Our History


The Jewish Museum of Australia was founded in 1977 by a group of dedicated volunteers led by 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 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 in South Yarra. Over the next 13 years, we presented over 40 exhibitions at that location, several of which toured nationally and won industry awards.

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


Our Mission & Values


At the Jewish Museum of Australia, we illuminate Jewish life. At the intersection of art and Jewish culture, our Museum is a place for all people to share in the Australian Jewish experience.

We are:

  • Authentic: Committed to excellence, heritage and quality;
  • Inclusive: Building a sense of belonging and trust with people of all backgrounds;
  • Innovative: A museum experience re-imagined beyond our community and country; and
  • Open: Sparking curiosity, conversation and social cohesion through connection and play.

We seek to infuse all we do with:

  • Chesed, or compassion and kindness; and
  • Tikkun olam, or the desire to improve our world.


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