The 7th of November 2018 will go down in Cornerstone’s history as one of our most significant days ever. Almost 900 people gathered at the Marina Bay Sands to witness, celebrate and support the honouring of the Jewish community in Singapore and to celebrate 70 years of Israel’s Independence.
The occasion was graced by Her Excellency, Ambassador Simona Halperin, Chief Rabbi Mordechai Abergel, Lt. General (Retired) Winston Choo, Singapore’s Ambassador to Israel, Mr. Victor Sassoon, President of the Jewish Welfare Board and many other dignitaries. What an evening it was! The atmosphere was pregnant with joy and friendship and if I could sum up the whole evening, it was a God-moment that released grace from on high.
Many members of the Jewish community came up to me at the dinner to express their gratitude and the common refrain was, “We’ve not seen this kind of support and friendship anywhere else in the world!” The event itself was very unique and I want to thank God for giving us the opportunity to host this major event. For us, it was transformational, as it was exhilarating. To see two very colourful communities interact in such a loving and friendly manner – that’s the reward in itself.
As a representative of the Christian community here in Singapore, may I again reiterate and say to all our Jewish friends – the Christian community stands with, and proudly supports Israel. And the Church has not been silent, but vocal in our support for the Jewish State. Singapore is one of the few nations in the world where the Jewish community is not just tolerated, but celebrated. We’ve a long and proud history of friendship with Israel and we pray that this will always be so.
But let me venture to say that Singapore has a debt to pay to the Jewish people. For instance, in November 1965, a group of Israeli soldiers arrived in Singapore under a veil of secrecy and their job was to help our nation set up and establish her nascent army. Since then, security, research and development between the two countries have strengthened, and Singapore is now considered one of the biggest customers of Israeli arms and weapons systems. Today, Singapore has a well-equipped and efficient army, which serves as a deterrence against other nations, thanks to Israel.
We’re also indebted to Israel for the fact that the first Chief Minister of Singapore was a Jew, Mr. David Marshall. Four years ago, Rabbi Mordechai felt a deep desire to place a Hanukkah menorah on Orchard Road. He met with a wealthy businessman who heard and accepted his request and today, the menorah stands on Singapore’s busiest shopping street.
Allow me please to quote a parable from our New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, there’s a cluster of three parables and these parables all have a common thread. Basically, they give us an idea of what we’re to expect at the end of the age and how the nations of the world would be judged.
But let me just focus on the third parable because in it, Jesus paints a scenario and tells us what will happen when He returns. All the nations of the earth shall be gathered before His Throne of Glory in Jerusalem and He’ll separate the nations as a man separates sheep from the goats. And what’s the criterion of separation? On what basis does He judge and separate the nations? The answer to that is how we treat the Jews. There’s no ambiguity about this. How we treat the Jews is going to be the plumbline, the yardstick of measurement of how He’ll judge and treat us. When it comes to the Jews, our Lord takes it very personally; they’re after all, His people.
It was the German theologian and Lutheran pastor, Martin Niemoller, who wrote the often quoted but haunting words when Hitler unleashed terror and destruction upon the human race, beginning with the Jews: He wrote and I quote: “First, they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Before his execution by the Nazis in 1945, Bonhoeffer warned us and his words still apply: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” Haunting words. In the face of rising anti-Semitism especially in the West, I want to boldly step out into the open and affirm again that the Christian community stands proudly with Israel and we stand with the Jewish community in Singapore.
A Jewish friend once said that the Jewish person who has crossed your path is not an accident and I agree with him. Finally, a quote from Sir Winston Churchill; he said, “No thoughtful man can deny the fact that the Jews are, beyond any question, the most formidable and more remarkable race, which has appeared in the world.” God bless the Church, God bless Singapore and God bless Israel.
Pastor Yang Tuck Yoong