The Museum was founded in 1977 to collect, preserve, research and exhibit the material evidence of 2,300 years of Jewish life in Greece. As a historical and ethnographical museum its main interest is to provide a vivid picture of Jewish life and culture as it was during those centuries. The collection contains more than ten thousand artefacts (some of which are unique) pertaining to the domestic and religious life, as well as the history of the Greek Jews. The new building of the Museum houses its rich collection and visitor services in an area of 800 m2, organized in permanent exhibition areas with thematic modular exhibits, an art gallery, a periodic exhibition space, a research library, a space for educational programmes, a photo archive and laboratory and a conservation laboratory.
The idea of building a Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) was first conceived in the late 1970’s. The initiative belongs to the Jewish Community of Athens and to some of its members, who offered every kind of assistance towards the realization of this idea. The Museum was first established in 1977 and housed in a small room next to the city’s “Beth Shalom” Synagogue, in Melidoni Street. Soon the museum outgrew its first premises and new ones had to be found. In 1984, the Museum’s collections moved to a rented space occupying the 3rd floor of 36, Amalias Avenue. Since that time, the Museum’s activities and collections have significantly expanded and the need for more space, together with the dream of having its own premises, led to the purchase of a neoclassical building in the historical centre of Athens. Late 1997, twenty years after it first opened its doors to the public, the Museum moved to its permanent premises in the neoclassical two-stored building on 39 Nikis street.
The Museum’s collections include more than eight thousand original artifacts, testifying to more than 23 centuries of Jewish presence in Greece. Besides a few objects which Asher Moissis, president of the Jewish Community of Athens, had collected after the war, the core of the initial collection was made up of items that had been returned to Greece by the Bulgarian government, after the establishment of a communist regime in that country. These included personal effects, jewelry, domestic items, synagogual objects and documents. Besides rare 17th - 19th century books and publications, a significant number of ritual textiles was assembled. In 1984 the Jewish Community of Patras was dissolved and the extremely significant and irreplaceable religious artifacts, textiles and ritual objects were bequeathed to the Museum. In general, the Museum has been receiving an average of 250-300 new artifacts every year, since the year 2000. Its unique collections, which are continuously being expanded, document more than four centuries of Jewish life in Greece, considering that the oldest textiles and ante nuptial contracts date from the 16th century C.E.