In Pictures: Prince Charles opens the Jewish Museum in Camden after £10 million revamp

By Culture24 Staff | 16 December 2010
If Prince Charles thought he had entered the eye of the storm during his unwitting embroilment in the university fees row last week, it was nothing compared to the bill and subsequent outrage King George II passed in 1754.

The Jewish Naturalisation Act, which Charles was introduced to by historian Simon Schama at the launch of the Jewish Museum yesterday, allowed foreign Jews to become naturalised by application to Parliament. It was so controversial it had to be repealed the following year, only finally going through 82 years later.

A photo of a man in a suit talking to a school group
The Prince was greeted by a multifaith group of 30 Year 6 pupils from Richard Cobden School in Camden Town© Ian Lillicrapp
That struggle alone might give the Prince some understanding of the turbulent and rich history he has become a part of in his role as Patron of the museum. He assumed the role in 2008 - a reflection of his interest in building “interfaith dialogue” and “understanding”.

Both ambitions now have one larger platform to realise themselves in Camden, where the museum – transformed after a £10million overhaul – wants to compel and engage in a wider, British context.

A photo of a man in a suit in a museum
Museum Director Rickie Burman shows the Prince a large synagogue ark which forms the focal point of the ceremonial art displays in the Judaism: A Living Faith gallery© Ian Lillicrapp
There are films, photographs and interactive corners discussing immigration and settlement, petitions pleading the case of Jews accused of blood libel in Damascus (presented to Charles by author Simon Sebag-Montefiore, whose great-great uncle was one of those involved) and items belonging to Auschwitz survivors, some of whom were there for the opening.

“Having come here three years ago with my wife, it’s been a great joy to return to see what you’ve managed to do,” Charles told Director Rickie Burman and her team, who have welcomed thousands of visitors since officially opening in March 2010.

A photo of a man in a suit in a museum
The Prince smells a spot of chicken soup in the recreation of an immigrant home in the History: A British Story gallery© Ian Lillicrapp
“It is a wonderful way of discovering just what an enormous contribution the Jewish community has made to this country right back to 1066. The fact that the contribution is still made in such a remarkable effective and constructive way is something that deserves enormous celebration as well as immense gratitude.”

In between ducking and diving around silver and gold Torah scrolls and Hanukah lamps from hundreds of years ago, Burman stressed the importance of the venue as a place where people “of all ages, faiths and backgrounds” can explore heritage and identity.

“The first nine months of opening have been very exciting,” she reflected. “We’ve had wonderful feedback from our visitors, which is a testament to the quality and approach of our exhibitions, as well as our dynamic programme of educational activities and events.

A photo of a mannequin dress in a museum
A traditional bridal outfit worn by urban Jewish women, known as el-keswa el-kbira© Ian Lillicrapp
“We are delighted with the progress so far and look forward to building on this success with a new and varied range of exhibitions coming in 2011.”

Representatives from Morocco, led by Princess Lalla Joumala Alaoui, also attended, marvelling at the current temporary exhibition on the country, featuring photographs revealing the almost-forgotten Jewish community in the southern part of it.

Exhibits with a distinctly African flavour include the traditional bridal outfit worn by urban Jewish women, known as el-keswa el-kbira.
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