Oudtshoorn is one of South Africa’s most interesting Jewish historic centres. So vibrant was the Jewish community that the town was named, with some degree of exaggeration, ‘Little Jerusalem’ or ‘Yerushalayim beDerom Afrika’ (Jerusalem of South Africa).
At first religious ceremonies were held in private houses and in the feather market hall of the town council. By 1886, when the number of Jews was about 250, the decision was made, with the encouragement of Rabbi Orenstein of Cape Town, to build a synagogue.
The Jewish population of Oudtshoorn grew with the growth of the Ostrich industry, peaking in 1914 with 600 families.