Singapore welcomes first Jewish Museum
Singapore’s tiny Jewish community celebrated the opening of its first Jewish Museum last week, in a landmark moment for the south-east Asian state.
The permanent exhibits opened in the Jacob Ballas Centre, which is named after a Singaporean Jewish philanthropist, and sits beside the pink Maghain Aboth Synagogue, which was completed in 1878.
The first Jews to emigrate to Singapore were traders from Baghdad, who arrived in the 19th century. They grew a small but feisty community, whose members have since reached the top of Singaporean business, law and politics.
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Among their most prominent members was David Saul Marshall, Singapore’s first Chief Minister, who led the country in the 1950s and was instrumental in negotiating Singapore’s independence from the UK.
At the opening of the Jews of Singapore Museum, the state’s interior minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam said: “We want every community in Singapore to not just take pride in their heritage, but to put it out for others.”
Touring the centre, he added: “This is part of Singapore. It’s a short history but it’s made rich by the experiences of all the different communities.”
The Jewish Welfare Board, which is behind the museum, said the exhibits focus on Jewish arrivals from the 1820s, profiles of Jewish leaders, as well as Jewish festivals, culture, and religion, using photos, videos, and audio recordings.
The Welfare Board said the legacy of the Jewish community in Singapore “can be seen in the names of roads, institutions, and buildings, some bearing the Star of David, including Synagogue Street, Frankel Avenue, Meyer Road, Nassim Road, Elias Road, the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, and the Ellison Building”.
Items on display include a Sefer Torah, inscribed on parchment and encased in an embellished silver Torah case, commissioned in the early 20th century.
There are also displays of traditional Jewish religious objects including a menorah, candlesticks, a century-old Chumash and Tanakh and the late Jacob Ballas’ personal copy of the Book of Psalms, his tallit and his tefillin set.
A centuries-old Torah scroll is among the items on display