The Jewish Museum of Australia was founded in 1977 by a group of dedicated volunteers led by the visionary Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky. During our first years of existence, this collective staged exhibitions at the Myer Gallery and Tramways Board building, acquired objects for a collection, and searched for a more permanent home.

In 1982, one of our founding members – June Helmer – invited her brother, the Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen, to be our Patron ahead of the opening of our temporary premises in the disused classrooms of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, South Yarra. Over the next 13 years, we presented over 40 wide-ranging exhibitions at that location, several of which toured nationally and won prestigious industry awards.

Attracting significant community support, we were able to purchase a building on Alma Road opposite one of Melbourne’s most beautiful synagogues, the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation. On 20 August 1995, the Governor-General Bill Hayden officially opened the Jewish Museum of Australia: Gandel Centre of Judaica, named for our lead benefactors, John and Pauline Gandel.



Our vision is for a society in which:

  • Jews are proud of, connected to and knowledgeable about their heritage;
  • Jewish culture is understood and appreciated in the wider community; and
  • Cultural diversity and difference is embraced and respected.



The values that empower us to achieve our vision include:

  • Community: We are a community museum; everything we do is ultimately for the benefit of the community, and we seek their active involvement and participation wherever possible.
  • Pluralism: We acknowledge there are myriad expressions of Jewishness that are valid and legitimate.
  • Learning: We are committed to learning as an outcome for our visitors and team.
  • Creativity: We strive to present content in playful and innovative ways.
  • Quality: We aim for the highest professional standards, with our activity underpinned by research, thoughtful consideration, and intellectual rigour.

We respectfully acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the Museum exists, the Yaluk-ut Weelam Clan of the Boon Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation.

We pay our respects to their Elders – past, present and future.

We pay tribute to the following individuals invaluable to the founding and continuation of our Museum:

Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky AM

Sir Zelman Cowen AK, GCMG, GCVO, PC, QC

John Gandel AC and Pauline Gandel AC

Dr Helen Light AM

Zelda Rosenbaum OAM

Christine Abrahams
Dorothy Abrahams
Helen Alter
Martha Ash
Jan Bayer
Maryla Bayer
Joseph Brown AO, OBE
Eric Cohen OAM
Trevor Cohen – Founding Chair and Honorary Solicitor
Douglas Davis
June Davis
Gabrielle Eisen
Ernest Fooks
Lionel Gross
Naomi Landa Gross – Co-Chair, inaugural Committee of Management
David Hampel – Founding Secretary and Secretary, inaugural Committee of Management
June Helmer
Freda Kaufman
Atida Levine
Sam Lipski OAM
Shirley Lubofsky
Doreen Nayman
Diana Opat
Miriam Opat
Fred Redlich – Treasurer, inaugural Committee of Management
Zelda Rosenbaum OAM – Co-Chair, inaugural Committee of Management
Anita Sackville – Founding Treasurer
Sue Silberberg
Leonard Yaffe
Percy Zerman