Let's Learn About...Judaism

April 2022

Jewish fish-form scent flask

What is Judaism?

Judaism began about 4000 years ago in the Middle East. Abraham is regarded as the father of the Jewish faith. Like Christianity and Islam, Judaism is a religion that teaches its followers that there is only one god, and that God created the world. Jewish people follow religious teachings in the Torah. In the strictest sense, it refers to first five books of the Hebrew Bible; more broadly it refers to the entire Hebrew Bible. Today, there could be more than 14 million followers of Judaism worldwide.


Sabbath – the Jewish day of rest

One of the main religious teachings in the Torah is to observe the Sabbath (also called Shabbat). The Sabbath is a day to pray and rest. It takes place every week from sunset on Friday to Saturday evening. Jewish people observe the Sabbath by attending services at the synagogue, reading the Torah, or eating Sabbath meals with fellow Jews. 


Passover – An important day for the Jewish community

An important festival for the Jewish community is the Passover, which takes place from 15 April to 23 April for this year, 2022. The Passover celebrates the end of Jewish slavery in ancient Egypt, as narrated in the Book of Exodus in the Torah.

Families clean their houses before the Passover. They also serve Seder, a meal that marks the beginning of the festival. Prayers and songs of praise are sung at the table.


Where do Jews worship at?

The Jewish community worships at the synagogue. Worship services at the synagogue take place during Sabbath on Friday evenings, as well as on holy days and important festivals. Leaders called rabbis lead the prayers by reading the Torah to all the worshippers. There are two synagogues in Singapore, Chesed-El Synagogue at Oxley Rise and Maghain Aboth Synagogue at Waterloo Street (which is the oldest synagogue in Southeast Asia).


Chesed-El Synagogue

Chesed-El Synagogue at Oxley Rise


Maghain Aboth Synagogue

Maghain Aboth Synagogue, along Waterloo Street




Let’s take a look at two objects from the ACM collection that were used in Jewish rituals, ceremonies and festivals.


2021-000132021-00013 bird finial

(Second image shows a close-up)


Scroll case, fitted with an Esther scroll

Iraq, Baghdad, 19th century

Gilded silver; scroll: ink on parchment



Cases like this are used to store handwritten scrolls of holy writings. The Book of Esther, written on the scroll in this case, is read in the synagogue during the Jewish festival of Purim.


Look carefully at the design of this scroll case. Can you spot the onion-shaped dome at the top? There's a bird sitting at the top! The handle at the bottom of the scroll can be turned to roll a paper scroll into the case through a vertical slot. You can check out this scroll case from June onwards, at our Ancient Religions Gallery on Level 2.


How do you store your important documents and papers at home?





Fish-form scent flask

China, late 19th century




What do you think this fish-shaped object is used for? It's a scent flask! Pleasant-smelling spices are put into the container body. Spice containers like this are used for blessings during the Havdalah, a Jewish ritual to mark the end of the Sabbath. They were made in a variety of shapes and designs.

The fish-form was a popular choice in the 19th century, about 200 years ago. This flask measures about 15 centimetres long, and the body is flexible, allowing scents to be released easily. How do you think this fish would move to release the scent?





A shofar (read “show-faa”) is a musical instrument made from the horn of a ram. It is traditionally blown during the Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashanah, which takes place during September or October every year. Follow the steps below to make your very own shofar-inspired craft.

Tag us @ACM_SG #LearningatACM to share your creation!


Shofar craft


Craft done by ACM staffer Priscilla Lee

You may use these materials

  • Construction papers
  • Yarn
  • Stickers, washi tape, paint and/or other decorative items
  • Tape


Follow these steps

  1. Shape a piece of construction paper into a cone. Roll another piece into a cylinder.
  2. Tape the paper cone to one end of the cylinder roll. A horn shape is formed!
  3. Decorate the horn with craft items such as stickers, washi tape or paint as desired.
  4. To make a carrying strap, tape a piece of yarn to both ends of the horn.
  5. Your shofar-inspired craft is complete!





Head to NHB’s one-stop heritage portal Roots.sg to read more about Judaism:

Chesed-El Synagogue

Maghain Aboth Synagogue

Passover, and Associated Jewish Practices and Rituals


Want more of these resources? Come back to learn new things every month.

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There’s more!

Check out other videos and download e-resources inspired by the objects in ACM’s collection.




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