Singapore’s first kosher restaurant offers a variety of ethnic dishes to its guests.
Since May 1969, Israel and Singapore have maintained full diplomatic relations. Over the years, Israeli experts have extended technical aid to Singapore, while a number of mutual visits were made by ministers, public figures and senior officials. In 1997, the Singapore-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD) was established to promote, facilitate, and support joint industrial projects between Singaporean and Israel high-tech companies. The two cooperating government agencies responsible for the research and development support fund are the Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore and the Office of the Chief Scientists (OCS), of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Israel.
In April 2016, Lee Hsien Loong became the first Singaporean prime minister to visit Israel, and while speaking at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Loong urged the Israelis and Palestinians to unite and forge a lasting peace agreement through direct negotiations.
Embassy of Israel
58 Dalvey Road
Tel. +65 235 0966