Kimberley, South Africa


Kimberley has had three synagogues.  (see the Community Time-Line)

1875: The first synagogue was built from wood and iron in Dutoitspan Road where Cecil John Rhodes statue now stands.

1902: As the diamond community grew stronger and richer the magnificent new Memorial Road Synagogue was opened.

1911: The ‘Grinne’ Shul built in the Eastern European Shtetl style in Baronial Street to suit the wishes of the more newly arrived Eastern European immigrant community.

See the silver replica of the Kimberley Synagogue presented in 1902 to the President Mr G Bonas for his untiring work to create it. This is on permanent loan to the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town.




The Memorial Road Synagogue

Only the Memorial Road Synagogue remains and is still in regular use.  In these three photographs above, you see the synagogue over the years. The first from soon after it was built in 1902 - without the elegant railings and with no palm trees. The middle picture (perhaps from the 1940s?) shows the iconic palm trees only half grown and the last one, which was taken at its 110th anniversary in 2012 shows those palms looking taller than the building itself!  


Kimberley Synagogues


The Memorial Road Synagogue is possibly the most beautiful in Southern Africa. It was modelled on a synagogue in Venice and is Byzantine in style with twin towers with domes on either side of the front facade. It was designed by a Kimberley architect DW Greatbach and built on land donated to the community by the De Beers Company. Mr GH Bonas laid the foundation stone and the synagogue was officially opened in September 1902 with joint presidents Mr Bonas and David Harris (later, Colonel Sir David Harris).

In this splendid building, curved grand staircases lead off the tiled vestibule to the left and right to the foyer of the ladies’ gallery. The interior of the synagogue has subtle geometric stained-glass windows but its most striking feature is the imposing octagonal domed ceiling, the summit of which is 13 metres high. The oak seats were imported from Canada. Marble steps lead to the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) the surrounds of which are painted to resemble marble. The ceiling of the Aron Kodesh is depicted as a blue sky with stars. There are 613 seats in the shul, symbolising the Mitzvot (good deeds) of that number. 

A small hall was built next to the synagogue and was first known as the Queen Victoria Memorial Hall and later as the Minor Hall. This is now used as a kindergarten (though there are no Jewish children left in Kimberley). In the 1950s a larger community function hall was built as well as a block of classrooms for Hebrew lessons.  

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, in his book The Travelling Rabbi says: ‘The synagogue today is one of a few in South Africa to reach a century and still be in use’. He has a particular affinity with the Kimberley community and visits as often as he can. He relates the story that there is allegedly a famous Yad (pointer in the shape of a hand) with a beautiful blue-white diamond set in the forefinger (classified as such by a reputable diamond dealer). This antique jewel we are glad to say is at present permanently held in safe-keeping in a bank security safe.

Read Steve Lunderstedt’s historical article on the 112th anniversary of the opening of the Kimberley Memorial Road Synagogue from his site 'Kimberley Calls and Recalls...'

See the pictures of Weddings in the Kimberley Shul

Another gallery of amazing pictures of the Kimberley shul, with glimpses of parts not usually seen, interesting close-ups and new angles by Alon Berman on a trip to Kimberley in 2010 can be seen here


By clicking the names below you can see beautiful slideshows of the interior and exterior of the synagogue by five outstanding photographers.

Shawn Benjamin

Shawn Benjamin

Shawn Benjamin

David Jawno

David Jawno

Read about the ‘Grinne’ Shul built in the European Shtetl style in Baronial Street to suit the wishes of the more newly arrived Eastern European immigrant community: