Oldest Synagogue in Boat Quay; old Jewish quarters in Chinatown

The first Jews in Singapore can be traced to 1830 when traders of the Jewish faith came to the settlement of Singapore. By 1833 there were 22 Jews; 18 males and 4 females; in 1846 there were 6 Jewish merchant houses in Singapore. By 1858 there were 20 Jewish families in Singapore.

The earliest Synagogue was in Synagogue Street behind the old Central Police Station and for 30 years it served the Jewish community in Singapore. Later it was sold to be used as shophouse. This building was demolished after the Japanese Occupation. The first Jewish quarters were in Boat Quay, off south Canal Road, behind the Hill Street Building which today houses the oral history Department, the Archives, the Film Censor's Office and the Public Trustee's Office, the Jews moved to North Bridge Road, Sophia Road, Dhoby Ghaut, Waterloo Street, Prinsep Street and Selegie Road.

In 1873 the Jewish community bought a piece of land from government in Church Street now known as Waterloo Street and the present Synagogue known as the Maghaim About (Shield of our Fathers) was built there; the consecration was on 4 April 1878. In 1924 extensions were made to the Synagogue.

Famous Jews include Manasseh Meyer who in 1870 established the firm of Joshua brothers. Nissim Adis owned the land now occupied by the Supreme Court and he built the Grand Hotel del'Europe. By 1900 the old Jewish Cemetery in Orchard Road next to one of the oldest Hindu Temples, the Sivan Temple, was closed and a new burial ground was opened in December 1900 in Moulmein Road.

By 1910 about 500 Jews had settled in Singapore and because of dissension in the order of service and specific rituals a new Synagogue was completed in 1905. It was a private Synagogue built by the Mannasehs in Oxley Rise and they named it Chased El Synagogue. Masseh Meyer had a special chair in a alcove near the Abel and around this his family was seated during the prayers. Manasseh Meyer's , residence, the Belle Vue was close to the Synagogue.

Manasseh Meyer donated $150,000 towards the Raffles College Fund and the Manasseh Meyer Block was named after him. It remains untouched in the Bukit Timah Campus - now the Institute of Education. In 1941 the Jewish population in Singapore had risen to 844.

During the Japanese Occupation the Jews were interned in various stages, in 1942, 1943 and 1945. They were interned at Sime Road Camp and Changi Gaol.

There were several eminent Jews in Singapore. Today the most well-known is David Marshall, the first elected Chief Minister of Singapore and Presently Singapore's Ambassador to France. Others include J.Grimberg, Harry Elias both eminent lawyers.