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.