Not long before he died in 2019, Jack Steinberg had one request of Jack Weinstein — don’t let the Augusta Jewish Museum fail.
“This needs to be done,” said Weinstein, president of the Augusta Jewish Museum’s board of directors. The museum is readying for a July 21 opening.
Steinberg was 88 when he died in July 2019. He was an original champion for the museum, working to prevent two historic buildings from being torn down to make room for additional parking. One was the 1869 Greek Revival structure on Telfair Street next to the Municipal Building. It was the first Jewish synagogue in the Augusta area; the other was the former Richmond County Court of the Ordinary, said Weinstein.
The former Court of the Ordinary building will house museum exhibits, according to Weinstein. It will be the building ready for the July opening.
Donations and grants have provided resources for the renovation of the former court building, which predates the synagogue. The structure retains some of its original features, including the marble flooring, Weinstein said.
The museum will have several focuses, including the history of Jewish people in Augusta. The first Jewish citizen moved to Augusta in 1802, and many merchants had businesses on Broad Street at one time, he said.
Another part will highlight the impact of area Jewish residents. He mentioned Dr. Robert Greenblatt, a Canadian who moved to Augusta and was a pioneer in the field of infertility treatments in women. Greenblatt died in 1987 and the library at the Augusta University Medical Center is named in his honor.
Weinstein said space would also be devoted to the Holocaust. He hopes to secure a Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust to be part of the display.
Also, the museum would showcase the nation of Israel and its contributions.
Weinstein said Steinberg was a historian and a place will be set aside for his many papers.
“There are boxes and boxes. It’s really expansive,” he said.
Phase Two of the project is the restoration of the 1869 structure. It was important to Steinberg because his family had belonged to it and his bar mitzvah had been held there, Weinstein said.
After the Congregation Children of Israel moved from the facility to a new building on Walton Way, the building was converted to office space for the city. A second floor was even added to the former synagogue. The building has since been gutted, uncovering the original brick walls.
Weinstein said the plan is to eventually use the space as an event venue similar to the Sacred Heart Cultural Center. It’s smaller than Sacred Heart, but he believes it will be beautiful place for smaller weddings and other types of receptions once it’s restored.
That project will likely take several years for completion.
The two buildings will be connected with a passthrough area constructed.
To learn more about the Augusta Jewish Museum, visit its website and take a virtual tour, augustajewishmuseum.org. Weinstein said donations are still being accepted.