The South African Jewish community were Russian refugees from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. They arrived here after the Turkish war in 1877. These refugees arrived without any possessions on African soil. From the refugees that arrived in Cape Town, approximately 100 Jewish families settled in Oudtshoorn between 1881 and 1890.
During this time, most of the Jewish people travelled as ‘smouse’ (hawkers) and were general dealers in town. A few of these families decided to settle in Piketberg. Mendel Sachs, who arrived in 1880, is regarded to be the first Jew to have settled in Piketberg and many more followed after that, which in turn gave way to the establishment of the Piketberg Hebrew Congregation in 1900.
The Piketberg Synagogue was built in 1925 by Lodewyk Ando Simon from Hungary who came to live in Redelinghuys.
When the last of the Jewish community left Piketberg in 1945 the Synagogue was no longer used as a place of worship. For some years the building was let to a furniture dealer, whose tenancy later expired. Then the synagogue was renovated and now houses an exhibition of Piketberg Community History.
The aim of the exhibition was to establish an integrated history of all the communities in Piketberg and surrounds and should benefit the community as a whole. A special effort was made to collect the history of the previous disadvantaged communities as this was previously neglected.