And Introducing:

“A Walk of Jewish Melbourne”

Available now via the same app.

Among the convicts in the First Fleet there were a number of Jews; with a degree of certainty there were eight Jews in the First Fleet and possibly there were up to sixteen. Notable amongst these Jewish convicts was Esther Abrahams who eventually married Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston who briefly was Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales. It is estimated that of the convicts transported to New South Wales between 1788 and 1842, about 800 were Jewish.

Soon after the colony was established free settlers also began to arrive in the colony and from about 1828 there were several Jews amongst them. Together with emancipated Jewish convicts these Jewish free settlers founded the first Jewish community in Australia, initially with the formation of a Chevra Kadisha (Jewish burial society) in 1817 and in 1832 land was allocated for a Jewish cemetery in Devonshire Street near the site of today’s Central railway.

The Jews of Sydney have made a significant contribution to the wider community and this phone app highlights a selection of sites that have been of significance in the development of the Sydney Jewish Community and the Jewish contribution to the broader Australian community.

Within the Sydney CBD there have been six synagogues. Commercially the Jews have played a significant role in the development of commerce within the city and politically there have been two Jewish Lord Mayors of Sydney.

This app also visits the sites of some Jewish persona who might not be so praiseworthy: a bushranger, a member of the ‘razor gangs’ and some other characters of dubious reputations.

Two figures vie for the title of Melbourne’s foremost founder: John Batman (1801-39) and John Pascoe Fawkner (1792-1869). In 1833 Batman, as agent for a group of speculators, Jews included.

The total number of Jews in Australia in 1851 was 1,887 and had reached 5,486 in 1861. During that ten-year period Victoria’s Jewish population rose from 364 to 2,903. Most of the newcomers came from Britain, but there were also Jews from German-speaking lands and from Eastern Europe. A small number of the nineteenth-century Jewish settlers, both convict and free, were Sephardim, often with links to the West Indies. A visitor noted in the 1850s that ‘Melbourne is very full of Jews; on a Saturday some of the streets are half closed’.

Jews who came to the colony during the Gold Rush of the 1850s typically ended up as storekeepers and hotel keepers at the goldfields and at the country towns that resulted from them, or preferred to live in Melbourne, sensing its expanding commercial opportunities. Being close to Melbourne’s central business district, East Melbourne, at first dubbed Eastern Hill, constituted prime land and developed into a desirable residential area, popular with affluent Jewish families after the land sales of mid-century.

In this App, via the buildings with which they were associated, we meet some of the founders of Jewish congregational life in Melbourne, some of the speculators whose names became synonymous with the prosperous ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ years of the 1880s and early 1890s, and some who played prominent parts in the public life of the colony.

Special thanks to Peter Keeda.