The Jewish Museum of Australia was established in 1977 by a group of passionate and dedicated volunteers, led by the visionary Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky AM (1928-2000). During the Museum’s first years of existence, the Committee, organised exhibitions at the Myer gallery and the Tramways Board building, started to acquire objects for the Museum’s collection, and searched for premises for the museum.

In 1982, June Helmer (1922-2017), one of the founding Committee members, invited her brother, the then Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen (1919-2011), to become the Patron of the Museum in time for the opening of its temporary premises in the disused classrooms of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, South Yarra. Over the next 13 years at that location, the Jewish Museum of Australia presented over forty wide-ranging exhibitions, several of which travelled nationally. The Museum attracted significant communal support and won several prestigious industry awards.

In 1992 the Jewish Museum of Australia purchased a building in Alma Road, St Kilda opposite one of Melbourne’s most beautiful synagogues, the St Kilda Hebrew Congregation. On 20 August 1995, the then Governor General, Bill Hayden, officially opened the Jewish Museum of Australia, Gandel Centre of Judaica, named in honour of the Museum’s lead benefactors, John and Pauline Gandel.

Mission statement

We engage people with Jewish culture in order to:
– help Jews become proud of, connected to and knowledgeable about their heritage;
– promote understanding and appreciation of Jewish culture and people in the wider community; and
– build a society in which cultural diversity and difference is embraced and respected.

Our values

1. Community
2. Pluralism
3. Learning
4. Creativity
5. Quality

Key result areas

Building bridges

Activities that deliberately bridge communities

Relevance & responsiveness

Listening and responding to the community’s needs and interests

Access to our collection

Creative and compelling ways to access our collection, on-site and on-line

Visitation and participation

Widen and deepen, on-site and on-line

Engaged staff and volunteers

Appreciated, motivated and contributing

Relationships for the future

Relationship-building as the basis of financial security

The Museum recognises and pays tribute to the following individuals who were involved with the founding of the Museum and who were instrumental in securing its future in the early years following its establishment:

Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky AM

Sir Zelman Cowen AK, GCMG, GCVO, 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