The Maghain Aboth Synagogue is a reminder of how far back Singapore’s multicultural roots go.
Constructed in 1878, the synagogue is one of the oldest surviving Jewish buildings in Southeast Asia and stands in what used to be the country's Jewish quarter.
Elegance in simplicity
The building boasts a simple neoclassical façade punctuated by a covered porch with an entrance arch big enough to accommodate horse carriages. From here, a wide flight of steps sweeps up to three doors.
The interiors are a hybrid of Neoclassical and colonial-style architecture, with traditional columns and rustic walls deliberately kept bare of any decoration or images.
Yet the combination of marble floors, timber-louvred windows and red carpets with teak and rattan pews achieve an elegant simplicity.
The hall has a second-storey U-shaped balcony for women, which was only added in its later years. The prayer hall is orientated west towards Jerusalem so the 'bimah' (altar from which the Torah is read) faces the 'ahel' (alcove), which is situated in a niche on an elevated area at the west wall of the hall.
Within the 'ahel' is the Torah, and this is covered by the parochet (a richly embroidered fringed curtain). Hanging in front is the eternal lamp, a symbol of the eternal flame that burned in what was once the Temple of Jerusalem.
Apart from a peek into the millenia-old traditions of Judaism, the Maghain Aboth Synagogue serves as a reminder of Singapore’s rich history, and its modern-day diversity of cultures.