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A little bit of Adelaide in Melbourne

Kathy and Pauline discovered an unexpected little bit of Adelaide in Melbourne when they were visiting the Jewish Museum of Australia in St Kilda last month.

They were delighted to encounter the original bimah from Adelaide’s old synagogue. Dating back to 1870, the synagogue was sold in the 1990s and a new one built at Glenside, the current home of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation.

The bimah – the raised platform with a reading desk from where the Torah is read – was dismantled and presented on long loan to the Jewish Museum of Australia.

Its current location in the museum’s permanent display ‘Belief and Ritual’ echoes the traditional central position of a bimah in an orthodox synagogue and facing Jerusalem. The bimah represents the altar in the Temple in Jerusalem, the central place of Jewish worship from biblical times to 70CE.

Although now a nightclub, one can still spot Adelaide’s old synagogue in Synagogue Place off Rundle Street, with its Magen David (Star of David) above the central doorway. The original 19th century façade was given an art deco facelift in 1938/9. The building replaced the original synagogue next door dating back to 1850. This area was the centre of the Jewish community in Adelaide for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

We would love to hear from you if you have stories, photos, documents or items relating to the old synagogue (exterior and interior). Was this where you were married? Or did you celebrate your Bar/Bat Mitzvah here? The synagogue would have played an important part in the lives of those Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors who continued to embrace their faith and were to call South Australia home. We also know that the synagogue’s new Memorial Hall completed just before WW2, offered hospitality to many Jewish refugees escaping Europe at this time and who passed through Adelaide on their way to the eastern states. Your contribution will help our curator build a picture of the South Australian Jewish community in readiness for the new exhibition in preparation on our local Holocaust survivors.

The Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Andrew Steiner Education Centre acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation, past, present and future, and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. AHMSEC stands on Kaurna land.

© 2024 Adelaide Holocaust Museum and Andrew Steiner Education Centre