AJHS Timeline

Where was the first synagogue opened in NSW? When was the Hakoah Club bombed? Who was Australia’s second Jewish Governor-General?

The Australian Jewish Historical Society maintains a dynamic timeline of Jews and the Jewish experience in Australia since the start of European Colonisation in 1788, highlighting major events and figures in the participation of the Jewish people in Australia history, and the development of its community.

Jewish History in Australia can be explored via the Timeline at a high level or in detail, extracting important dates by subject area, including: Politics, Military, Synagogues, Events, etc.

Special thanks to Harvey Cohen.

First Fleet arrives at Sydney Cove. Of the 751 convicts transported to the fledgling NSW colony, at least 8 were Jews.

Over a thousand people of Jewish descent estimated to have been sent to Australia as convicts during the next 60 years.

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John Harris, first policeman in colony of NSW

Proposed to Judge-Advocate David Collins to establish a night watch, ‘to be selected among the convicts for the purpose to stem the frequent commission of offences in the settlement’.

Hobart, Tasmania is established as a penal colony at Sullivan’s Cove, Van Dieman’s Land. Of the orginal 270 convicts, 8 are Jewish.

Jewish convicts arrived from the then failing colony of Sorrento on Port Phillip Bay to Sullivans Cove – now the city of Hobart. 

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Governor Bligh deposed by Lt. Col. George Johnson

Johnson’s common-law wife was Esther Abrahams of the First Fleet who was Jewish.

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First free Jewish woman settler – Esther Isaacs.

Another contender is Ann Bocherah, the free wife of Solomon Bocherah, a Second Fleet convict arriving in mid 1790. She was the second Jew to arrive free after Rosanna Abrahams, the infant daughter of Esther Abrahams born in Newgate prison.

Merchant Phillip J Cohen arrives in Australia. Convenes regular religious services at his Sydney home

Cohen is authorized by the British Chief Rabbi Solomon Hirschel to perform Jewish marriages. Cohen superintended the formal establishment of the Sydney Hebrew Congregation in 1832.

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Michael Hyam arrived in NSW (Hyam Beach)

Michael Hyam received a grant of 41 acres of waterfront land in 1859 and the beach and town are named after him. 

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Solomon Levey independently finances Thomas Peel’s private venture, the Swan River (free-immigrant) Colony. This eventually becomes the Colony of Western Australia.

Levey trusted Peel as he was 2nd cousin of British P.M., Sir Robert Peel, and that Peel deigned to become the partner of a Jewish former convict. Levey paid dearly for this misjudgment.

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First organised services in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) are convened.

Held at the Argyle Street, Hobart home of wealthy emancipist Judah Solomon.

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Reverend Aaron Levi arrives in Sydney.

Sefer Torah purchased by subscription. Services become more regular.

Bridge Street Synagogue in Sydney is consecrated

First synagogue in Australia was opened in rented premises

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Hobart synagogue is consecrated.

Constructed on land donated by Judah Solomon. Now the oldest synagogue in Australia and is still in use

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First of just three dedicated Jewish cemeteries in NSW was opened in Maitland.

The others were Goulburn (1848) and Raphael’s Ground (1867).

First synagogue in Melbourne is constructed on Bourke Street.

Victorian Jewish population increases from 200 in 1848 to 3000 1861. 

Australia’s first Jewish Day Schools open in Sydney and Melbourne with support from respective colonial governments.

When government funding ended, both schools disband: in Melbourne in 1872 and Sydney in 1880.

Eureka Stockade, Ballarat stormed by troops. Teddy Thonen, a German Jew was the first of 24 miners killed defending the stockade.

Earlier Manastra Flatow, another German Jew, was one of those arrested in connection with the burning of the Eureka Hotel.

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East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation founded.

After separating from the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation.

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Fifteen Jewish families form the first congregation in Brisbane.

They meet in rented auction rooms and a Masonic temple pending the consecration of its first synagogue in 1886.

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Certified Denominational School – First Jewish Day School in NSW

Operated till 1882 when Government aid for denominational schools stopped.

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Newtown Synagogue opens

Second oldest ongoing synagogue in NSW – 3rd in Australia after Hobart and Launceston. Religious services at the home of Abram & Naomi Solomon

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Sir Julian Salamons appointed Chief Justice of New South Wales.

Declined to be sworn in “because of the hostility of the then current members of the bench”

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Chovevei Zion (Lovers’ of Zion Society) active in Sydney.

3 years before the first Zionist Conference in Basle, Switzerland.

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Rabbi Israel Isadore Bramson lived in Sydney from around 1898 to 1902.

Not affiliated to any particular congregation and performed a number of Chupahs.

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Federation of Australia. Four Jews among the first Members of Federal Parliament

Isaac Isaacs, Vaiben Louis Solomon, Elias Solomon, Pharez Phillips, in the House of Representatives.

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Kishinev Pogrom Protest

Protest (at the Czarist policies that promoted this pogrom) meeting held at Sydney Town Hall by concerned citizens of all faiths. Speakers included Abraham Pearlman, storekeeeper in Boggabri (NSW), born in Kishinev.

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Bankstown Synagogue opens

Closed 1991. Subject to Arson attack.

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WWI commences when the Austro-Hungarian Empire declares war on Serbia.

13 per cent of the Jewish community enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces, compared to 9.2 per cent of the general population.

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Leonard Keysor AIF First Battalion at Gallipoli awarded VC

For the ‘most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty’ at Battle of Lone Pine

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Issy Smith (Ishroulch Shmeilowitz) of the 1st Manchester Regiment is awarded VC.

For bravery and gallantry in voluntarily rescued wounded men during the second batlle of Ypres. Later Member for Melbourne in the Australian House of Representatives.

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General Sir John Monash becomes Commander in Chief of the AIF.

Leads the Australian Corps through the victorious battles of the closing stages of the war.

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Newtown Synagogue is consecrated.

Australia’s first suburban congregation

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British official, Sir Mathew Nathan, serves as Governor of Queensland.

1920-25. Earlier Governor of Gold Coast, Hong Kong & Natal, Chairman of the British G.P.O. and Chairman of the Inland Revenue.

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Council of Jewish Women (CJW) is founded in Sydney by Dr Fanny Reading.

Later became the NSW branch of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, NCJWA.

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Death of Sir John Monash.

Estimated 250,000 mourners attended state funeral.

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Dr Jacob Jona, first Jew to be elected President of a VFL/AFL football club. (Hawthorn Football Club (1931-1949)

Other Jewish presidents of VFL Clubs in the 1930’s were Dr D. Berman of North Melbourne; Reuben Sackville of St Kilda, Ewart Joseph of Fitzroy.

Australian Judean Sports Council is established to coordinate Jewish sport nationally.

Later renamed the Australian Maccabi council, and in 1957 Maccabi Australia.

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Evian Conference on Jewish Refugees.

Australian representative, White says Australia would not undertake “any scheme of large-scale foreign migration”. Sydney Morning Herald editorial condemns White’s speech.

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Australian government allots 15,000 visa’s for “victims of oppression”. 5,000 annually for three years

7000-9000 Jews able to take up the visas under the “Victims of Oppression” allotment before the outbreak of World World II stopped the program.

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Isaac Steinberg of the Freeland League visits Australia.

Proposal for settling Jewish refugees in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a public issue.

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Hakoah (Soccer) Club is established in Sydney.

The club went on to be four time National Soccer League champions.

MV Struma crammed with 750 Jewish refugees refused landing in Palestine, was towed into the Black Sea where it sank, with just one survivor (David Stoliar).

A critical event in Australian Jewish history as British apologists, notably Sir Isaac Isaacs, lost all community credibility.

Founding of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

Forerunner was the NSW Jewish Advisory Board founded in 1932 and comprising representatives of synagogues only

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Australian Labor government establishes a sub-committee on immigration.

Recommends that post-war Australia should foster immigration from Britain and the European continent

Arthur Calwell becomes Minister for Immigration in the Chifley government.

Radical changes are implemented in immigration policy to allow for massive post war migration to Australia. Continues under the Menzies governments.

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17,768 Jewish refugees enter Australia under auspices of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (AJWS).

Jewish migrants are excluded from all Australian government sponsored programs. 1947-52

Arrival of Nazi War Criminals in Australia as part of the IRO program

including Konrad Kalejs, who serves as immigration officer in Bonegilla from 1950-53

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First Jewish School in Victoria, Mt Scopus War Memorial College, opens.

Established in St. Kilda Road with 143 students.

Sydney Einfeld was elected president of the Australian Jewish Welfare and Relief Societies.

1961 Federal Member for Phillip. 1965 State member for Bondi. Was responsible for establishing Australia’s consumer laws

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Estimated total of 35-40,000 Jewish immigrants who had been victims of Hitler arrived 1933-1963.

Melbourne becomes the Diaspora community with the highest percentage of Holocaust survivors.

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Barry Kosky, born in Melbourne.  Internationally renowned opera and theatre director.

Currently artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin.

World first compulsory wearing of seatbelts in cars launched in Victoria.

Recommendation by the Road Safety Committee chaired by Walter Jona MP.

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First Jewish community centre in the Australian Capital Territory, the ACT Jewish Memorial Centre is consecrated.

Features the sharing of facilities for both orthodox and liberal services.

Asher Joel knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for arranging tours of Australia

Also made Knight of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in 1974. Also knighted by the Pope

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Australian Labor party wins government in Australia under Gough Whitlam.

The Whitlam government introduces multiculturalism as official policy, bringing to an end the White Australia policy

Gough Whitlam is dismissed as Prime Minister of Australia by Governor General John Kerr

Zelman Cowen proposes political solution in public letter. Kerr’s secretary, David Smith, prorogues parliament on steps of (old) Parliament House.

Hakoah Club and the Israeli consulate in Sydney are bombed

First instance of international islamic terrorism in Australia.

The Emanuel School opened

Relocated to Randwick in 1985

Barry Cohen appointed Minister for Home Affairs and the Environment from 1983.

Minister for arts, heritage and the environment until 1987.

Jewish Secular Humanistic Community (NSW) Incorporated

Ian Bersten president. Similar entity in Melbourne (Julie Ruth)

Antisemitic attacks increase in Australia

Five synagogues attacked by arson in Sydney during the Gulf War

Australian War Crimes trials take place in Adelaide.

The Special Investigations Unit closed in June 1992

High Court Mabo decision, established concept of native title.

Claimant Eddie Mabo, a Murray Islander; represented by Ron Castan QC.

Hon. Mahla Pearlman serves as Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court.

Served from 1992-2003. The first woman to become chief judge of any jurisdiction within the state of NSW.

Sir James Wolfenson becomes President of The World Bank in New York

Australian born. Nominated by U.S. President Bill Clinton, Wolfensohn was only the third World Bank President to complete two terms, stepping down June 1st 2005.

Maccabiah bridge over the Yarkon River in Tel Aviv collapses.

4 Australian athletes killed and 60 injured

James Spigelman is appointed Chief Justice of NSW.

Served from May 1998 – May 2011

Arson attack on Roscoe Street Shule Bondi

Prayer shawls doused with kerosene and set alight

$14m settlements for Maccabiah Games bridge collapse in 1997

Three Australian families Elterman, Zines and Small

Judge orders removal of Fredrick Toben’s material offensive to Jews

Ignoring order resulted in Toben being jailed in 2009

Bali bombing. 202 people including 88 Australians killed

Melbourne plastic surgeon Graeme Southwick present, helped save lives.

Louis Kahan, portrait artist dies aged 97

Won the 1962 Archibald Prize for portrait of author Patrick White

Palestinian activist Dr Hanan Ashrawi accepts Sydney Peace Prize.

Majority of the Jewish community protests the award

Israelis attempt to acquire a forged New Zealand passport.

New Zealand demanded an apology from Israel and suspended diplomatic relations. Israel later apologised in Jul 2005.

Michael Danby defeats David Southwick in the battle for Melbourne Ports

First time in the electorate’s history that two Jews representing the major parties have come head-to-head.

Isador Magid dies in Melbourne aged 91

Jewish communal philanthropist

Mark Leibler receives a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)

For services to business, law and tax reform, Aboriginal reconciliation and the Jewish community.

Anton Block elected president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria

At 33, the youngest JCCV president in Victorian history

Geraldine Brooks wins Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for March.

First Australian author to win the prestigious prize

Leslie Caplan, former ECAJ president dies aged 74.

After being admitted five weeks earlier to Sydney’s Wolper Hospital with advanced Parkinson’s disease

Auschwitz tattooist Lou Sokolov dies aged 90

Central figure in Heather Morris’ book.

Australian census records 88,832 Jews

Actual figure is estimated to be about 15-20 per cent higher.

Harry Seidler Architect dies aged 82

Mastermind behind iconic Sydney buildings such as Australia Square, the MLC Centre and Grosvenor Place

Irma Stahler, Australia’s oldest Jew, dies aged 107

Believed to be the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor

Richard Pratt, packaging king dies aged 74

Polish Jewish migrant created the multibillion-dollar Visy packaging empire

Former Justice Marcus Einfeld jailed for perjury.

Human-rights campaigner, guilty in case involving a speeding ticket.

Victor Smorgon dies aged 96

(1913-2009), industrialist, innovator, philanthropist and family patriarch. Arrived with no English from the Ukraine at age 14.

Australian-born Mossad spy Ben Zygier, found hanged in his cell

At Israel’s maximum security Ayalon prison.

Death of Sir Zelman Cowen

Appointed 19th Governor-General in 1977

Fire guts synagogue at Masada College

A fire on the first night of Rosh Hashanah, thought to have begun after a candle was left burning in the kitchen.

Australia’s first Humanistic Jewish congregation, Kehilat Kolenu, is established in Melbourne.

Similar established in Sydney, Ayelet HaShachar. Services loosely based on the Humanistic Jewish movement in USA and the musical-prayer group Nava Tehila in Israel.

Mark Dreyfus becomes second Jewish federal attorney-general

Position first held by Sir Isaac Isaacs nearly 100 years ago.

First Shabbat Project held

Hosted in every major city in Australia and more than 230 locations around the world

Linda Dessau is appointed as Governor of Victoria.

Also first female Governor of Victoria

ECAJ president Robert Goot appointed co-chair of the World Jewish Congress Policy Council

Policy Council liaises closely with the Vatican on inter-religious issues

Australian census records 91,023 Jews

Apparent decrease due to change in Census form.

Benjamin Netanyahu visits Australia

First by an incumbent Israeli PM.

Rabbi Benzion Milecki’s contract with South Head Synagogue is terminated and the shule placed into voluntary administration

In the weeks that follow, different factions attempt to gain the upper hand and a breakaway community is formed.

Federal MP and minister Barry Cohen dies

Honoured at a state memorial service

First same-sex Jewish wedding in Australia

Ilan Buchman and Oscar Shub married at Sydney’s Emanuel Synagogue 5 months after Australia legalized gay marriage

Unibail-Rodamco completes a $US25bn deal to acquire Australia’s Westfield Corporation

Ending Lowy family ownership of Westfield Shopping Centres.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove officially unveils the first National Jewish War Memorial in Canberra

Commemorates all 341 Jewish Diggers who are known to have died on active service.

Jewish independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps wins Wentworth by-election.

Defeating Dave Sharma and forcing Liberal government into minority

Jeremy Spinak, dies age 36.

Immediate past president of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies succumbs to a rare form of cancer.

Moriah College defrauded of $7.4m

Gus Nosti, 57, financial controller at Moriah College in Queens Park between 2004 and 2016

First reported case of COVID-19 to hit the Australian Jewish community.

Melbourne’s Yeshivah Beth Rivkah Colleges (YBR) closed following confirmation that a teacher has tested positive for the coronavirus

Eddie Jaku dies at age 100. Author of international best-seller “The Happiest Man on Earth”

Was a survivor of the Holocaust and one of the founding members of the Sydney Jewish Museum.  

Malka Leifer found guilty of 18 charges relating to the sexual abuse of two sisters between 2003 and 2007.
Leifer was former head of religion and principal of Adass Israel School and fled Melbourne for Israel in March 2008