Rabbi Mordechai Abergel speaking to participants of the Sept 18 synagogue visit.

Lectors and their family members from the Church of the Holy Spirit visited the Maghain Aboth Synagogue to learn more about the Jewish faith.

The visit on Sept 18, organised by the Archdiocesan Catholic Council for Interreligious Dialogue (ACCIRD), also sought to give the 25 participants a better appreciation of interreligious dialogue.

Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, spiritual leader of the Jewish community in Singapore, told participants how much he appreciates the religious harmony in Singapore, having lived here for the last 22 years with his wife and family.

He briefly explained to participants about Singapore’s earliest Jewish settlers, giving special mention to the late David Marshall, whose ancestors were Baghdadi Jewish. He was born in Singapore and served as its first Chief Minister from 1955 to 1956.

Rabbi Abergel went on to share about how the synagogue is central to the Jewish culture and way of life. Not only does it serve as a religious house for daily prayer services, weekly Sabbath services and religious festivals, it is also an important community and social space for the Jewish community.

The synagogue was constructed in 1878 and has since undergone many extensive renovations.

In the middle of the prayer hall of the Maghain Aboth
Synagogue is the bimah, which is a podium or platform
where the rabbi or reader leads the congregational prayers.

Upon entering the sanctuary, there is a raised pulpit in the centre from where the rabbi leads the congregational prayers.

The focus inside the synagogue is the ark, an ornamented receptacle where the Torah (hand-written scrolls that consist of the first five books of Moses) is kept.

The ark is covered with a curtain embroidered with Hebrew verses and designs. On the top of the alcove, the Hebrew words remind believers that they are entering into the presence of God.

Rabbi Abergel said a Jew begins the day remembering God from his waking moment with a prayer of thanksgiving. There are also many prayers which accompany every Jew throughout the day.

Rabbi Abergel said that the Sabbath is a time of rest from the other six days of the week, and is set aside for prayers, family and God.

Participants shared their thoughts after the visit.

Pamela and Nick Chua said they found the experience extremely enriching and they learned a lot about interreligious dialogue.

Catherine and Vincent Siew said that they found the practice of keeping the Sabbath free from worldly distractions, like mobile phones and social media, a lesson that they took home with

Ms Doreen Wan shared that she found it a good reminder to live each day in prayerful communion with God. She said she now feels challenged to make Sunday truly the day of the Lord.

ACCIRD last conducted a visit to the synagogue for 54 participants on Dec 20 last year.

For those interested in similar interreligious visits, contact Gerald at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

By Ellen Tan

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