Tapestry from Singapore
From the collection of the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam
h 141 cm x w 100 cm
Rabbi Chaim Nussbaum grew up in Scheveningen in the Netherlands and after getting married returned with his wife to the country of his birth, Lithuania. When the Nazis invaded Lithuania in 1941, Chaim managed to escape with his family.
Via Russia and Japan he eventually arrived on Java in the Dutch East Indies, where he became Rabbi of the Jewish communities of Batavia and Bandung. In 1943, the Japanese interned him in the Changi Prisoner of War Camp in eastern Singapore and he was forced to work as labourer on the notorious Burma Railway. Chaim also acted as the rabbi for the Jewish prisoners in the camp, even establishing a synagogue there named Ohel Jacob. A fellow prisoner, Bert Besser, made this tapestry: to serve as a curtain for that synagogue’s Holy Ark, where the Torah scrolls were stored. A Star of David with the letter ? in the centre, a reference to G-d’s * holy name, appears in the middle of the curtain. The texts on the curtain read: ‘The Torah is Our Life’ and ‘House of Worship of POWs, Changi’. Chaim Nussbaum survived the war and after the Liberation moved to Canada.
* Out of reverence, often the Almighty’s name is not written in full by religious Jews.