As promised… since I just wrote about the Great Synagogue, I made a visit this weekend to the Jewish Museum (Judiska Museet) in Stockholm to continue my education in the city’s Jewish history. I have been curious about this museum, especially as they moved recently to a new location in Gamla Stan (the old city). In fact, the new location is quite fitting… the museum is now housed in the former main synagogue which is also the oldest extant synagogue in the city.

Tyska Brunnsplan

While it is in the old town, The Jewish Museum is still away from the main tourist thoroughfares on a little, quaint square called Tyska Brunnsplan, which is also home to one of the only historic wells still standing in Stockholm. Before the building housed the synagogue (start 1795), it was an auction house. And, afterwards, when the parish moved in the late 1800’s to the Great Synagogue, it was a police station. Thankfully, a few important objects were saved, like the pulpit which is back in its (almost) original placement after some time at the Nordic Museum and  Swedish History Museum.

During its time as a synagogue, the building also housed the apartments of the rabbi and cantor, a Jewish school, administrative offices and both a kosher butcher and bakery. Jews in Sweden were, at the time, considered a nation within a nation and the synagogue functioned as a de facto embassy of sorts for the Jewish population. The museum itself is quite small, but contains some fascinating objects from Jewish history in the city.

The pulpit

As the museum is small, I definitely recommend doing one of their guided tours as I did. It isn’t so much a tour of the museum as it is a lecture on Jewish history in Stockholm and Sweden. It was fascinating and the guide was really good and informative. History, interspersed with fun anecdotes, from when the first Jews arrived in Stockholm, what their lives were like, the laws that made making a living tough, up to Sweden’s actions during World War II and how many Jews escaped Nazi occupied Europe by coming to Sweden… many thousands through the help of Raoul Wallenberg.

During the warmer months, the tours are given in English daily at 2pm. This time of the year, however, they are only available in English on Fridays through Sundays. The museum is closed on Mondays. Set tours are avaiable in Swedish year-round as well and you can contact them for tours in other languages. The museum is quite easy to get to from the Hotel Rival… either a 15 minute walk or else you can take the subway (two stops on the red line to the Gamla Stan station). One interesting sidenote, when the synagogue turned into a police station, the walls were all painted white. They are now restoring the original ornamental wall paintings (so some work is ongoing). Click here for other museums in Stockholm concentrating on history.

Ongoing restoration of original walls

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