Jewish Pioneers Memorial Museum Port Elizabeth South Africa

The Port Elizabeth Orthodox Hebrew Congregation was formed in 1903; members were mainly Eastern European Jews who came to South Africa after severe pogroms and persecution in Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. On 12 December 1912, Rabbi J.L. Landau consecrated the Raleigh Street Synagogue.

Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Monday, December 27, 2004

Annual Chanukah Service

South Africa Synagogue celebrates 90th Anniversary of its Consecration
by Moira Schneider
Cape Town, Dec. 29 (jta) —
If not for timely interventions, a synagogue in the South African coastal city of Port Elizabeth might have joined the scrap heap.
Instead, the Port Elizabeth Orthodox Hebrew Congregation has just marked its 90th anniversary.
The celebration, which took place during Chanukah, included a 90-year-old member of the community kindling one of the lights on the shul’s menorah.
The menorah had been missing for many years, then found by chance in a derelict state and restored to service.
Its fate mirrors the path of the shul itself, which has been restored to its former glory, functioning as a repository of Jewish life in the city dating back to 1820.
The congregation was formed in 1908, catering mainly to Eastern European Jews who had escaped pogroms and persecution in the Russian Empire.
Its synagogue, located on Raleigh Street, was consecrated on Dec. 12, 1912, during Chanukah.
The architect was Orlando Middelton, an exponent of the Art Nouveau style, which he incorporated into the facade of the Byzantine-design synagogue, with its turrets and keyhole windows.
Its unique architectural features later ensured its protected status as a national monument.
In 1954, the congregation joined with the Western Road Hebrew Congregation, with the resulting Glendenningvale Synagogue becoming the main house of worship in the city.
While the Western Road Synagogue was sold and later demolished, a group of concerned congregants bought the Raleigh Street building to ensure it did not suffer the same fate.
It stood vacant for many years. Its windows were broken, fires broke out and brass fittings — including its magnificent chandelier — were stolen.
Fate stepped in, however, when the discerning eye of a passing architectural student led him to write a thesis about the distinctive structure.
With the assistance of the University of Port Elizabeth, the building was declared a national monument, ensuring that it can never be demolished, nor can its facade be modified.
Gradual restoration followed. And in 1986, it began housing the Jewish Pioneers’ Memorial Museum.
Among its exhibits are memorabilia of the Greyshirts Trial, in which Abraham Levy, who ministered to the Western Road Hebrew Congregation for 42 years, was the plaintiff.
The Greyshirts were a group of Nazi sympathizers active in South Africa during the 1930s whose members wore swastika-emblazoned uniforms.
A member of the organization, H.V. Inch, alleged that he had broken into the synagogue and found a document expressing anti-Christian sentiment and signed “Rabbi”. The allegation was later proved false.
Levy sued for defamation and won his case, with Inch being sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for perjury.
The organization had been publishing in its newspaper, Patria, extracts from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. In what is believed to be a legal first, this notorious anti-Semitic tract was declared a forgery during the trial.
Denzil Levy, 85, who is the last surviving child of Abraham Levy, now serves as the museum’s chairman.
The museum doubles as a Jewish information centre, with honorary curator Effie Schauder conducting regular tours for adult groups and schools as part of their religious instruction program.
The 90th anniversary celebration was attended by some 240 people from the Orthodox, Reform and non-Jewish communities. Among them were 10 descendants of the original shul committee.

Grey Shirts Trial

Dr David Scher
Echoes of David Irving - The Greyshirt Trial of 1934 by David M. Scher

The recent landmark case in England which exposed David Irving’s falsification of history and his obsession with ‘denying’ the Holocaust highlighted once more the often bizarre accusations and conspiracy theories levelled against Jews over time. In this regard, the blood libel in Damascus in 1880,
The Dreyfus case in France in 1894 and the Mendel Beilis blood accusation case in Russia in 1911 stand out. A less well-known yet equally disturbing case occurred in South Africa in the 1930’s. This was the so-called ‘Greyshirt Case’.
Dr David Scher is a senior lecturer at the Department of History, University of the Western Cape. He specialises in political history, and has published extensively on pre- and post 1948 South African politics.
The recent landmark case in England which exposed David Irving’s falsification of history and his obsession with ‘denying’ the Holocaust highlighted once more the often bizarre accusations and conspiracy theories levelled against Jews over time. In this regard, the blood libel in Damascus in 1880,
The Dreyfus case in France in 1894 and the Mendel Beilis blood accusation case in Russia in 1911 staid out. A less well-known yet equally disturbing case occurred in South Africa in the 1930’s. This was the so-called ‘Greyshirt Case’.
The bald facts of the case are as follows.
During the early 1930s, a number of ‘Shirt’ organisations arose in South Africa, deeply influenced by the spread of Nazi doctrine. Foremost amongst them was the South African Christian Nationalist Social­ist Movement, popularly known as the Grey­shirts, founded by Louis T. Weichardt in October 1933. The movement numbered at its peak some 2000 members. The core of Greyshirt ideology was racist anti-Semitism. Following the German Nazi model, the Greyshirts claimed that inter alia Jews were an Asiatic, anti-Christian and inassimilable race who were inherently anti­social and parasitic. Moreover, they were organised internationally in a world con­spiracy that aimed at global domination.
At a public meeting held in the Market Square of the small town of Aberdeen in March 1934, Harry Victor Inch - one of the Greyshirt leaders - announced that he possessed proof of a secret plot by the Jews to destroy the Christian religion and civilisation. He then proceeded to read from a document which, he stated, had been stolen from the Western Road Synagogue in Port Elizabeth and that it bore the signature of its rabbi, the Rev. A. Levy.
The document followed closely the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a pamphlet of some 70 pages purporting to be the actual minutes of 24 speeches made by Jewish leaders during the First Zionist Congress in 1897.
The pamphlet detailed a satanic plot by Jewish/Zionist conspirators to conquer the world. Alleging that Jews controlled much of the world’s finance, the media, the edu­cational institutions, the court systems and many of the world’s governments, the Pro­tocols claimed that the Jews indulged in all forms of trickery and deceit to tighten their hold. They deliberately spread diseases and immorality to weaken Gentiles, and did not hesitate to use murder and terrorism to destroy all religions except their own. Jews were striving to establish their own autocracy based on a false Messiah, the “Son of David”, and posed a fiendishly devious omnipresent peril to the rest of mankind.
Since the Greyshirt document implica­ted a specific individual - the rabbi - and not only the Jewish people collectively, it provided a rare possibility of exposure in a court of law. The Rev instituted a libel action. Levy with the support of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies against the three Greyshirts involved - Johannes von Moltke, at the time leader of the South African Gentile Socialists, David Olivier, editor of Die Rapport, the official organ of the South African National Socialist Movement and Inch, the Eastern Cape leader of the Greyshirts.
The stakes in the case were high. Thanks to Nazi propaganda, the Protocols were being paraded world-wide as an insidious and vile plot by international Jewry to undermine and overthrow western Christian civilisation. Many thought the documents authentic, with all its awesome implications. For their part, the Greyshirts were openly arro­gant and defiant. Von Moltke issued the following challenge in a speech at Port Elizabeth on 13 April 1934:
If the Jews dispute the truth of the contents of this document, let them prepare a charge of theft against any person. Then the Judiciary of this land will be able to decide what occult movement belongs to Jewry.
The trial, which opened in July 1934, was heard in the Eastern Cape Divi­sion of the Supreme Court in Grahamstown before the Judge President, Sir Thomas Graham. The local and over­seas press gave great prominence to the court proceedings. F.G. Reynolds K.C. (later a judge) assisted by Will Stuart (later a so-called ‘Native Repre­sentative’ in Parliament) appeared for the Rev. A. Levy of the Port Elizabeth Western Road Synagogue.
Levy claimed £2000 damages from each of the three leaders of the Greyshirt Movement, namely Inch, Von Moltke and Olivier. The defen­dants led their own defence.
In his address, Reynolds referred to the document in question “as of the foulest nature:” He pointed out that Inch’s description of the interior of the Synagogue, from where the document was supposedly stolen, proved that he had never been in it at all. In his evidence, the Rev. Levy noted that all papers were kept in the vestry, where there was a safe. No papers were kept in the synagogue itself.
Inch had claimed that he had seen a man named M. Lazarus coming out of the synagogue. There was only one man of that name in Port Elizabeth. The synagogue had no relations whatsoever with M. Lazarus. The docu­ment in question was headed “Copy for M. Lazarus” - an odd referral as Lazarus never attended the Western Road Synagogue. To much laughter, the Reverend pointed out that the Hebrew letters of the top of the document meant ‘kosher lePesach’ - a phrase always appearing on articles of food or drink and never applied to literature! The letter R in Hebrew on the document looked like a D. This and a great many other things signi­fied that the writer of the document knew nothing at all about Hebrew.
Some of the exchanges were tragically absurd. Thus, Von Moltke asked the Reverend, “Do the Jews keep two sets of Talmuds, one to produce in Court and one for them­selves?” On another occasion, the Reverend asked who in truth was “likely to use my synagogue for secret purposes?” to which Inch replied, “Who is likely not to? Didn’t Jacob use camouflage to get the birthright?”
A key witness was the great Zionist leader, Nachum Sokolow who was visiting South Africa at the time.
Nachum Sokolow, a great Zionist leader, visited South Africa at the time of the trial and acted as a key witness.
Sokolow, a contemporary of Theodor Herzl, was linked directly with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion since he attended the First Zionist Congress in Basle in 1897, the venue where the Protocol: were supposed to have been promulgated. He showed that there was nothing secret about the Congress - on the contrary, it was open to the public and some eminent Christian scholars were present. The so-called Protocols had already been exposed as a fraud in the Times of London in 1920.
Before being ruled out of order, defendant Inch referred Sokolow to Jewry’s alleged control of a wide range of spheres ranging from the press to the film industry. With regard to the latter, Inch asked Sokolow, “Do you agree with the posters of half naked women, which are exhibited for our children to look at?”
Witness, “I am not a great admirer of nakedness (laughter)”.
A key witness was Professor Dingemans, Professor of Afrikaans at Rhodes University College. A philo­logist and a Christian, he was also an authority on the Hebrew language. Dingemans had made a careful and independent examination of the document and had concluded that it was not that which it pretended to be - namely, a secret document drawn up by an educated Jew. He pointed out the defective Hebrew characters and weird incongruities between the Hebrew words and the purpose of the ‘lectures’. Referring to the words in Hebrew ‘Fit for Passover’, Dingemans said that if he delivered a written attack on a group and inserted at the top of his lecture the words ‘sterilised milk’ an impar­tial critic could only say that the heading was somewhat incongruous with the purpose of the lecture.
The document, said Dingemans, was “clumsy and unconvincing ... a glorious mess”. He had no hesitation in saying that it was below the attainments of a pupil of standard eight whose home language was Afrikaans.
Another important witness was Mark Lazarus. A leading member of the Labour Party in Port Elizabeth, Lazarus was not, in his own description. “A ceremonial Jew”, nor had he been a member of any Jewish congregation, including the Western Road Synagogue. He had never had anything to do with the document alleged to be a “copy for M. Lazarus”. The witness was cross-examined at great length by Inch and there were some acrimonious exchanges between them. Supporting evidence revealed that a photograph had been taken of Lazarus at a bowling tournament in Cape Town on 17 March 1934, the day Inch alleged Lazarus had been at a meeting at the Western Road Synagogue.
On 24 August 1934, Judge Presi­dent Sir Thomas Graham, with Mr Justice Gutsche concurring, delivered a lengthy judgement. The court unequivocally accepted the evidence of the plaintiff, Rev. Levy and his wit­nesses and denounced the documents as a forgery. No such document had in fact ever existed in the synagogue and it was clear some Greyshirts for their campaign of hatred had deliberately concocted the false document. £1000 damages was awarded against Inch, £750 against Von Moltke and £25 against Olivier, with costs in each case. Following the evidence which he had given in the case, Inch was subsequently criminally indicted and was found guilty of compiling a forged document, making false state­ments in affidavits and of perjury. He was sentenced to several years’ imprisonment.
The case was significant for a number of reasons. For the first time, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - which continues even today to be a bestseller in the Arab world, in much of Eastern Europe and Russia and among fringe groups throughout the West - was brought under judicial review. The defendants claimed that the Protocols was a genuine document, while the plaintiffs contended that it was a notorious forgery. The Judge President declared:
The author of this literary forgery (The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) was one Maurice Joly and shortly after the publication of this pamphlet (which was originally a political lampoon against Napoleon III); he was arrested by the Emperor’s police and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. It would thus appear that the Protocols are an impudent forgery, obviously published for the purpose of anti­-Jewish propaganda.
In the almost seventy years since the judgement, much has been written about the Protocols, including Norman Cohn’s justly acclaimed 1967 work, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Grahamstown judgement remains, however, a landmark decision, which has stood the test of time and has proved an important declaration in intellectual and moral honesty, much like the recent Irving judgement.
Of course, the judgement did not deter the Greyshirts and Nazi-like organisation in their insidious campaign, but - as Pierre Ferrand has written - the Protocols were not addressed to people using their reason in any way:
It is based on an age-old tradition of ‘Satanising’ Jews to use Joel Carmichael’s phrase, and it is a superficially secularised version of what he has called ‘mystical anti-Semitism’. It is an incantation of fear and rage.
Such magical texts do not need to make sense or to have any literary merit. Nor do the faithful require any scholarly evidence proving that they are genuine. They work as mantras, which, as we have the though by hypnosis, stir up hatred. They reinforce belief - in this case, the myth of a worldwide conspiracy against the rest of mankind by the mysteriously powerful and infinitely wicked Jews who ought to be destroyed root and branch.
The Greyshirt case was, of course, of supreme importance to the Jewish community both in Port Elizabeth and generally. Initially there was some division among Jews as to how to deal with the Greyshirt threat. There were those who believed in ignoring the matter entirely as it would die off in the course of time. Others opposed a policy of inaction and felt that a stand was necessary.
In the event, the Greyshirts set out to be deliberately provocative, hold­ing meetings where Jews were openly reviled, to opening an office in Port Elizabeth where the Swastika was brazenly displayed. A number of phy­sical confrontations occurred between Jewish youths and Greyshirt members.
Matters came to a head with the publication of the fraudulent docu­ment and the subsequent civil and criminal trials and convictions of the miscreants. The result of the legal actions vindicated the views of those who believed that inaction and silence were harmful to the community.
With the collapse of Nazi Germany, the Greyshirts and other quasi-fascist groups all but collapsed. It is of in­terest to note that Von Moltke later became a Nationalist Member of Par­liament. The Jewish MP, Morris Kentridge, once recalled with some amuse­ment that Von Moltke frequently buttonholed him in the lobby of the House of Assembly to explain that he had been misled by Inch and was a great friend of the State of Israel! Louis T. Weichardt, the founder of the Greyshirt Movement, was appointed Senator by the Nationalist govern­ment. He declared that he had never been against the ‘Jewish race’ but only against the actions of certain ‘Jewish communists’. Not a single Jew, he opined, had suffered through his actions.The passage of time has, perhaps dulled our senses to the dangers posed to our community by anti-Semitic falsifiers of history. The Irving and Greyshirt trials are useful reminders of the need for vigilance and unity.

visitor’s book:
“A walk down Memory Lane; well done!” Myrna Gordon (Neé Porter), Rivonia Johannesburg South Africa
“Thank you for doing this for all of us”. Barry Mirkin, Madison Wisconsin USA
“Like a Dream”. Patricia Mirkin, Summerstrand Port Elizabeth South Africa
“A work of Love”. Sheila Raizon, Sea Point South Africa
“I am totally in awe of what has been created!” Lyn Kalmin, St. Ives Australia
“Very impressed; a highlight of my visit”. Lester Kalmin, St. Ives Australia
“Fantastic! A trip down memory lane”. Brian Weinronk, Cape Town South Africa
“Remembrance is key to future”. Rabbi Adi Sultanik, Johannesburg South Africa & Israel
“Every time we come, it gets more interesting”. Meyer & Thelma Saker
“As a Port Elizabeth Jewess, this synagogue was my childhood. We have revelled in this living memorial to the Jews of P.E. Mazel Tov, Effie Schauder”. Dr Vivienne Zinobar-Joffe, Bristol UK
“A wonderful tribute to a great people”. Norma Rogers
“Very proud of being a Jew; excellent display”. Molly Berg, Park Drive Port Elizabeth South Africa
Theodor Herzl Jewish Day School Port Elizabeth visit on 29 June 1999:
Y “Exciting and interesting”. Liat Castelein (age 9 years)
Y “Fun!” Michael Kushner (age 9 years)
Y “Interesting”. Nicole Levy (age 9 years)
Y “Brilliantly set out”. Jade Trehaeven (age 10 years)

“Revisiting this remarkable historical record; wonderful to be able to see my sister-in-law’s reaction to this memorial museum”. Hadassah Levin, Jerusalem Israel
“It was wonderful to come ‘home’”. Joyce Seagull
“The family of Israel lives”. Frank Miller, London
“A wonderful and warm museum, with interesting artefacts and information; and a wonderful welcome. Thank you”. Shea Albert, SA Jewish Museum Cape Town South Africa
“The museum is full of memories of my families, Goodman and Bernstein”. Alan Goodman, Kfar Saba Israel
“A memory to cherish”. Harold Bettman, Sydney Australia
“A moving experience of the old world of years gone by. Thank you for your work. Tali Nates, Johannesburg South Africa
“The upstairs montage of the photos expanded and very well done”. Vera Sendzul, aunt of Malcolm Freedland, Manchester & Israel
“Very interesting, I found it wonderful seeing the family history”. Carianne Stern, London England
“Brings back so many happy memories of my youth in P.E.”. Elsa & Carol Chapman (Elsa neé Cimbelman), Milnerton Cape Town South Africa
“Wonderful chance to discover aspects of my grandparents’ lives”. Leonard Esakowitz, Glasgow Scotland


Department of Architecture Faculty of Economic Sciences University of Port Elizabeth
Raleigh Street Synagogue Conservation Study
ralph humphrey; mark joubert; dorelle sapere - 4 october 1981

setting the scene
On a typical sunshine summer afternoon on 11 December 1912 with the wind blowing in its customary irritating Port Elizabethan manner, an excited crowd stands breathlessly in front of their new synagogue in Raleigh Street, having just marched up Hartman Street from their temporary synagogue, carrying the Scrolls of the Law in an exuberant procession. The new synagogue is to be consecrated by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Juda Leo Landau, at 4.00 p.m.
In a memorable opening speech, Dr Landau congratulates the community by saying, “Each of you who has contributed to the raising of this sacred shrine has made a real sacrifice. You have proved yourselves worthy of your great ancestors and in your lives, you have realised a part of our ancient traditions. In a world of heresy and materialism be ever mindful of the needs of your youth”.
He further urged the community to pay special attention to the needs of the youth, saying, “Increase not only the number of worshippers but also the number of students”.
A plaque set in the front facade of the building commemorates this noteworthy occasion for the Jewish community.

“Surely this is the House of G-d and the Gates of Heaven”.
Such are the words emblazoned, in Hebrew, across the facade of the Raleigh Street synagogue.

As the oldest surviving synagogue in the Eastern Cape, the possibility of declaring it a National Monument should be considered.
In this respect, we will try to make the historic, architectural, town planning and recycling potential apparent.

historical merit
The first synagogue in the Eastern Cape was built by the PE Hebrew Congregation, consisting mainly of British and German immigrants, in Western Road.
Unfortunately, this unique domed structure with distinct Eastern influence was demolished in 1957.

Impoverished Russian Jews, who arrived in Port Elizabeth at the end of the 19th century after being persecuted in their homeland, built the Raleigh Street synagogue and formed the P E Hebrew Orthodox Congregation.

The two congregations amalgamated after the destruction of the Western Road synagogue.
Later with the growth of the community, a new synagogue was built in Glendenningvale.

The synagogue served three generations of the Jewish community and has acted as a cultural and communal centre for many Jewish organisations including Zionist organisations, Bnei Zion, the Jewish Guild for young people as well as much welfare work.

In order to prevent a repeat of the Western Road catastrophe, a few members of the Jewish Congregation formed the Synagogue and Youth Foundation - an organisation who bought the building with a R10,000 bond being provided by the United Building Society.
age of the building

The land, part of the old market site on the corner of Raleigh and Edward Streets, was bought in 1908.

Work began on the building of the synagogue, which was eventually consecrated by the Chief Rabbi, Dr G.L. Landau on 11 December 1912.

Designed by Orlando Middleton it was constructed by J Kohler and Sons from funds provided by the poverty-stricken community.

architectural merit
From 1890 until World War I, Art Nouveau was the prevalent style in art and Art Nouveau architecture.
Natural, sinuous, graceful forms were used in the highly ornamental style that was based on organic forms.
Handcrafted articles made with great skill and care became the demand of the day.
Aiming at the suggestion of movement and growth, this style was particularly suited to light metal construction.
The Raleigh Street Synagogue is built in this style.
An arched gable, as a facade to the building, forms a languid curve, which links the flanking turrets.
This use of the typical Art Nouveau curve is echoed internally in the barrel vault, formed of seven straight segments.
The iron columns, supporting the gallery, are clad with wood and create an illusion of tremendous weightlessness. Benches, door handles and light fittings are all Art Nouveau in character. The Harbour Board building, built by the same company, is another example of this style.

The Architect, Orlando Middleton was a keen student of medieval architecture.
He trained under H.M.Townsend, ARIBA, of Peterborough, completed his studies in London. After passing his final RIBA examinations, he came to Johannesburg and worked for W.H. Stucke.

In 1898, Middleton was sent to Port Elizabeth to supervise the construction of the Mutual Arcade Building after which he was appointed resident architect for the Port Elizabeth Library.
His design for the Raleigh Street Synagogue together with his other work has been described as having been thoroughly in sympathy with the new school of architectural thought and had raised the standard of architecture in Port Elizabeth.

additions and alterations
Several alterations have been made to the original design:
sanitary additions were done by Middleton in 1918.
In July 1942, a maid’s room was added, designed by Maurice D. Berman.
The Synagogue and Youth Foundation have undertaken several repairs.
The exterior was repaired and painted, temporary roofing repairs were carried out and part of the electricity supply has been reconnected.
A secondary hall was formed in the foyer and a large walk-in strong room added.

the merits of the building
The synagogue is a delightful building. The interior, double-volume, is much enhanced by the slatted, barrel vaulted ceiling, while the secondary seating spaces are defined by the women’s gallery above. Natural light filters through the light green glass in the windowpanes that form the Star of David.

Above the arc, two symmetrically placed keyhole windows echo an Eastern feel to the building.
Externally, the building flanked by two towers, is seen behind an arched entrance gate.
The pillars of the building are decorated with an elegant plant-like design that blossoms into the Star of David.

The total picture of the synagogue is of an elegant, graceful and highly striking piece of architecture with admirably sensitive detailing.
town planning merit

The synagogue today stands on a site that used to be part of the Fingo location, their chapel stood on the corner of Edward Street and Campbell Street. When the area was incorporated into the city, the chapel was bought by the NG Kerk and a bell-tower added. Across the street stands the Forrester’s Hall bought by the Jewish community to use as a Hebrew school, which today is the church of the Assembly of God.

During the period when the hill was open country, the synagogue site was used for the morning market for a while.

present character
The area in which the synagogue is sited is characterised by a large number of churches and institutional halls such as the Freemasons’ Hall.
Very little high-rise development has occurred and buildings have retained their single or double storey character.
The scale has remained sensitive and domestic.
The synagogue adds very much to the richness of this institutional area and its scale is sensitively in keeping with its surroundings.
recycling potential
The building is unoccupied at present and thus forms a prime target for vandals.
Paint has been splashed on the wooden floors and lectern and the strong room door jammed.
The shell of the building is structurally sound but a lot of attention needs to be given to the appearance and services :
The exterior cement plaster has chipped off the brick walls in places.
The entire building is in need of a coat of paint.
Further roof repairs need to be done to the galvanised, corrugated iron sheeting.
Care must be given to the woodwork especially the ceilings where damp has caused the paint to flake.
The eectrical wiring in the synagogue itself needs attention.
Toilet facilities are minimal.

present use
Although the building is not in use at present, it has been offered to both the Scouts and to Civil Defence. The Club Galil who was permitted the use of the upstairs hall, is no longer active. The downstairs foyer was adapted for use by the Students Jewish Association of U P E, but they too, no longer require this facility.
prerequisites for recycling:

The Synagogue and Youth Foundation is the legal owner of the building and any possible re-use must be in accordance with its objectives, which are as follows:
To preserve the historical and religious character of the building for generations to come
To allow alterations to portions not forming the synagogue proper, providing that the character is not altered
To make the premises available to selected organisations with serious cultural and religious goals and who are in sympathy with the Foundation’s objectives
To use the limited funds primarily for preservation, thereafter for other objectives
To continue with the collecting and safekeeping of records and information relating to a11 Eastern Cape Jewish communities.

potential uses
Several alternative uses have been suggested:
The Foundation wishes to create a Jewish museum with a portrait gallery and memorabilia for the whole of the Eastern Cape.
Temporary partitions, which would not destroy the character of the synagogue, could create two more halls. One hall would be at the back of the synagogue, the other in the portion of the ladies’ gallery immediately above.
The raked seating could form an auditorium for lecture purposes.
The possibility of a shul or Hebrew school, is negated by the existence of the excellent Theodor Herzl in Walmer.
The synagogue could be used during major Jewish festivals when the size of the congregation increases dramatically.

However, it is customary for orthodox Jews to walk to the synagogue on the Sabbath and few of the Jewish community live in the Raleigh Street area.
The Synagogue and Youth Foundation has no objection to the use of the synagogue by a non-Jewish civic organization, if the character of the building is not altered.
The Foundation would encourage the development of the land adjacent to the synagogue into a public park with children’s playground.
It is the proposal of the research group that the synagogue be included in the Donkin Heritage Trail as an optional extension route.
A further trail could be devised, illustrating various styles in building - the synagogue is a fine example of Art Nouveau.

The building itself should house a variety of activities to generate interest and attract people.
The back section of the main hall could be used as the Jewish museum with displays carefully mounted on wooden cabinets, sensitively designed to match the existing woodwork.
Various other religious groups could display in the downstairs foyer.

Above, the hall could be converted into a specialist school for the deaf and dumb in Port Elizabeth - a facility that is sadly lacking.
Although it would conflict with the objectives of the Foundation, the possible use of the synagogue as an interdenominational church would be recommendable.
Regardless of its use, the absolute necessity for facilities for an on site caretaker should be emphasised.

The synagogue is the oldest surviving one in the Eastern Cape and adds greatly to the institutional character of its area. Furthermore, it epitomises an architectural style in which few buildings were designed in South Africa.

Surely, these factors make it worthy of preservation for future generations?

Brief History

A brief history of the Jewish Pioneers’ Memorial Museum by Effie Schauder (curator)
The Port Elizabeth Orthodox Hebrew Congregation was formed in 1903 with members who consisted mainly of Eastern European Jews who came to South Africa after severe pogroms and persecution in Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. On 12 December 1912, Rabbi J.L. Landau of Johannesburg consecrated the Raleigh Street synagogue.
Orlando Middleton, a leading architect, designed the beautiful building, which Kohler Brothers built. The design is predominantly in the Art Nouveau style with turrets and keyhole windows showing Byzantine influence. The exquisite Hebrew lettering over the front entrance are the words of our patriarch, Jacob, when he arose from his dream and said, “Surely this is the House of Hashem and these are the gates of Heaven”.
Rabbi Vilentzick, Chazan Reverend Sandler and Mr. Greenblatt the Beadle succeeded Reverend Hilkowitz, the first spiritual leader at this synagogue. They served the community until 1954 when the Port Elizabeth Orthodox Hebrew Congregation (Raleigh Street Shul) and the Western Road Hebrew Congregation amalgamated. The magnificent, historic, Western Road Synagogue, the second oldest synagogue in South Africa was sold and demolished and the Raleigh Street shul closed its doors. A group of concerned congregants felt that this should not be the fate of the Raleigh Street Synagogue; they bought the building and formed “The Synagogue & Youth Foundation”. Unfortunately, the building stood vacant for several years and vandals moved in who broke windows, lit fires on the floors and stole brass fittings, including the magnificent chandelier.
The only source of income to the Jewish Pioneer’s Memorial Museum is from donations, bequests and endowment of seats in memory of forebears; restoration at Raleigh Street shul occurs whenever funds become available. Among donations received by the museum is the beautiful chandelier, a replica of the original.During the 1980’s, the Department of Architecture at the University of Port Elizabeth expressed interest in the Art Nouveau building and in 1986, with their assistance, the building was declared a National Monument and the Jewish Pioneers’ Memorial Museum was born.