“Can you come downstairs and drive my car into the garage? I’m kind of nervous.” My friend Julie has come to my apartment in the city so we can have a big day out playing tourist. She lives in the ‘burbs on a gigantic block with a garden sporting hydrangea blooms as big as my head, so she’s not used to the street parking roulette and sneaky gated entry for residential car parks. It’s all rather complicated really. We’re armed with a plan, masks, our transit cards and we’ve got our supportive shoes on, ‘coz we know we’re going to do lots of walking.
Our destination today is the Sydney Jewish Museum.
We’ve been talking about coming here for ages, and finally decided to hard-core commit. Located in Darlinghurst, mere moments from King’s Cross, it’s smack dab in the middle of a vibrant neighborhood near St. Vincent’s Hospital and completely accessible for those with mobility issues. Though parking is available, it’s extremely limited and as all city parking tends to do – it costs an arm and a leg, so do yourself a favor and take the train to the King’s Cross station, grab a coffee at one of the million cafe’s and stroll there in your own sweet time. It’ll take you about 10 minutes.
Our life is fashioned by choices. First we make our choices, then our choices make us.-Anne Frank
We arrive at the museum, go through security, and leave our raincoats in the lockers so we don’t have to lug them around. Inside, it’s bright and modern. A vast three-story atrium with cleverly angled staircases to maximize display space makes quite the visual impact. We begin on the bottom floor with the gift shop (don’t judge!) and a marvellous temporary exhibit by Jewish artist Camille Fox, who paints colorful depictions of her childhood memories from the ‘golden era’ in Egypt. These exhibitions change regularly.
Throughout the bottom floor, there is Judaica from all over the world, but primarily from local donors. You’ll learn a bit about the Torah, about Judiac customs and beliefs, and about the history of early settlement here in Australia. It’s fascinating stuff.
The Holocaust exhibition is one flight up, and when you place your foot on that last step, it’s a bit jarring to come face to face with a large backlit photo of the Führer, although this has a way of setting the stage for the solemnity of what’s to come. The Sydney Jewish Museum does it well. The exhibits here are educational and heartstring-pulling. It’s an important story, a reckoning of humanity, and only by owning our mistakes of the past do we desist to repeat them. Some of it’s hard to see, knowing that there were real people, just like you, just like me, who perpetuated and suffered so dearly.
Good to know:
- The museum has reduced hours (due to Covid) and is open Wed, Thurs, and Sun from 10-4. Guided tours are not available, but friendly docents are on hand to answer any questions you may have.
- No pre-booking is required, though you can purchase tickets online if you’re a super-planner.
- Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $9 for children and under 10 are free. A family pass is $40.
- As you would expect, there is sensitive content in the Holocaust exhibition, though it is presented in a factual historical format for the purpose of informing. Children under 11 require accompaniment by an adult.
- Be sure to download the brilliant SJC Voices app (free) to your smartphone. It utilizes GPS within the exhibits to provide an embedded “survivor narrative alongside stories from perpetrators and witnesses.” You’ll hear the voices of the people involved as you move amongst the artifacts on display. Currently, you need to bring your own earbuds.
Have you been to any great museums lately?