Jewish Museum of Australia located at St Kilda in Melbourne, exhibits more than 20,000 objects which helps a visitor to explore different facets of Jewish history and culture. Began as a brain child of Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky AM in 1977, in its early years’ museum committee organised exhibitions at the Myer gallery and the Tramways Board building, with the help of volunteers.
In 1982, under the patronage of Sir Zelman Cowen, the Museum opened a temporary premise in the disused classrooms of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation in South Yarra. Zelman Cowen (7 October 1919 – 8 December 2011) was an Australian legal scholar and university administrator who served as the 19th Governor-General of Australia, in office from 1977 to 1982. The Museum has a gallery named in honour of him, “Zelman Cowen Gallery of Australian Jewish History” on the occasion of his 90th birthday in 2006.
After purchasing a building at St Kilda in 1992, the museum was moved to the new location and was opened to public in August 1995. Conspicuously, based on the exhibits, the focus of the museum is not on the holocaust. It begins with timeline which explores 4000 years of Jewish history, inscribed on the floor and the exhibits pass through each stage of the main historical events with brief descriptions accompanied with models, photos or paintings. There are not many objects of antiquity displayed at the museum but follows a pattern of regaling historical events.
Major focus of the Museum is on the life of Australian Jews since first arrival. It gives insight into the reasons for Jewish migration to Australia and how the Jews contributed to the betterment of Australian Society, especially during the World War years. It was interesting to know that 14 Jews, petty thieves from England’s underclass arrived in the first fleet in 1788 and since then Jews migrated from more than 22 countries. Today more than 10,0000 Jews call Australia home.
Jewish rituals and traditions are also on focus and people from other ethnic groups may find it helpful in understanding more about the Jewish religion and culture. There are both permanent and temporary exhibits at the Museum.
On certain days at certain times, the museum also gives a guided tour of the Synagogue next door, at no extra fee. It is best to call the Museum and visit during those times as it is a beautiful Synagogue and one may find the tour educational with lots of information on the way a Synagogue functions.
Address: 26 Alma Rd, St Kilda VIC 3182
There is an entrance fee. Please refer the Museum Website.
Museum is closed on Jewish holidays and public holidays