Australian Jews: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Australian Jews יהודים באוסטרליה
John Monash 1.jpgAc.isaacs.jpgSidmyer.jpg
Peter Singer MIT Veritas.jpg
Some Notable Australian Jews:
John MonashIsaac IsaacsSidney Myer
Peter Singer
Total population
0.5% of Australia's population
Regions with significant populations
Melbourne and Sydney

Traditional Jewish languages
Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and other Jewish languages (most endangered, and some now extinct) Liturgical languages
Hebrew and Aramaic
Predominant spoken languages
Australian English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian



Related ethnic groups

Ashkenazi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, Sephardi Jews, other Jewish ethnic divisions

Australian Jews, or Jewish Australians, are Jews who are Australian citizens or resident aliens.

The Jewish community in Australia is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, and their Australia-born descendants. There is, however, a minority from all Jewish ethnic divisions, as well as a small number of recent converts. The Jewish community in Australia comprises a wide range of Jewish cultural traditions, encompassing the full spectrum of religious observance, from the ultra-Orthodox Haredi communities to Jews who are entirely secular and atheist.



Jews came to Australia as convicts transported aboard the First Fleet in 1788 to Botany Bay.

Over time these convicts became freed men, who were sufficiently attached to their religion to form themselves into a chevra kadisha (burial society). In 1820 the Jews established a Jewish cemetery by applying to the Reverend Dr. Cowper, who allotted to them the right-hand corner of the Christian cemetery. The death of one Joel Joseph prompted the application, and he was the first Jew buried there. During the next ten years there was no great increase in membership; and the services of the society were not called for more than once a year.

In the 1820s there was an influx of Jewish merchants into the community and divine worship was performed for the first time. In 1830 a Sefer Torah [scroll of the Law] was purchased by subscription, and divine service was conducted on a more regular basis. In 1832 the Jewish community formed a proper congregation, and appointed J. B. Montefiore as the first president.

In 1830 the first Jewish wedding in Australia was celebrated, the contracting parties being Moses Joseph and Miss Nathan. Three years later a Mr. Rose came from England and acted as the chazzan, shochet, and mohel. He was succeeded by Jacob Isaacs. The condition of the Jews improved to such an extent that in 1844 they erected their first synagogue in York Street, Sydney, in which they continued to worship for more than thirty years.

The Australian Jewish community numbered only 23,000 Jews. Between 1933 and 1939 8,000 Jews immigrated to the country. Between 1945 and 1955 another 27,000 immigrated from Displaced Persons camps in Europe. Among those organizations assisting these immigrants were the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Australian Jewish Welfare Societies and Australian Jewish Welfare and Relief Society. A majority of the immigrants moved to Melbourne and particularly to Carlton. Others moved to Kings Cross and Bondi in Sydney.

Jewish immigration came at a time of anti-semitism and the Returned Services League and other groups publicized cartoons to encourage the government and the immigration Minister Arthur A. Calwell to stem the flow of Jewish immigrants.



Until the 1930s, all synagogues in Australia were Orthodox, acknowledging leadership of the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. To this day the vast majority of Synagogues in Australia are Orthodox.

There had been short-lived efforts to establish Reform congregations as early as the 1890s. However, under the leadership of Ada Phillips, a sustained liberal congregation, Temple Beth Israel, was established in Melbourne. Subsequently another synagogue linked to the US Reform Movement, Temple Emanuel, was established in Sydney. Following these two congregations, a number of other liberal synagogues have been founded in other cities, and in New Zealand. The first Australian-born rabbi, Rabbi John Levi, served the Australian liberal movement.[2]

Since 1992 Conservative (Masorti) services have been held as an alternative service usually in the Neuweg, the smaller second synagogue within Temple Emanuel, Woolahra, Sydney. In 1999, Kehilat Nitzan, Melbourne's first Conservative (Masorti) Congregation was established, with foundation president Prof John Rosenberg. The congregation appointed its first rabbi, Rabbi Ehud Bandel in 2006.


Today, the largest concentrations of Jews are in Melbourne and Sydney.

Assimilation and population changes

The same social and cultural characteristics of Australia that facilitated the extraordinary economic, political, and social success of the Australian Jewish community have also been attributed to contributing to widespread assimilation,[3] a controversial and significant issue in the modern Australian Jewish community. While not all Jews disapprove of intermarriage, many members of the Jewish community have become concerned that the high rate of interfaith marriage will result in the eventual disappearance of the Australian Jewish community.


Jewishness is generally considered an ethnic identity as well as a religious one.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable trend of secular Australian Jews returning to a more religious, in most cases, Orthodox, style of observance. Such Jews are called baalei teshuva ("returners", see also Repentance in Judaism). It is uncertain how widespread or demographically important this movement is at present.

Notable Jewish communities

Melbourne community

The Melbourne Jewish community is a particularly strong and vibrant one. There are approximately 60-65,000 Jews (40% of Australia's Jewish population) in Melbourne of varying backgrounds; the majority from Eastern Europe (especially Poland), as well as South Africans, South Americans and more recently, Israelis (7000). The large proportion of holocaust survivors in Melbourne, who brought with them their Yiddish culture, has largely shaped the community into what it is today. Within Melbourne there are 10 Jewish day schools and over 30 synagogues and congregations ranging from the reform to the ultra orthodox. In general, most Melbourne Jews are traditional or orthodox. In addition to these congregations, there are hundreds of separate organisations and institutions which handle all parts of community life, from the Jewish students' union to the Chevra Kadisha burial society. There is even a support group for Jewish men who are gay or bisexual called Aleph Melbourne.

The Melbourne community is today most prominent in the city's south-eastern suburbs of North Caulfield, where approximately 50% of residents are Jewish, Caulfield with 40% and East St Kilda with 26%. Jews are also prevalent in the Toorak and Brighton areas, however there has been considerable decline in previous Jewish neighbourhoods such as Doncaster and Carlton. Within Jewish areas there are a number of kosher butchers, cafes, restaurants, deli's, bakeries and other amenities.

Sydney community

A poster of Menachem Mendel Schneerson at the entrance of a Chabad house in Bondi Beach in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs.

Sydney is home to roughly 40-45,000 Jewish people. Whilst the Jewish community in Sydney enjoys many of the same benefits as in Melbourne, it is generally seen as somewhat more secular. Like Melbourne, the Sydney community was built upon the arrival of holocaust survivors (especially those from Hungary), while more recently Jews have arrived in Sydney from South Africa. There are a number of Jewish schools in Sydney (such as Moriah College in Queens Park and Masada College in St Ives) as well as a variety of synagogue congregations and other institutions and societies.

Today the community is mostly concentrated in Sydney's eastern suburbs where the it accounts for approximately one third of the local population. There is also a smaller, but significant community in the North Shore suburb of St Ives.

Perth Community

The Perth Jewish community of 4-5,000 (less according to the most recent Census) consists of many South African immigrants as well as some Europeans. The Jewish Community has boomed over the last 10-15 years because of this large influx from South Africa which has given the community a unique atmosphere. Perth Jews are particularly 'close-knit', as well as being quite united and active. Most of the Jews in Perth are 'modern-orthodox', however due to the small population most organisations and institutions are dependent on their East-coast counterparts. Perth does have its own Jewish Day School - the Carmel School as well as a variety of Kosher stores. A number of attempts to establish a kosher restaurant have failed due to the very small number of observant members.

Immigration from South Africa has been offset by an outward flow. The Perth community today faces considerable problems with many of the younger generations migrating to Jewish Communities in Sydney, Melbourne or even Israel.

Perth Jews are most prevalent in the suburb of Dianella.

Adelaide Community

The Adelaide Jewish Community, number only 1500 people, is the smallest of the larger communities. The community has continually struggled to increase membership, and many now believe numbers are on the decline. Despite this the city still has its own Jewish Day School(Masada College) and a number of Synagogues. The Adelaide Jews have had a proud history with many success civic leaders and people in the arts (

Other Communities

Other than on the Gold Coast, with a community of mainly retirees and some families, most other Jews in provincial Australia and other larger cities are non-affiliated. In Victoria only in Ballarat does the Synagogue there operate on the High Holidays. An estimate of 2000-5000 Jews live outside the main community centers.

Jewish Australian culture

Since the time of the last major wave of Jewish immigration to Australia (over 2,000 Eastern European Jews who arrived between 1910 and 1944), Jewish secular culture in Australia has become integrated in almost every important way with the broader national culture. Many aspects of Jewish Australian culture have, in turn, become part of the wider culture of Australia.


Although almost all Australian Jews are today native English-speakers, some Australian Jews are bilingual with Modern Hebrew. A variety of other languages are still spoken within some Australian Jewish communities, communities which are representative of the various Jewish ethnic divisions from around the world that have come together to make up Australia's Jewish population.

Many of Australia's Hasidic Jews (being exclusively of Ashkenazi descent) are raised speaking Yiddish. Yiddish was once spoken as the primary language by most of the European Jews who immigrated to Australia. Yiddish has had an influence on Australian English, and words borrowed from it include chutzpah ("effrontery", "gall"), nosh ("snack"), schlep ("drag"), schmuck ("fool", literally "penis"), and, depending on ideolect, hundreds of other terms. (See also Yinglish.)

The Persian Jewish community in Australia, notably the large community in and around Sydney, primarily speak Persian (see also Judeo-Persian) in the home and synagogue. They also support their own Persian language newspapers. Persian Jews also reside in parts of Melbourne.

Many recent Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union speak primarily Russian at home, and there are several notable communities where public life and business are carried out mainly in Russian.

Australian Bukharan Jews speak Bukhori (a dialect of Persian) and Russian.

Classical Hebrew is the language of most Jewish religious literature, such as the Tanakh (Bible) and Siddur (prayerbook). Modern Hebrew is also the primary official language of the modern State of Israel, which further encourages many to learn it as a second language. Some recent Israeli immigrants to Australia speak Hebrew as their primary language.

Jewish Australian literature

Although Australian Jews have contributed greatly to Australian arts overall, there remains a distinctly Jewish Australian literature. Generally exploring the experience of being a Jew, especially a Jew in Australia, and the conflicting pulls of secular society and history.


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Rubinstein and Freeman, (Editors), "A Time to Keep: The story of Temple Beth Israel: 1930 to 2005" A Special publication of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, 2005.
  3. ^ Postrel, Virginia (May 1993). Uncommon Culture. Reason Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-05.  


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address