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Jews of Australia - Tasmania

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  • Henry Ansell (1847 - 1911)
  • Louis Nathan (1811 - 1886)
    "Louis Nathan (1811-86) married his first cousin, Harriette Moses (1818-64). With £100 of stock provided by her father Henry Moses, they set sail in 1834 for Sydney, then sailed on to Tasmania (known a...
  • Samuel Jacob Eliezer Zessel Moses (1807 - 1873)
    Biography: Samuel Moses Birth: 1806 Death: Oct. 2, 1873 Having made his fortune in Tasmania, Moses retired to England. His speedy burial in the new Willesden Cemetery, where he (or his fami...
  • Myra Lindo Benjamin (1875 - 1953)
  • Bernard Walford, Convict “Active” 1791 (1768 - 1828)
    “Lady Nelson” from Norfolk Island to Van Diemen’s Land, 9 November 1807 Updated from MyHeritage Family Trees via daughter Rebecca Williamson (born Walford) by SmartCopy : Nov 12 2014, 10:18:29 UTC

Hobart Synagogue Official Website

Hobart Hebrew Congregation Digital Library

The Convict Synagogue at the End of the World

Trek to Jewish Tasmania

Judaism in Tasmania

Hobart Synagogue

Jewish Faith

Overview of the Jewish faith in Tasmania

The Jewish faith was first practised in Tasmania by male convicts predominantly from the East End of London, where their families had settled in the eighteenth century after fleeing persecutions in Europe. Lack of Jewish women precluded for many years their forming a traditional Jewish community. However, by the 1840s they had increased and prospered sufficiently to enable the building of synagogues in Hobart Town (1845) and Launceston (1846). The first Jewish minister was appointed in 1846, and religious practices were established.

The 1848 census recorded 435 Jews, a figure never exceeded. Numbers declined as some settlers returned to England, and others left for mainland colonies and New Zealand. The Launceston Synagogue closed in 1871. Only a handful fleeing Russian pogroms of the late nineteenth century reached Tasmania. Nevertheless, the Hobart Hebrew Congregation continued its communal life. Though there was no minister in the periods 1873–1911 and 1922–1942, Sabbath services were conducted by dedicated members. (Credit Peter Elias)

Tasmania began early in the 19th century as a British convict settlement. One of the Jews transported to Van Diemen’s Land, as Tasmania was then known, was Judah Solomon, a Londoner who, with his brother Isaac, founded the Hobart synagogue. Opened in 1845, the building is still in use and is a gem of Victorian architecture.

Originally under the aegis of the British chief rabbi, the synagogue is now shared between Orthodox and Reform. The two groups live in relative harmony, but there was a time when tension was high and the Orthodox group was locked out; the media photographed one group praying on the pavement.

At the back of the building are hard benches for the Jewish convicts who, in the early days, were marched in under armed guard. The congregation wrote to the chief rabbi in London asking whether convicts could receive aliyot (honours). The answer, which took months to arrive, was that they had to be recognised as Jews and could be counted to a minyan (10 persons), but they were not respectable enough to be given honours.

The only qualified rabbi the community ever had was Dr Herman Hoelzel — previously at the Hambro’ Synagogue in London. He was there briefly in the mid-19th century and called himself Presiding Rabbi of the Australian Colonies and, after he left, Hobart had an unpleasant incumbency in Sydney.

A statistical analysis of the 2011 Australian census estimated that 285 Jews lived in Tasmania (about 0.06% of the wider population) of whom 45% were aged under 45. This total had grown by 3.5% since the previous census in 2006. The largest concentrations of Jews were 163 in Hobart and 51 in Launceston. Unusually, there are no suburbs with particular Jewish clusters.

Compared to other Australian Jews, there are fewer families in Tasmania where both parents are Jewish, many more Jews born in the UK and US, and far fewer in Eastern Europe. Families are also relatively poorer than average, although better-off than Tasmanians as a whole.

Hobart

Picturesque Hobart, with its multicolored doorways and sandstone buildings was founded as a penal colony in 1804. The city has an unusual Jewish past and lies at the crossroads of Dutch, French and British history. (It is also the birthplace of actor Errol Flynn.) This capital city is the second oldest in Australia, found on the southern rim of Tasmania, an island separated by the rolling waters of the Bass Strait, 155 miles from mainland Australia.

The oldest synagogue still in use in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere, is home to the Hobart Hebrew Congregation. It has served the Jewish community of Tasmania since 1845. Early on Hobart had ministers or lay officers who caused controversy when they tried to make converts to Judaism. Because the community was so small and far away that there was constant outmarriage.

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Launceston

The Launceston Synagogue at 126 St. John Street is part of the National Trust of Australia and another rare example of Egyptian revival-style architecture. It is in walking distance of the city proper, where the gardens are laden with bougainvillea separated by neat hedgerows and tidy stonewalls. There are small shops to purchase the famous Tasmanian honey, and many department stores once owned by Jewish merchants.

The small graveyard is nearby at the northwest corner of York and High Streets.

Funerals

The only functioning consecrated Jewish graveyard in Tasmania is a section of Hobart’s inner-suburban Cornelian Bay cemetery. There is no Jewish burial society. However, the congregation is able to oversee the funeral process, in particular by ensuring halachic requirements are met, and by liaising with private funeral parlours so that Jewish funeral customs are respected. Lay leadership also conducts funeral services at no cost to members. As well, a Receiving House is located next to the Jewish cemetery and is available for use in funerals.

Other Jewish Institutions

Apart from the congregation, the only Jewish organisations currently active in Tasmania are Chabad and a University of Tasmania branch of AUJS (the Australasian Union of Jewish Students).


Notes for adding profiles:

- Profiles of Jewish people born, lived or deceased in Tasmania should be added to this project.

- If the state in which people resided is unknown, please add the profiles to - Jews of Australia

- Resided in Australia prior to 1901 should also be added to - The Jewish Faith in Colonial Australia 1788 to 1901

About location:


Please add people who also lived in states other than Tasmania to the relevant project :

Profile bio's:

Add a link to the profile of prominent persons in the Jewish Community and a short bio on them. Examples (not meant to limit profiles)

- First Jewish settlers

- Significant member of Jewish society

Queries, please contact Leanne Minny (Volunteer Curator)