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Ground Breakers

On 13 December 2020, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of its opening, the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town launched an engaging holiday season exhibition entitled Groundbreakers: A History of Progressive Judaism in South Africa.
The exhibition was the first-ever history of South Africa’s Progressive movement, examining its impact on the wider Jewish community.
Museum director Gavin Morris said: “We show that this minority movement had a larger impact than is generally appreciated. It played a pioneering role in several areas, such as the first batmitzvahs, Jewish outreach into South African communities, interfaith initiatives, gender equality and welcoming the LGBTQI+ community as members.”
The exhibition was based on research by Irwin Manoim, a former newspaper editor now associated with the Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies at UCT. His book Mavericks Inside the Tent was also be launched at the exhibition. “It’s been great working with the museum team,” said Manoim. “We’ve managed to add a great deal of little-known photographic and film material that could not be used in the book.”
Along with a bespoke design and accessible text, the exhibition included archive film as well as specifically produced new film. Designer Angela Tuck says: “The idea was to use a format that can easily be moved and set up anywhere in the country, to ensure that it’s not only people in Cape Town who get to see it.”
The exhibition will ran until the end of March 2021, before moving to Johannesburg. For more about the book Mavericks Inside the Tent, go to

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