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Benoni, Gauteng

Arthur Stanley FURNER: Design Architect



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26°11'32.72" S 28°18'29.00" E Alt: 1658m

(SAB Oct 1932:97 tend; AB&E Aug 1933:40-41; AB&E Sep 1933:10, 15 ill)

This replaced the first Synagogue in Woburn Avenue.

See The Zionist Record, September 8, 1933. Page 19-20 for articles about the building and opening of the building.


One of the first Jews, Mr M.S. Ginsberg arrived in Benoni in 1892. At this stage Benoni was no more than a mining camp. Other arrivals followed between 1892 and 1896, these included Isaac and Bernard Ginsberg, Michael Levy, I.L. Meyers and Benjamin Bloch.

During the Jameson Raid, the Jewish residents conducted their daily services at the Benoni Hotel (later known as the Chimes Tavern). Shortly after, Max Ginsberg’s brothers, Joseph and George Ginsberg arrived, followed a few months later by Mr. W. Samuels. New arrivals were few and the community grew very slowly.

When the Boer War broke out, most Jewish residents left for the Cape. It was only after 1902 that the growth of the community began to speed up. In 1905, a regular minyan was conducted in Mr. Favish’s house (near Kleinfontein Stores).

In 1906, Benoni was proclaimed a town and in 1907, the first committee of the Benoni Jewish Congregation was formed under the chairmanship of Mr. Max Ginsgerg.

In September 1907, the first High Holy Day services were held in Stone’s Hall in Princes Avenue.

After the High Holy Days, the committee was granted a site for a Synagogue by the Kleinfontein Estates. A fund raising committee went into action and, with the help of a strong ladies organization, the first Synagogue was built in 1908 and situated in Woburn Avenue and used for the High Holy Days.

The Jewish Community grew rapidly and the old Synagogue became too crowded during the High Holy Day Services. Services were also held in the Hebrew Hall but this could only be regarded as a temporary measure.

A new Synagogue became a necessity and at a special general meeting in March 1929, the council was instructed to proceed with the building of a new Shul.

Fund raising began and in 1930, the Park Street site was purchased for £1 000.00.

Building began in 1932 and in April 1933, Chief Rabbi Dr J.L. Landau laid the foundation stone.

Bella Dreyer watched the procession of Sifrei Torah being transported by foot from the Old Shul in Woburn Avenue, to the New Shul in Park Street in 1933.

Abraham Leiman who was in the procession of transporting the Sifrei Torah, handed it over to his father Rev Hirsch Leiman, who in turn entered the Shul and placed the Torah in the Aron Kodesh.

It is interesting to note that this Synagogue was of modern design, the only one of its kind in the then Union of South Africa, its counterpart being a famous Synagogue in Holland.

A casket containing coins and copies of Johannesburg and East Rand newspapers were placed behind the foundation stone of the Synagogue.

The Woburn Synagogue remained in use until 1950 when it was sold and declared a National Monument.

Source: Benoni Jewish Comminity Centenary Annual 1907 – 2007
By: Glynis Cox Millett-Clay
Dated: 22 May 2016.

In 2005 the much reduced Jewish community moved from the Park Street Synagogue to the new shul which used to be the rabi's residence.

Rev. Hurwitz acted as minister to the congregation until 1909, when he was succeeded by Mr. H. Silberman who relinquished his post in 1910 to found the first kosher butchery in the town. Rev. L. Hirschowits served the community until 1911, and was followed by Rev. R. Hirschowitz who was assisted by Rev Shapiro who left in 1916. On the death of Rev. Hirschowitz in August 1917, Rev. H.L. Behr was appointed until his death in 1925.

The Synagogue was bought by St. Francis College, first the Hillel School Section in 2003 and then in 2005 the Shul in Park Street. They did some changes and moved in, in 2006.


Cumming-George 1934

THE new Synagogue in Benoni is a striking piece of work, modern in design, and certainly a fine addition to the architecture Of the East Rand.

It is both simple and dignified, the materials used in its construction, special brick and precast stone, giving character to the unusual form.

The main entrance from Park Street shows this very clearly in its four-centred channelled brick arches lined with pre-cast stone. The window openings follow the same lines.

Inside, the main hall is panelled in fumed oak. The floors are of wood blocks. At the north end, four steps lead up to a marble platform. flanked by a wall richly decorated in mosaic. Sliding bronze doors separate this platform from the Holy Ark. A bronze grille of slender beauty screens the choir gallery above the Ark.

There are no ugly supporting columns to the galleries, these being constructed on the cantilever principle, and the seats are stepped to give free vision.

Ventilation has been very specially considered, and also in the matter of acoustics the walls and ceilings are panelled in special material having acoustic properties.

These notes were last edited on 2020 03 26

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

Cumming-George, L. 1934. Architecture in South Africa - Volume Two. Cape Town: The Speciality Press of S.A. Ltd.. pg 66
Greig, Doreen. 1971. A Guide to Architecture in South Africa. Cape Town: Howard Timmins. pg 64
Macmillan, Allister. 1933. Environs of the Golden City and Pretoria. Cape Town: Cape Times. pg 129 ill