Muizenberg synagogue celebrates its century

The historic 100-year old synagogue in Camp Road Muizenberg.

The Muizenberg Hebrew Congregation has commemorated the centenary of its synagogue in Camp Road.

The synagogue, characterised by its four-column entrance and broad steps, was built in 1924.

Following eight months of planning and preparation, members of the congregation launched eight days of festivities with a cheese-and-wine evening coupled with a musical concert at the Masque Theatre on Thursday December 28.

Former Capetonian Sir Ephraim Mirvis, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and Lady Valerie Mirvis were invited as honoured guests for the centenary opening

The weekend sabbath activities, which were attended by South African Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein and Gina Goldstein, included a Shabbat dinner on Friday December 29 and a Shabbat lunch on Saturday December 30 with guest speakers.

On Friday December 29, Dr Goldstein and Sir Ephraim jointly unveiled a commemorative centenary plaque.

The centenary celebrations also included a visit to the Muizenberg and Pinelands Jewish cemeteries.

Other activities included a visit to Cape Town’s South African Jewish Museum; a historical village walk led by Hedy Davis, author of Muizenberg: The Story of the Shtetl by the Sea; surfing lessons; a prayer service in a cave on St James Peak; and a live-streamed closing ceremony on Thursday January 4.

According to the president of the Muizenberg Hebrew Congregation, Gerald Seftel, the synagogue was built to cater for the growing Jewish community, almost all of whom had emigrated to South Africa from Eastern Europe to escape pogroms and, a decade later, persecution by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

“The beautiful red-and-white building, with wooden interior and stained-glass windows, was a haven of warmth and a meeting place for people forced to leave their homes in search of a better life”, he said.

In 2021, the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society commemorated the contributions made by the town’s Jewish community with a blue plaque.

Blue plaques are commemorative signs placed on buildings and in locations of great significance.

The society’s chairman, Chris Taylor, said the influence of the Jewish community helped establish Muizenberg as a top holiday destination and developed it into the quaint seaside village it is today.

“One hundred years after its construction, the Muizenberg synagogue remains a historic heritage building, unaltered, a place of holy worship for the Jewish community of Cape Town’s southern suburbs as well as for celebrations and social events,” Mr Seftel said.

The centenary plaque that was unveiled by the two chief rabbis