The origin and development of the Jewish community in South Africa is revealed in the exhibitions and presentations at this compelling museum.
Learn about the history of South Africa’s Jewish community as you browse the historical artifacts, interactive displays and presentations at the South African Jewish Museum.
Cape Town has the oldest Jewish community in sub-Saharan Africa. Learn about the country’s first Jewish settlers who arrived in the early 19th century. These settlers were English and German Jews who came here to trade.
The city's first synagogue, erected in 1862, serves as the entrance to the museum. Once inside, view the collection of Jewish ceremonial artifacts. Then cross the drawbridge to the main museum building. The walkway is meant to represent ship gangplanks that immigrants would have walked down on arriving in the country.
Read information panels and watch touch-screen presentations that cover such topics as anti-Semitism and how Jewish immigrants established themselves in the country. One of the touch-screen kiosks provides details on prominent Jewish people who have contributed to South African society, including the actress Janet Suzman.
Walk through the life-size re-creation of a shtetl. A shtetl is a typical Eastern European village from where many of South Africa's first Jewish settlers would have come. See the replica of a smous cart that would have been used by peddlers to transport their wares.
The museum is also home to a Japanese miniature art collection. Peruse miniature ceremonial carvings in ivory and wood that were worn by rich merchants. The items date from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and more than 200 are on display. View another touch-screen presentation to see photographs of each piece and learn about its history.
The museum is located in the center of Cape Town in an area known as Museum Mile for the concentration of museums. Catch public transportation to the area or drive and use the parking, available for a fee, about a block from the museum.
The South African Jewish Museum is open every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Admission charges apply with discounts for seniors. Children under the age of 12 can enter for free. Bring photo ID with you.