Open House: Hotels & Hoteliers

A rare photographic tribute to the pioneering Jewish hoteliers and innkeepers of the late 19th and early 20th century was presented at the South African Jewish Museum on 6 May 2002. Video footage of interviews with the Jewish and local inhabitants of remote country districts was screened as part of the exhibition.

The exhibition chronicled the lives and locations of generations of Jewish innkeepers who settled in remote towns and villages throughout South Africa, describing the role these hoteliers and their establishments played in the context of South Africa’s history and development.

Running an inn or a tavern was a familiar occupation to Jewish immigrants. During the
mid-19th century Russian noblemen gave Jewish businessmen licenses to run the canteens, taverns or inns in Russian rural areas. In South Africa a large proportion of the hoteliers were, and still are Jewish, although not necessarily from Eastern Europe. Some of the notable hoteliers were in fact English Jews who continued to immigrate to South Africa throughout the latter part of the 19th century and into the 20th.