South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town
Throughout the years Cape Town has established herself as a cosmopolitan city characterized by an immense rainbow quilt of people and cultures.
The South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town has acted as a beacon of benevolence informing visitors about a group that transcends centuries and delves deep into the heart of the Jewish culture in South Africa.
The Jewish museum is situated in the center of the city with one side bordering the National Gallery and The Company Gardens, as part of the ‘Museum Mile’.
The South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town consists of the Old Synagogue (which interestingly was the very first synagogue built in South Africa in 1863), the Great Synagogue built in 1905, the Albow Center, the Gitlin Library, the Café Riteve, the Cape Town Holocaust Center and the Israel Abrahams hall.
The primary pioneer, founder and benefactor of the museum, Mendel Kaplan, took four years to get the museum to its current state and ex president Nelson Mandela officially opened it in December 2000.
The Jewish museum cleverly displays the rare Judaica artifacts within the old walls using hi-tech equipment & lighting to make for a very enjoyable experience. Some of the Jewish Ceremonial Art and artifacts you will experience, are the Traveling Aron Kodesh, the first Torah scroll brought to South Africa by Aaron de Pass and an Olive wood megillat Ester and Shofar made of ram’s horn. The Discovery Center at the South African Jewish Museum also provides access to information on Jewish family trees, with information on an estimated 15 000 families from Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania, who migrated to Southern Africa between 1880 and 1930.
The Jewish Museum in Cape Town also houses a reconstruction of a typical Eastern European “Shtetl;” small villages made up of wooden structured homes, a synagogue and Beth Midrash (center of Torah learning). History on the earliest Jewish settlers in South Africa can also be found in the museum telling the story of Jewish life and survival in the earliest of days during the founding of Cape Town as we know it today.
The Museum is also known for hosting different events and displaying extraordinary exhibitions. One of the permanent features is the Nelson Mandela Documentary which is screened daily and was selected for the Brighton, Vancouver and Toronto film festivals.
The SAJM Shop (The South African Jewish Museum Shop) is worth a browse too which stocks a mixture of African and Jewish gifts. Major credit cards are accepted and it is open from Sunday to Thursday 10:00 to 17:00 and Fridays from 10:00 to 14:00.
When to go?
- Museum Hours: Sunday to Thursday 10:00 to 17:00, Fridays 10:00 to 14:00.
- Closed on Saturdays, Jewish Holidays but open on Public Holidays.
- Admission Fee: Adults R40, SA Pensioners R25, Students R25, Children under 16 yrs Free.
- Museum caters for group tours by prior arrangement.
Where to go?
88 Hatfield Street, Cape Town
What to expect?
- History, Art and Artefacts on Jewish Culture in South Africa
- Nelson Mandela Documentary
- Events and Exhibitions
- SAJM Gift Shop
Content: Ed Beukes