Established in 1936, the synagogue continues to serve a small but active congregation.
Temple Israel in Hillbrow has recently been accorded heritage status, and the temple’s blue heritage plaque will be unveiled on Saturday, 22 November.
Situated on the corner Claim and Paul Nel Streets in Hillbrow, Temple Israel is the oldest Progressive Synagogue in South Africa. Established in 1936, the synagogue continues to serve a small but active congregation.
Temple Israel is a contemporary institution, a home for Jews from a variety of backgrounds, and a welcoming space for visitors. The synagogue engages with its neighbouring Churches and local community, and is committed to the ongoing improvement of the area. It holds services weekly.
The chairperson of the synagogue, Reeva Forman, expressed her gratitude to the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation for their decision to confer heritage status on the building.
Forman said Temple Israel represented a genuine commitment to Johannesburg’s inner city, while preserving the early history of progressive Jews in South Africa and holding important memories for its congregation.
“Our first Rabbi, the late MC Weiler, was a great proponent of human rights and believed that the essence of Judaism is a commitment to others,” Forman said.
“Under his leadership the congregation established a primary school in Alexandra, now known as the MC Weiler School, and continued to grow and support the school throughout the dark days of apartheid.”
Weiler was also deeply committed to women’s rights, and was the first South African Rabbi to promote the equal involvement of women in all aspects of Jewish practice
On Saturday, the morning Shabbat service will be led by Lael Bethlehem – the former head of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) – at 10.30am, after which the heritage plaque will be unveiled with remarks from Forman, Flo Bird of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation, and Eric Itzkin of the City of Johannesburg.
For more information on the unveiling, contact Lael Bethlehem on 082 464 4254.