SINGAPORE, republic; major entrepôt of S.E. Asia, formerly a British crown colony. The first Jews to settle there were of Baghdadi origin, mainly from India, who migrated to Singapore in 1840 when the *Sassoon family established business interests. Prayers were first held in a house in the street still known as "Synagogue Street." The Maghain Aboth synagogue was opened in 1878; it possessed a number of Torah scrolls in beaten silver cases brought from Baghdad. Another synagogue, Chased El, was built in 1904 by Sir Manasseh Meyer, reputed to be the richest Jew in the Far East. He also endowed a talmud torah. Local custom sanctioned conveyance to synagogue by rickshaw on Sabbath. The community remained largely Sephardi, but Ashkenazi immigrants from England, the Netherlands, China, Russia, and Germany also settled there. Most engaged in business and the professions. The community continued to be highly prosperous and important out of all proportion to its size. The 1931 census records that the 832 Jews and larger number of Arab residents were the largest house property owners in the city. There were over 1,500 Jewish inhabitants by 1939. Many were interned by the Japanese during World War II, and a number subsequently immigrated to Australia, England, the United States, and Israel. Apart from their contribution to commerce, Jews have taken a considerable part in political life and in 1955 David S. *Marshall became the first chief minister of the republic. The community is represented by the Jewish Welfare Board which publishes a monthly bulletin. There exist two synagogues with one officiating rabbi; social activities center in the Menorah Club. The community numbered approximately 450 in 1968. In the early 21st century the community numbered 300, many of them expatriate Israelis and American and British Jews. There was a rabbi and Sabbath services were held at the Waterloo Road and Maghain Aboth synagogues (Sephardi). The expatriates founded the United Hebrew Congregation. Sunday school classes were held for children and the community had a quarterly publication, Shalom. The community center was a focus of Jewish life and there was also an old age home.
[Percy S. Gourgey /
Tudor Parfitt (2nd ed.)]
Relations with Israel
From the beginning of the 1960s, trade relations began to develop between Singapore and Israel. Israeli experts extended technical aid to Singapore, while a number of mutual visits were made by ministers, public figures, and senior officials. In 1968 a trade agreement was signed by the two countries and an Israeli trade mission opened in Singapore. In May 1969 diplomatic relations were established, and in July the Israeli ambassador presented his credentials. Technical cooperation included the dispatch of Israeli advisers to the Singapore army. In 1970 the two countries signed an aviation agreement. The Singapore-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD) was established in 1997 to promote, facilitate, and support joint industrial R&D projects between Singaporean and Israeli hightech companies. The Economic Development Board (EDB) of Singapore and the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS), of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Israel are the two cooperating government agencies responsible for the research and development support fund.
I. Cohen, Journal of a Jewish Traveller (1925), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: E. Nathan, The History of Jews in Singapore 1830–1945 (1986); T. Parfitt, The Thirteenth Gate (1987).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.