Kimberley, South Africa


Kimberley Synagogues

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

1876: First synagogue opened, built from wood and iron in Dutoitspan Road where Cecil John Rhodes statue now stands. It was much too small and replaced in 1902

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

1911: Beth Hamidrash Linas Hatzedek known as the ‘Grinne’ Shul built in the Eastern European Shtetl style in Baronial Street to serve the wishes and religious needs of the more newly arrived Eastern European immigrant community. Click here to read about this synagogue. Read about the ‘Grinne’ Shul here 

Memorial Road Synagogue (opened in 1902)

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.

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).

Shawn Benjamin                                                David Jawno                                                        David Jawno

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.

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

Shawn Benjamin      David Jawno      Marvin Cohen      Alon Berman      Jono David

Read about some of the Ministers of Kimberley shuls 
For all the Ministers 1873 - 2020
Mendelsohn, Rev Meyer & his son, Sidney (1878 - 1884)
Isaacs, Rev Harris (1890-1927)
Konviser, Rev Maurice (1927 - 1935)
Goldberg, Rev Chaim, Tribute by Leon Chonin (Rev Sheini 1925-1955)
Weinstein, Lipi and Hannah (nee Erhlich) (Reader in the Grinne shul 1929 – 1973)
Werner, Rabbi Oscar, Tributes by Leon Chonin & Bernard Werner (1957-1970)
Moshe Silberhaft’s Kimberely chapter
Family weddings in the Kimberely shul
Kimberley Bar and Batmitzvahs

Read Steve Lunderstedt’s historical article on the 112th anniversary (2014) of the opening of the Kimberley Memorial Road Synagogue from his site 'Kimberley Calls and Recalls...'

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.

Read Rabbi Silberhaft’s description of the Kimberley community and shul and the adventures of the silver replica here
The Travelling Rabbi: My African Tribe