Jewish museum to open Saturdays

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2011

The Jewish Museum in London's decision to open on Saturdays from the end of this month could set a precedent for other Jewish cultural institutions.

The museum, which reopened last year in expanded premises in Camden, hopes to attract more non-Jewish visitors on Saturday as part of its brief to further interfaith understanding.

But it says that no Jewish staff or volunteers will be asked to work on Shabbat and the kosher café will be closed.

Miranda Nathans, treasurer of the Manchester Jewish Museum, said its trustees have also considered the idea of opening on Saturdays.

"At present, we haven't gone down that route. But we have appointed a new CEO, Max Dunbar, and it might go back on the agenda," she said.

The Ben Uri Art Gallery, in St John's Wood, London, also remains closed on Saturdays.

But chairman David Glasser said that if plans to relocate to a central London venue came to fruition, then the policy would be reviewed.

He added: "When our exhibitions tour, they are predominantly in non-Jewish venues and we don't make conditions about opening times."

The Jewish Community Centre for London, which hopes to open its new building in 2013, plans to open on Saturdays. But its rationale is different from the Jewish Museum in that it is main clientele is likely to be Jewish.

JCC chief executive Nick Viner explained: "We will not take money on Shabbat and the building will be Shabbat-compliant. We have specified in our tender document that there should be a Shabbat-compliant lift and we are looking at things such as electronic triggers, heat, water, security."

The JCC was in discussion with "a cross-section" of rabbis, he said.

Shabbat was "an important day of the week when people can enjoy meeting other people and doing stuff together," he said.

"It would be a real shame if we couldn't do things on that day. The building should be open to people who observe Shabbat and should feel it's ok to come there."

Last updated: 11:09am, May 5 2011