Opinion: Museum’s closure is one big and embarrassing shock

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Opinion: Museum’s closure is one big and embarrassing shock

Alex Brummer says it is "extraordinary" that emergency funds could not be raised to keep Camden's Jewish Museum going and asks why our community can't get things done

Alex Brummer is a Jewish News columnist and the City Editor, Daily Mail

Frontage of the Jewish Museum in Camden, north London.
Frontage of the Jewish Museum in Camden, north London.

The Jewish Museum in Camden holds a special place in our family life. My wife, Tricia Brummer, a puppeteer and textile artist, has performed there many times with her theatre, Pomegranate Puppets, and repertoire of original Jewish folk tales, some built around the cycle of festivals. 

My daughter, Jessica Rosenfield, is a museum educator and consultant who worked with the Camden site over many years.

The museum’s financial struggles have never been a great secret, but the suddenness of the closure decision is a huge shock. It was not made any more credible by the public relations spin of reopening again on a larger scale in a central London location in three to five years time. To someone who has spent a lifetime in journalism digesting corporate announcements, this looks fatuous.

Alex Brummer

How embarrassing for British Jewry, which is so proud of institutional strength, from the Board of Deputies to Limmud learning and the Willesden Jewish Cemetery and the vast array of charities that this should have come to pass.

At its modest Camden location, the Jewish Museum was never going to compete with some of the great cultural equivalents on the continent or the United States. The magnificent Daniel Liebeskind-designed Jewish Museum in Berlin is an architectural treasure and offers free entry. In Krakow, the former Oskar Shindler factory has been converted into an arts centre and wonderful history of Polish and European Jewry.

The London Jewish Museum is much less grand than these cousins, both of which (for Shoah-related reasons) enjoy generous state funding. But in its own way, it is a smaller, meaningful treasure house of British-Jewish culture and has enjoyed some hefty donations from the UK Arts Council. In many ways, its attractiveness is the sheer variety of its collections, its intimacy and its ability to mount exhibitions of the Jewish contribution to broader British culture, from music to literature.

As somebody involved in three minority Jewish charities in Britain (two of them media-related), I know how hard and dispiriting fundraising can be. Yet the trustees of these organisations never tire in their efforts and, as a result, have been able to modernise, change and survive the impact of the pandemic and the recent great inflation.

Jewish Museum exhibition

When it comes to culture in Britain, there are no shortage of generous Jewish benefactors, for example Lloyd Dorfman and the Djanogly family at the Tate Modern and John Ritblat and his family at the Wallace Collection and National Portrait Gallery.

Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum owes an enormous debt of gratitude to shipping tycoon Sammy Ofer. Somerset House has been endowed by the late Edmond Safra. The Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum are testimony to the charitable giving of exiled Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.

There is not a cultural institution in the London arts, theatre and music in London – and I daresay the rest of the UK – that is not in receipt of donations and grants from Jewish charitable foundations. It is extraordinary that emergency funds could not be raised to keep the Camden Museum going until a more ambitious project can replace it.

The Museum of London (which has had great Jewish exhibits) did not have to close while a move to more suitable premises in nearby Smithfield was designed and organised.

From the Jewish Museum in Camden, to the failure (so far) to get the Holocaust Memorial at Victoria Palace Gardens over the line, our community struggles to get things done. If we can make such a mark in the secular exhibitions, why the hesitation to celebrate and commemorate our own heritage and achievements?

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: