Saturday, February 24, 2024

Singapore National Monument: Maghain Abos Synagogue, Lifestyle News

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What are national monuments? Who gazets them? How many national monuments does Singapore have? To date, the Conservation of Sites and Monuments, a division of the National Heritage Board, , has identified and gazetted 75 buildings, structures and sites of national importance as an integral part of Singapore’s architectural heritage.

You’ve probably walked past or stepped into them without realizing they were national monuments. Al Abrar Mosque, Asian Civilizations Museum, Civil War Memorial, St. Andrews Cathedral, Esplanade Park Memorial, Fort Siloso on Sentosa Island — there’s no need to plan an itinerary for your friends visiting from abroad. Please show me this article.

This time, we’ll be highlighting Maggain Abos Synagogue, the oldest synagogue still standing in Little Red Dot.


Maggain Abos Synagogue is the 35th building to be gazetted as a national monument. Located near other national monuments such as St Peter and Paul’s Church and the Singapore Art Museum, Maghain Abbot’s synagogue’s closest MRT stations are Bencoolen Station and Brass His Basar Station.

important dates

Construction date:

  • September 1841 to 1871: The first synagogue in the form of a two-story shophouse is built on Synagogue Street
  • 1873-1878: Maghain Abos Synagogue was built on Church Street (now Waterloo Street).


  • April 4, 1878: Maghain Abbot Synagogue consecrated
  • 2007: Jacob Barras Center added to the site
  • 2 December 2021: Singapore Jewish Museum opens at Jacob Barras Center

Official gazette publication date: February 27, 1998


Interesting fact: The word “synagogue” comes from the Greek word “synagene,” which means “to unite.”

Synagogues are the center of Jewish culture and way of life. In addition to serving as a religious site, it is also an important community and social gathering place for the Jewish community.

Most of the early Jewish immigrants settled in the Boat Quay area near Commercial Square (now Raffles Place). The first synagogue, in the form of a shophouse, was built on Synagogue Street in the Jewish Quarter.

By the 1870s, many Jewish merchants and families had moved from the commercial centers to the residential areas of Dhoby Ghaut and Bras Basah.

As Singapore’s Jewish population grew over the years, it became clear that larger synagogues, and synagogues closer to the Jewish Quarter, were needed to serve the local community.

Appointed administrator of the proposed synagogue was Abraham Solomon, one of the early Jewish settlers, a trader and property owner. Joshua Raphael Joshua was successful in the opium trade. and Joshua’s nephew, Manasseh Mayer, was a wealthy merchant and highly regarded philanthropist.

After construction of a new synagogue failed, Mayer asked Attorney General Thomas Braddell in 1873 for permission to sell the existing shophouse synagogue and acquire land for a new synagogue.

The government granted his request, and a site on Waterloo Street (opposite St. Peter and Paul’s Church and St. Joseph’s Institute) was chosen.

Construction began immediately, and five years later the synagogue was finally completed. On April 4, 1878, his synagogue was consecrated by Maghain Abot, whose name in Hebrew means “Shield of the Fathers.” The synagogue also had a mikvah (ceremonial bath).

Jewish men and women worship separately in synagogues, so when the one-story Maghain Avos Synagogue was first completed, it could only accommodate men.

At her own expense, Meyer added a simple wooden gallery where women could participate in religious services. In 1925, a more substantial permanent gallery was built and is still in use today.

A synagogue is a meeting place for the Jewish community, where weekly Sabbath services and religious festivals are held.

Rites such as bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs (rites of passage from childhood to adulthood for boys and girls, respectively), weddings, and funerals are also held in synagogues.

In 1978, Singaporean Jews celebrated the 100th anniversary of Maghain Abos Synagogue.

The guest of honor at this auspicious event was Mr. David S. Marshall, Singapore’s first Prime Minister, a prominent lawyer, and an active member of the local Jewish community.

In 2007, the Jacob Barras Center, named after the famous Jewish stockbroker and philanthropist, opened next to the Maghain Avos Synagogue.

This provided additional facilities for the Jewish community, including a chicken slaughterhouse, kosher shop, and social hall.

The Maghain Abbot Synagogue is currently managed by the Jewish Welfare Board and continues to be a major place of worship for the Jewish community. In addition to daily prayers and Sabbath services, festival celebrations are still held regularly in synagogues.

design and architecture

The Maghain Abos Synagogue employed several neoclassical architectural elements in its design, including traditional Roman columns, pilasters, and arches.

Dentils (small rectangular blocks resembling teeth) line and decorate the cornices (ornamental moldings) around the perimeter of the building. The Star of David, a symbol often associated with the Jewish faith, is prominently displayed on the front facade.

The synagogue was originally one story in 1893, but a U-shaped second-story balcony was added for women. There are two entrances for women only.

The internal chapel features high ceilings, traditional columns, and plain walls without any decorations or statues (Judaism explicitly prohibits statues of gods or prophets).

In the center of the hall is the bimah, a raised pulpit where prayers and readings from the Torah (“Torah scroll”) are performed by the rabbis during services.

The chapel faces west towards Jerusalem. The bimah faces the Aher or “Ark” and is located in a niche high on the west wall of the hall.

The Aher is the alcove where the Torah is kept, usually covered by a paroche, a fringed curtain with fine embroidery. In front of Aher hangs the eternal lamp, a symbol of the eternal flame that once burned in what was once the Temple of Jerusalem.

Before air conditioners were installed, high ceilings and large windows provided good indoor ventilation. Seats with woven rattan linings also ensured maximum coolness and comfort for worshipers.

business hours

The synagogue is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Regular visiting hours for the museum are 10am to 6pm daily and 10am to 12pm on Fridays. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

Admission fee

Visits to the synagogue and museum are by appointment only. For more information, see here and here, respectively.

Also read: National Monuments of Singapore: National Museum

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