Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Jewish Museum, The Great Synagogue and Greatermans

Johannesburg always had a large Jewish population, and they played a significant role in the city's economy. There were three iconic buildings representing Johannesburg Jewry in the city centre: The Jewish Museum on the corner of Kruis and Marhsall Streets, the Great Synagogue in Smit Street, and the headquarters of the once famous Greatermans, who had their huge head office at the bottom of Commissioner Street. Let's see what these three places look like today...
First, below, the Jewish Museum at the corner of Kruis and Marshall Streets...

Then, below, the Great Synagogue in Smit Street: long since closed down as all the Jews fled the surrounding residential blocks, and today in use as a fast food chicken outlet..
And finally, the Commissioner Street head office of the old Greatermans, a shattered, boarded up ruin of a building.

Below: Ironically, vegetable vendors use the forecourt of the old Greatermans building as a makeshift vegetable shop: they can keep their wares behind the steel fence, 'safe' from their customers, who are just as inclined to steal the goods as they are to pay for them. At day's end, the vendors have to throw all their unsold wares back over the fence, jump over and leave, until the next day...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oy Vey, what a terrible end for the beautiful classical Great Synagogue.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Jewish congregations dwindled the synagogues emptied rapidly with members favoring smaller synagogues in outlying areas.

In Pretoria the great synagogue became a garage ... I hope that in Jhbg the chicken being sold is kosher.

1:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the so called OK Bazaars building is actually 220 Commissioner St - head office of Greatermans - nothing to do with OK Bazaars!!

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Great Synagogue was a beautiful old and well kept building. It's terrible to see it's tragic demise. I think the reform synagogue on the Cnr of Paul Nel and Claim streets opposite the Old Lloyd Hotel must have gone the same way. The thing that really gets to me is the amount of decay and filth that surround all these places. And clearly those who live in it, seem totally oblivious to it or completely okay with it.

Concerned citizen of Johannesburg

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's terrible to see the sad decline of the beautiful old Synagogue. It was always such a well kept and maintained building. I imagine the Reformed Synagogue on the corner of Paul Nel and Claim streets has gone the same way.

What always astounds me is the filth and decay that surrounds these places, and those who live there, seem absolutely oblivious and okay with it.

It makes me sick.

A concerned citizen of Johannesburg

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt the chicken is kosher but it is likely that it is halaal.

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comment by anonymous "I doubt the chicken is kosher but it is likely that it is halaal"

What is the relevance of "Halaal" in this context.

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Correct! 220 Commissioner Street was the Greatermans Stores Head Office and the attached Department Stores warehouse. It also housed the early head office of Checkers which started off there. Norman Herber was Chairman.

I worked in the building from 1977 to 1981 and then also half a block further down in Commissioner Street where the department stores head office and buyers moved to, ?212 Commissioner, across End Street: then called Dashing Centre from Dashing Office Furniture - now Jewel City where the diamond trade operates from

PS In Vienna one of Mozart's house is a MacDonalds!!! I've seen it and bought a big Mac there!

Regarding the Paul Nel synagogue - I gather there is a VERY small worshipping congregation still there, but the attached community centre has been taken over by the Jewish MaAfrika Tikkun Trust and they run a shelter for street children there.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Meaning of Halaal.

Did you not watch Leon Schusters movie......

"alles uit-gehalaal"

1:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is sad to see the country from which you came deteriorating into this - once proud buildings reduced to rubble, great instituions reduced to nothing. maybe it will go full circle and something will happen - maybe it will make a come back - i hope so. in the meantime we can nothing but mourn the losses.

7:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well very interesting, however, as a well travelled individual, with numerous stories and tales of my own, from various countries and cross-sections of uncountable communities across the world.

I hate to state the obvious especially to closed-minded indivduals like yourself pretneding to be objective. There are places like Johannesburg all over the world, why don't you memention them??

And please remember we are a emerging THIRD WORLD COUNTRY, so do not bring your FIRST WORLD attitude, lack of understanding and acceptance without doing some comparisons. If you do not like RSA then all the respect for you but then compare apples with apples. And not FIRST WORLD with THIRD WORLD you idiot.


A Proud World Traveller with three years worth of awesome memories in South Africa, Europe, North America, Eastern Block and etc...

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well very interesting, however, as a well travelled individual, with numerous stories and tales of my own, from various countries and cross-sections of uncountable communities across the world".

You pompous idiot. You are obviously a first world idiot comparing yourself to the third world idiots around you.

So we have to make excuses for the shit going on around us, because we're from the first world and they are just"developing"?
We have to stand and watch the third world rape, murder and plunder everything that we have built in this country? Devellopig??

I tell you what. You can only be one of these yesteryear hippies full of pot, peddling your liberal shit like you did in the sixties and seventies.

You've got what you wanted! Now enjoy and don't look for any excuses for your arrogance and stupidity .

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

THis is the tipe of phones the people must see before coming to South Africa

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am hurt by the continual comments of South Africa being called a third world country.
A third world country has never had hospitals, clinics,good roads and clean streets.
Never had public buildings that were not kept clean and in good order,solid residential property and places of business.
South Africa had all of this. UNTIL
Majority Rule.
It was a first world country, it was made third world by its elected government.
A goverment that care only for themselves.Fancy houses, fat salaries,big cars.
Whilst the people who put them there, who trusted them to improve their lives are forgotten.
There's no whitey to blame now.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was rather under the impression that a good many jews in SA were all for the end of the old system (or is that not true?). Interesting to see how well its worked out for them...

3:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like many other S.A's are sad to see what was good memories flushed down the crappa.
In response to the above comment, YES the jewish people were all for a NEW SOUTH AFRICA. How many of you are still left in the new SA?
Many of you are now with me in Australia ( And U.S.A. and N.Z. and the U.K. and Canada) Can you tell me with all honesty why you now complain about it because you were the ones who initiated this NEW SA.
Dont complain about your synogogues when my cherish memories are down the crappa.

1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

God said to Abaraham, everyone who blesses the Jew, He ( God ) will bless.
Why do you think our country is in this sham?

1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the people of any great civilization, are replaced by a people of much lower quality this is what happens. South Africa may be crumbling, it's hospitals might be unsanitary, and it's roads may be unpassable, but look at the bright side. You have DIVERSITY!!!! The end all most noble goal any nation can ever have. "Atleast that's what they keep telling us"

2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ons moet aan hou streeu tot dat iemand on hoor. Ons moet aan hou, uithou en voortgaan om on boodskap daar uit te kry.

Van oorsee

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jy sal BAIE hard moet skreeu as jy veilig oorsee sit meneer!
Compare SA to the rest of Africa and their crumbling buildings - not only do they not have the ability or means to erect anything of any significance but they haven't the sense to preserve and maintain those gems that were left to them. Correction, add to Africa; the Carribean, Cuba, Madagascar, India - notice the pattern? The sun not only tans extremely well but must be frying brains as well once the colonists have gone! To the 'well-travelled' armchair expert, you are welcome to my patch in the SA sun, hope you can do some very long-disance swimming when the times comes! Ex-liberal self-imposed exiler of the 80's

9:36 AM  
Blogger Max said...

Looks like Planet of the Apes

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually there's an article on the official Jo'burg site about how the Great Synagogue is now a church. Some charismatic preacher doing his thing under the dome . . .

9:31 PM  
Anonymous Mannie De Saxe said...

Just to correct the statement that says "the Great Synagogue in Smit Street" - the synagogue is actually in Wolmarans Street and was also known as Park Synagogue and Wolmarans Street Shul.
As the attached web site shows, my great-grandfather Emanuel Mendelssohn was the first president of the Witwatersrand Hebrew Congregation:
Hope this helps to put the shul back in its historical perspective.

Mannie De Saxe,
PO Box 1675
Preston South,
Vic 3072

9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant believe this devesation this CRIME. I am from the UK where we are getting the inner city free dom vibe even now...not unlike these pictures...and more to come..

2:42 PM  

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