We believe that every human being is created in the image of God and that the Jewish people are to live by an eternal code that proclaims God’s sovereignty over the universe. This code is manifest in how we interact with other people and how we structure our lives on this earth. Our Tradition teaches that prayer, kindness, and Torah study sustain the world and we strive to be a community where these these three values are part of our core identity. After two thousand years of exile, the miraculous creation of the State of Israel in 1948 signifies God’s continuing covenant with the Jewish people. Today our gratitude to God for this miracle is expressed through our commitment to the State of Israel and this too is part of our core identity.
We hold traditional orthodox services, this means that if any of the great personalities of the Jewish past would enter our synagogue they would immediately recognize our service and seating arrangements. This connection to our past is especially soothing to those of us who have left behind roots, stability and warm communities to start a new chapter of our lives in Hong Kong. Ohel Leah Synagogue is a reminder that even in a changing world, some things can stay the same.
The Hong Kong Jewish Community was formally established in the 1850s in premises leased by the Sassoon family. The construction of Ohel Leah Synagogue (OLS) began with the laying of the foundation stone in 1901, by Abraham Jacob Raymond the senior member of E. D. Sassoon & Co, in a project initiated by the Sassoon brothers, Jacob, Edward and Myer. The initial structure was completed in early 1902 and formally dedicated by Sir Jacob Sassoon in commemoration of his mother Leah.
OLS has been in continuous use since its completion with the exception of a short period during World War II when Hong Kong was occupied by the Japanese. During that time all formal Jewish activities were temporarily suspended as the Japanese had seized control of OLS and many community members were interned. OLS is built in a colonial style and incorporates elements from the Edwardian free classical-style. The exterior is flanked by two impressive octagonal towers and the interior is based on a simple rectangular basilica plan with a relatively open floor plan. The polished Aberdeen granite columns, central elevated bimah enclosed by carved wood balustrades on three sides, and heavy, rich wood benches are reflective of our Baghdadi and Sephardic heritage. The women’s gallery, located on the second storey, runs along three sides of the sanctuary. Significant wear and tear over nearly a century, as well as a series of ad hoc additions and alterations led to the decision to embark on a large scale restoration and conservation program. The project commenced in 1996 and was completed in 1998. A formal rededication ceremony was held on October 18, 1998. The restoration received an Outstanding Project Award in the inaugural UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage 2000 Awards.
We receive significant support from the Ohel Leah Synagogue Charity. The OLSC has made sure that Hong Kong’s Jewish community is a model Jewish community for all of Asia. OLSC also ensures that the jewel of Hong Kong Jewry, the Ohel Leah Synagogue, is maintained in all her glory and beauty for us and future generations to enjoy.