Manasseh Meyer



Manasseh Meyer (Sir) (b. 1846, Baghdad, Iraq–d. 1 July 1930, Singapore) was a pioneer Jewish businessman who was responsible for the building of Maghain Aboth Synagogue on Waterloo Street and Chesed-El Synagogue at Oxley Rise.1 A key figure in the early Jewish community in Singapore, Meyer was knighted by the British in 1929 for his contributions to society.2

Early life
Educated in Calcutta, India, Meyer came to Singapore in 1861 at the age of 15.3 His uncle, Joshua Raphael Joshua, had established himself in Singapore under the company Joshua Brothers, and was instrumental in bringing Meyer and his brothers, Rubin and Elias, to Singapore.4 Meyer continued his education at St Joseph’s Institution before returning to Calcutta in 1864 and continuing his Hebrew studies.5 He then became a book-keeping apprentice, assisting his maternal uncle’s business.6


Accomplishments
In 1867, the 21-year-old Meyer ventured out on his own in Rangoon (Yangon, Myanmar) and set up a business there, remaining there for six years.7 He returned to Singapore in 1873 to start an import-export business known as Meyer Brothers, and grew the company into the largest local importer and exporter in Indian trade.8 The business was later carried on by his sons.9 Raphael Sassoon, another pioneer in the local Jewish community, was Meyer’s partner in the company and later joined him as a trustee of the Maghain Aboth Synagogue.10

Meyer became even wealthier as he began to acquire properties, with the largest number of purchases made between 1890 and 1892.11 By the 1900s, he had become a major property owner in Singapore. His properties included Adelphi Hotel; Sea View Hotel (located on Meyer Road, which he named); Meyer Chambers at Raffles Place; Meyer Mansions on Coleman Street; Killiney House (which became Meyer’s family home after he bought it from Thomas Oxley and renamed it Belle Vue in 1890); a property named “Joshua” at Tanjong Katong (constructed in the 1890s as Meyer’s second family home); and Teutonia Club (later renamed Goodwood Hall, and now known as Goodwood Park Hotel).12

Between 1893 and 1900, Meyer served as the municipal commissioner – a position for which his knowledge of real estate and local matters proved invaluable. He was later appointed a member of the Straits Committee on Currency.13

Contributions
Meyer’s generosity benefited those within and outside his community.14 His most notable contributions to the local Jewish community were securing land for the Maghain Aboth Synagogue and building the Chesed-El Synagogue.15 He set up the Manasseh Meyer Trust, later renamed the Sir Manasseh Meyer Trust, which helped educational and charitable institutions.16 During World War I (1914–18), Meyer donated $20,000 to the British military effort. He also gave $150,000 to the former Raffles College (now National University of Singapore), where a building was named after him.17 The Manasseh Meyer Building, which was gazetted as a national monument, is now part of the National University of Singapore’s Bukit Timah campus.18


Family
Wives: Meyer had married his first wife, Khatoon, by the time he returned to Singapore in 1873.19 He married Rebecca (d. 1915) after Khatoon’s death.20
Sons: Twin brothers Isaac and Jacob, and Reuben.21
Daughters: Hannah, Rama, Rachel and Mozelle.22



Authors

Bonny Tan & Valerie Chew



References
1. Death of Sir Manasseh Meyer. (1930, July 1). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 11; Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Synagogue that was bountiful. (2002, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); Lim, E. W. K., & Kho, E. M. (2005). The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, pp. 20, 34. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
2. The perfect ways of honour. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 10; Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2015, December 8). Chesed-El Synagogue. Retrieved 2017, January 18 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/chesed-el-synagogue; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
4. Koh, S. (1983, July 27). Building a place of worship: The Jewish contribution. Singapore Monitor, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT)
5. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
6. Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM); Solomon, E. (1996, March). Chesed El Synagogue. Shalom Singapore4, 4–5. (Call no.: RSING 305.629605957 SS)
7. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
8. S’pore millionaire’s land to be sold. (1947, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
9. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Koh, S. (1983, July 27). Building a place of worship: The Jewish contribution. Singapore Monitor, p. 18; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: HERBILU Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT)
11. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11; S’pore millionaire’s land to be sold. (1947, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
12. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Belle & Vue. (1984, April 1). Singapore Monitor, p. 1; The previous tenants left their mark on history… (1984, April 1). Singapore Monitor, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2015, December 8). Chesed-El Synagogue. Retrieved 2017, January 18 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/chesed-el-synagogue; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: HERBILU Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, pp. 20, 25. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM); Solomon, E. (1996, March). Chesed El Synagogue. Shalom Singapore4, 4–5. (Call no.: RSING 305.629605957 SS)
13. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Malaya’s new knight. (1929, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 11; Ong, C. S. (1971, November 26). Our heritage: The Jewish contribution. New Nation, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
14. S’pore millionaire’s land to be sold. (1947, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; Synagogue that was bountiful. (2002, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 7; Koh, S. (1983, July 27). Building a place of worship: The Jewish contribution. Singapore Monitor, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Heritage Board. (2015, December 8). Chesed-El Synagogue. Retrieved 2017, January 18 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/maghain-aboth-synagogue; The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, pp. 25, 27. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
16. Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT)
17. Sir M. Meyer dies at age of 84. (1930, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 13; S’pore millionaire’s land to be sold. (1947, December 21). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
18. National Heritage Board. (2015, December 8). Former Raffles College (now NUS Campus at Bukit Timah). Retrieved 2017, January 6 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Content/Places/national-monuments/former-raffles-college-now-nus-campus-at-bukit-timah; The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
19. Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: HERBILU Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 20 (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
20. Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: HERBILU Editorial & Marketing Services, pp. 28, 31. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT)
21 A ‘quiet and simple’ S’pore millionaire dies on the Riviera. (1954, December 30). The Straits Times, p. 4; Sir Manasseh Meyer: Will of Singapore millionaire. (1930, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)
22. Sir Manasseh Meyer: Will of Singapore millionaire. (1930, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Nathan, E. (1986). The history of Jews in Singapore, 1830–1945. Singapore: Herbilu Editorial & Marketing Services, p. 31. (Call no.: RSING 301.45192405957 NAT); The Chesed-El Synagogue: Its history & people. Singapore: Trustees of Chesed-El Synagogue, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 296.095957 LIM)



Further resource
Jews in Singapore. (1986). [Sound recording]. Singapore: Oral History Dept.

(Call no.: RAV 305.892405957 JEW)



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Heritage and Culture
Ethnic Communities
Personalities>>Biographies>>Community Leaders
Reuben Manasseh Meyer, 1846-1930
Pioneers--Singapore--Biography
Community leaders
Business, finance and industry>>Business organization>>Business enterprises
Jewish pioneers--Singapore--Biography
People and communities>>Social groups and communities
Jewish businesspeople--Singapore--Biography