As early as the 1820s, Jewish traders were among the shifting group of whalers, whaling crews, mariners, and missionaries who explored New Zealand. Three Jews came in the first 700 colonists to settle at Port Nicholson. By 1848 there were 61 Jews in the colony. Ten years later there were 188, mostly in Auckland.
- Joel Samuel Polack, an Anglo-Jew, wrote two widely read books on his 1831–1837 travels. He detailed his interaction with the Maori people, made notes on flora and fauna and concluded that commercially lucrative flax production on an immense scale was possible.
- The first Jewish settlers to arrive were Abraham Hort, Jr along with two brothers, Solomon and Benjamin Levy in 1840.
- Elizabeth Levy and Esther Solomon: The Jews' Hospital (Neveh zedak, which was largely funded by the Goldsmid family) sponsored two Jewish women to emigrate in 1841 on the ship, "the Birman" :
- Abraham Hort Senior saw New Zealand as a possible haven for impoverished English Jews and a potential refuge for oppressed Jews of eastern Europe and elsewhere.
- The first Jewish ceremony in New Zealand was the marriage of businessman David Nathan to Rosetta Aaron
- The second, the marriage of Esther Solomon and Benjamin Levy was on 1 June 1842 in Wellington, New Zealand
- Nathaniel William Levin: for whom the town of Levin was later named, soon married Hort Senior's daughter, Jessy, further connecting the small group of early Wellington Jews.
- David Isaacs, came with Abraham Hort, also an alumnus of the Jews Hospital
- The death of the Levy's second son at the age of about 8 months in 1845 was, Hort wrote to the Chronicle, "our first Jewish corpse" and the "first Jewish burial" in the new Jewish cemetery
- Benjamin Leopold Farjeon, Journalist
- Frederick Pirani, Journalist
- Louis Ehrenfried, founded a prosperous business as a wine and spirit merchant
- Sir Arthur Mielziner Myers, a New Zealand politician and Mayor of Auckland
- Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, was Mayor of Auckland City from 1959 to 1965
- Bendix Hallenstein, the founder of Hallensteins clothing company, was born in Germany in 1835. He met his wife in Australia while running a general store with his two older brothers. Bendix and his family crossed the Tasman, and settled in Invercargill before relocating to Queenstown.
- Sir Julius Vogel, who served twice during the 1870s, was the only Premier to practise Judaism.
- John Phillip Key, Current Prime Minister Of New Zealand, whose mother was jewish
The 2006 census data gives the Jewish population as 6,858 out of the total New Zealand population of 4 million.
Jewish Lives in New Zealand is a compelling look at the disproportionately profound impact Jewish people have had in New Zealand since the 1840s, when just 20 citizens were registered as being Jewish. Today, the total number is probably more than 20,000.
The roll call for New Zealanders of Jewish decent is impressive -:
- John Barnett,
- Vincent Ward,
- Marti Friedlander,
- Sir Peter Gluckman,
- Dove-Myer Robinson,
- John Goldwater,
- Frank Hofmann
Founding Families: Stretching right back into New Zealand’s history, eminent founding families such as the
They are people who have given — and continue to give — so much to New Zealand society, across many fields of endeavour: politics, business, academia, journalism, medicine, science, arts and culture.
“Reading through the book, it’s hard not to be taken by the fact that Jews collectively have generally punched well above their weight and have been high achievers in whatever activity they’re involved in,” says Dr Bell.