South African Jewish Museum

Photo courtesy South African Jewish Museum

It took four years, from planning to construction, before the South African Jewish Museum was officially opened by Nelson Mandela in December 2000. Situated along “Museum Mile” in central Cape Town, the museum welcomes visitors with its bold architectural design, interactive multimedia displays and detailed accounts of South African Jewish history.

One section of the museum borders the National Gallery and Company Gardens, an environment steeped in history, culture and religion, where white-washed buildings, fountains, ponds, statues and ancient oak trees hark back to the early days of the Cape colony. The main section faces a paved, landscaped court that links the first synagogue built on South African soil (the Old Synagogue, built in 1863), the Great Synagogue (1905) and the Albow Centre. The latter comprises the South African Jewish Museum Shop, Jacob Gitlin Library, Café Riteve, Cape Town Holocaust Centre and Israel Abrahams Hall.

The museum is interactive and hi-tech, and uses different media to present highlights of South African Jewish history. On view are rare Judaica, video footage of early South African Jewish settlers Barney Barnato and Max Rose, and a documentary about Nelson Mandela that is screened all day.

The South African Jewish Museum serves an education, information and dialogue function that is complemented by its many exhibitions and cultural programmes.

The entrance to the museum is situated in the Old Synagogue. It is open from Sundays to Thursdays from 10h00-17h00 and on Fridays from 10h00-14h00. It is closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays, but remains open on public holidays. Admission costs R50 for adults, R35 for South African pensioners, R20 for learners up to age 20 and R15 for school children. Groups are offered special rates by prior arrangement.

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