Catholics visit synagogue, learn about Jewish faith and culture
What is a typical prayer or worship session like for Jews? What are some of the common traditions shared by Christians and Jews?
These were some of the questions posed to Chief Rabbi Mordechai Abergel during a visit by Catholics to the Maghain Aboth Synagogue at Waterloo Street on Dec 20.
Fifty-four participants visited the synagogue. The visit was to help Catholics better appreciate interreligious dialogue as well as promote mutual respect and friendship with people of other faiths.
This was the third visit to the synagogue organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD). Previous visits took place in 2013 and March 2015.
“We pray three times a day,” said Rabbi Abergel. These are the morning (Shakarit), afternoon (Mincha) and night (Arvit) prayers.
“A manual of life” for the Jewish people, also known as the Torah – hand-written scrolls that consists of the first five books of Moses – are used during the prayers.
Rabbi Abergel also noted that most of the 613 Jewish “commandments have to do with physical things”.
“Its about the food you eat, the things you do.. the way you get dressed in the morning,” he said.
On the commonality between Judaism and Christianity, Rabbi Abergel shared: “Charity is one of the main traditions that we have in common. We conceive of doing good not only for ourselves but for others.
“There is also a commonality in the festivals although it is celebrated very differently.”
One participant asked the rabbi about his perception of other religions.
“What has shaped my perspective on religion is interaction with other faiths... Singapore is a place where this happens more often that not,” he replied.
After the dialogue, participants were given a brief tour of the synagogue where Rabbi Abergel explained the various symbols on the curtains that were covering the Torah.
They then visited the Kosher (confirming to Jewish dietary laws) shop in the neighbouring Jacob Ballas Centre.
Participants felt that the visit helped them better understand the Jewish faith.
Ms Kathleen Lim, 31, a parishioner from the Church of St Mary of the Angels, said that the visit “was very insightful, it showed me a lot of the commonalities that we have, such as the same understanding of purgatory... and also the similar perception of suffering.”
Ms Marissa Loo, 24, a parishioner from the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, shared that the experience “was eye-opening... we learnt about the core tenets of the Jewish faith, and a little bit about its rich history and culture. At the end of it, it builds goodwill.”
The ACCIRD Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/archCCIDsingapore
By Jared Ng