We welcome you to experience the joy of Jewish religious, communal and cultural life at Great-Park.
The Great-Park Synagogue has transplanted its rich history and heritage and infused it with dynamic innovative energy.
Our magnificent new Shul, with our growing warm and embracing community, has become the spiritual home of young and old.
The history of our Shul dates back to the very beginnings of the city of Johannesburg. On the tenth of July 1887 – a mere year after the city’s founding – a meeting took place in Mr. B. Wainstein’s shop where a unanimous decision was passed that “the time is ripe for the present meeting to form itself into the Witwatersrand Goldfields Jewish Association”.
The initial responsibilities of the association included maintaining the Jewish burial grounds as well as holding religious services for the early Jewish pioneers of Johannesburg. On 19 September 1887 the first Rosh Hashanah service was held in the Rand Club to accommodate the over 500 worshipers who attended the services.
It was only a few months later that the association decided to change its name to Witwatersrand Hebrew Congregation, indicating its purpose as a religious organization.In January 1888 the congregation purchased two stands on President St. for the purpose of erecting a synagogue. On the 7th of November the foundation stone was laid by Rev. Mark L. Harris, thus beginning the construction of the first Johannesburg synagogue.
In March 1890 daily services were instituted in the synagogue which had become known simply as the President St. Synagogue.
Unfortunately storm clouds gathered over the infant community and a rift formed in the newly founded community over various communal issues. As a result, in December 1891, a number of members broke away and formed a new congregation called the Johannesburg Hebrew Congregation. The Witwatersrand Hebrew Congregation then changed its name to the Witwatersrand Old Hebrew Congregation.
President Kruger granted the Johannesburg Hebrew congregation four stands on the corner of Joubert and De Villiers St. on which to build a synagogue. The site was near the original Park Railway Station and the Synagogue came to be known as the Park St. Synagogue. It was opened with great pomp and ceremony by President Kruger on the 14th September 1892.
The Park St. Synagogue was in use for about twenty years. In 1912 the building was sold to the South African Railways and used as the military headquarters for the South African Railways and Harbours regiments until 1928 when it was demolished to make way for the new railway station.
It was after the park St. Synagogue was sold that the J.H.C. began construction of what was to be the largest Jewish religious edifice in South Africa. During the years 1913 to 1914 the Great Synagogue was under construction on a whole city block bounded by Wolmarans, Claim, Quartz and Smit Streets. The new large site, chosen by architect Herman Kallenbach, was near to the area where the Jewish community then lived.
The structure of the building was designed and supervised by Theophile Schaerer with Hoheisen and Co. as the contractors. Siegfried Raphaely laid the foundation stone of the synagogue on 3 September 1913. Sammy Marks had provided all the bricks and at the opening ceremony was honored by presenting Rabbi J.L. Landau with the keys to the building.
After a year of construction, on 23 August 1914 the brand new Synagogue of the J.H.C. was officially consecrated by Rabbi Dr. J.L. Landau.
For 24 years – from 1891 until 1915 – the two congregations functioned independently, each with its own distinguished Rabbi and community leaders. In 1898 the Witwatersrand Old Hebrew Congregation appointed Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz – then only 26 years old – as its Rabbi. He remained its spiritual leader until 1911 when he returned to America. In 1903 the Johannesburg Hebrew Congregation invited Rabbi Dr. J. L. Landau to become its Rabbi and remained the head of the congregation until his death in 1943.
For at least ten years there had been unfruitful negotiations between the W.O.H.C. and the J.H.C. regarding the amalgamation of the two congregations. Rabbi Hertz’s departure in 1911 and the bad state of the President St. Synagogue presented an opportunity for a rapprochement between the two congregations. Finally after long negotiations an agreement was reached and on the 30th of May 1915 the United Hebrew Congregation was formed with the Wolmarans St. Synagogue becoming the congregation’s principal place of worship.
The Great Synagogue on Wolmarans St. was loved and esteemed by the Jews of Johannesburg and stood as a symbol of the union of the two congregations. During the ensuing years it has been regarded as the mother synagogue of Johannesburg and all major events of the Jewish community took place within its great hall. Since its inception it had been the seat of the country’s Chief Rabbi’s including Rabbi J.L. landau Rabbi L.I. Rabinowitz Rabbi B.M. Casper and Rabbi C.K. Harris.
Corner Glenhove Rd & 4th Street
East of M1
Postnet Suite 95
Private Bag X92418
Phone: 011 728 8152
Fax: 011 728 8154
Rabbi Dovid Hazdan
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Corner Glenhove Rd & 4th Street