From Australia’s Jewish Past:
Judah and Adela Solomon
Adelaide City and Community Stalwarts
First published in J-Wire February 14, 2023
Judah, the son of Moss Solomon and his wife Elizabeth, was born in London on 21 December 1818.
He emigrated with his family to Sydney in 1831 at the age of thirteen and was educated at Sydney College, which later became the University of Sydney. For several years he worked for his uncles – Israel, Emanuel, and Isaac – who had a business trading goods around Australia and nearby islands. He was employed as the onboard representative of the company, responsible for overseeing the cargo and its sale. He visited Adelaide in October 1839 with a cargo of ponies from Timor.
In 1842 Judah moved to Moreton Bay in Queensland, where he was appointed Government Auctioneer and conducted the first sale of township allotments. In 1846 he moved to Adelaide, where he founded the auctioneering firm E Solomon & Co in conjunction with his uncles Emanuel and Isaac.
Judah was interested in South Australian politics and more so in the Adelaide City Council. He was elected as an Alderman in 1852, holding the position until late 1854, when he resigned, moving then to England for health reasons. During his time in England, the company E Solomon & Co was dissolved, and Judah then set up in business on his own. He returned to Adelaide in 1857, and in September 1858, he was elected to the SA House of Assembly for the City of Adelaide and retired from this post in March 1860. From 1861 to 1866, he was a member of the Legislative Council. In December 1869, Judah was elected mayor, to which office he was returned unopposed the following year.
Judah put his heart and soul into all he was associated with and was never satisfied until he had investigated the minutest details of all that was presented to him. This remarkable man showed special qualities of clear-headedness, a close insight into figures, fluency of speech, remarkable tact in administration, and consideration for his subordinates, ensuring that he was very much the right man to be mayor of the City of Adelaide.
One accomplishment was a conference of South Australian mayors that he organised to discuss nuisances over which the municipalities had no control. This led to the Public Health Act, now in force. From the outcome of this conference, he appointed a committee to solve the problem of diseased meat that was being sold in the city. He pushed for the government to install appropriate drainage, which was largely implemented. When the various Waterworks Acts were being consolidated, Judah gave evidence to the Select Committee showing that the corporation was being overcharged for water. Judah was a staunch supporter of Free Trade but had limited success in his political life due to his stubbornness. Once his mind was made up there was no comprise. In 1871 he returned to serve in the Lower House representing West Adelaide, and he remained in that position until February 1875.
One other important area of interest for Judah was with the Destitute Board, which he sat on for many years and became its Chair in March 1877. He was a great advocate of the ‘’boarding out system’’, frequently traveling about the country to see that foster parents and guardians of destitute children had proper regard for their welfare. One other claim to fame for Judah was that he was one of the oldest Justices of the Peace in the colony and succeeded Rupert Ingleby as the City Coroner.
It is evident that Judah held broad-minded social and political views, but he was also interested in his faith and, in 1848, became the First President of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. At that time, there were 58 Jews living in Adelaide.
Judah’s second wife, Adela (Adel) was born in Gloucestershire, England in December 1841. She was the daughter of Reverend Isaac Pulver and Rosetta. The family left the UK and traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, where Reverend Pulver became minister at the Great Synagogue in 1849. One of his roles included performing the duties of ‘’shochet’’ (one who is certified as competent to kill cattle and poultry in the manner prescribed by Jewish law). The keeping of Kashrut was a problem in that there were not enough congregants to purchase the meat, and it proved to be uneconomical to continue. This caused a split among the members, and he resigned in 1851. The family left the community and emigrated to Melbourne. We next hear about the family in 1871 when Reverend Pulver took up the position of minister at the Hobart Synagogue. He, unfortunately, passed away in 1873 after serving the community for twelve months. He is buried in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery.
There is little information about Ada’s childhood and her growing up. Her story starts when she met and married Judah in Melbourne on 4 September 1867. Judah and his first wife, Rachel Cohen, were blessed with sixteen children. Rachel, unfortunately, passed away in childbirth in January 1864. Ada and Judah had two children, Elias, in 1870 and Rosetta in 1871. The family moved to Adelaide and once Judah became mayor, Ada was by his side as Lady Mayoress carrying out many social and official duties. One such occasion, on 21 June 1870, was when she officially opened the Victoria Bridge on Morphett Street. This was a major happening for the city of Adelaide, with several thousand people lining the street for the opening. Ada regularly performed in a series of charitable concerts for Adelaide’s destitute and lunatic asylums and the orphanage. She performed for the closing social event of the Adelaide Jewish Literary Society, a program consisting of the first production of the Japanese Tale by Rigby C Tearle entitled ‘A Japanese Love Story’. Ada played the role of Tuki, the maidservant of Sono Haite, a Japanese lady.
On 21 September 1875, Ada passed away whilst giving birth to their third child, who was stillborn. She was 33 years old. Their daughter Rosetta passed away in 1878, and Judah passed away from cancer on 29 August 1880. All three are buried in West Terrace Cemetery.
Seven of his sixteen children – from his first wife Rachel – survived him. One of his sons, Vaiben Louis, went on to become Premier and Treasurer of South Australia in 1899, and a member of Australia’s first Federal parliament until 1903.
- Australian Dictionary of Biography
- Obituaries Australia
- Archives of the Government of South Australia
- Adelaide Hebrew Congregation Archives
- South Australia Jewish Virtual Library
- Cheryl Williss, HerStory Project, ‘Mrs Adela (Ada) Solomon’, SA History Hub