Discovering the Jewish Museum London
by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2011-10-31
Jewish Museum London. Pic: Graham Hale
Having recently undergone a major refurbishment, the Jewish Museum in London is once again open for business - and it's well worth a visit. The Camden-based building has now expanded to include more exhibits and collections, and provides a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Jewish communities in the UK.
Although the museum itself doesn't look too promising at first, with a small entrance tucked away among a row of houses on a quiet side street, there is plenty to appreciate and enjoy once you get inside.
It's certainly compact, compared to other Jewish museums in other parts of the world but that doesn't mean they have compromised on the quality of the exhibits. In fact, it's clear that some real thought and effort has gone into making this an interesting place for people of all ages and faiths to visit.
The building is divided into three floors, of which the first two house permanent exhibits and the top floor plays host to changing exhibitions (and as such doesn't always have something on display).
The first floor offers a dazzling array of Judaica, from Menorahs and shofars through to Seder plates and items used for Havdalah, accompanied by video footage explaining religious customs and festivals. At the centre of the display is an ark from a Venetian synagogue,
Upstairs the main focus is on the history of Jews in Britain, with a fascinating look at how Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere came to settle in Britain, and the contributions they made to society.
One area devoted to Yiddish Theatre throws you right into the heart of the action thanks to a video on the subject hosted by comedian David Schneider, and an area where kids and other visitors can try on costumes. Another area allows visitors to try on wedding dresses and pose for an imaginary camera.
Other interactive features include a board game which shows the difficult journey taken by many immigrants to reach these shores, and an interactive map which shows which parts of the UK Jews settled in and where synagogues existed or still exist today (and it's a surprise to find the Jewish population scattered further afield than you might think)
The ground floor, meanwhile, houses a very nice museum shop with an extensive range of classic and modern literature as well as Jewish-themed toys, games and other merchandise, and a kosher cafe offering everything from chicken soup and sandwiches through to hot meals such as schnitzel and meatballs.
All in all this is a very worthwhile experience for both Jewish Londoners and those visiting the capital who want more insight into the history of Jewish life in Britain.
Â£6 for adults/ Â£5 concessions
Â£3 children 5 to 16
free under 5's
Raymond Burton House
129-131 Albert Street
London NW1 7NB