AUSTRALIA, island continent, within the British Commonwealth. At least six Jewish convicts who arrived at Botany Bay, New South Wales, in 1788 were later among the first settlers, including John Harris who, when freed, became the first policeman in Australia. The first minyan and burial society date from 1817, and the 1828 census records about 100 Jews in New South Wales and 50 in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). In the 1830s Jews arrived in increasing numbers, mainly from England, and by 1841 Jews had also settled in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, bringing the total in the continent to 1,183 (0.57% of the whole population). The number of Jews in Australia reached 59,343 by 1961. (For updated information, see below.) Australian censuses trace the increase in the Jewish population, showing the rise and fall in each state and the percentage of Jews in the total population. (See Table: Australian Jewish Population and Table: Australasia Age Distributions.)
There were several waves of immigration – in the 1850s due to the prosperity following the discovery of gold; from 1891 to 1911 an influx of Eastern European Jews fleeing from pogroms; in the 1930s German refugees; and in the post-World War II period the displaced *persons who survived the Holocaust in Europe.
In 1828 Philip Joseph Cohen was authorized by England's chief rabbi to perform marriages. R. Aaron Levy (Levi), a member of the London bet din, paid a visit in 1830 to arrange a divorce. The first synagogue in *Sydney was constructed in 1844. Organized communities were established in Hobart (1845), Launceston (1846), *Melbourne (1841), and *Adelaide (1848). Several small communities which came into being during the gold rushes had all but disappeared in the 1960s: Forbes, Goulburn, Maitland, Tamworth, Bendigo, Geelong, Kalgoorlie, Toowoomba, and Launceston (see Map: Australian Jewry). Economic conditions made the country towns most attractive to the new Jewish settlers who came with little money, but fear of assimilation induced many to move to larger urban centers as soon as their material situation permitted. In the 1860s almost one-quarter of all Jews lived in country towns (14%) and rural areas (10%), whereas the 1961 census showed that 96.4% lived in the six large cities, 2.7% in small towns, and 0.9% in rural areas. Jacob *Saphir of Jerusalem, who visited Australia in 1862, gives an interesting account of Jewish conditions in his Even Sappir.
Australian Jewry in this early period was numerically small and scattered and consequently in danger of assimilation. Ministers and teachers were scarce, and religious observance was lax. The shortage of Jewish women (in 1881 there were only 78 women to every 100 men) led to a high rate of intermarriage. Many, however, still maintained their Jewish observances, often traveling hundreds of miles to take part in religious services or to have a child circumcised. Nor did they fail in charitable and social endeavor, and several Australian Jewish philanthropic institutions have a history of well over a century. Until free and compulsory state education was introduced in the last quarter of the 19th century, the Jewish communities maintained their own Hebrew day schools. The early Jewish settlers made a considerable impact on the colony's development, in the civic, and in some instances agricultural, spheres. Religious life was based on the English-Jewish tradition, which remained dominant, and the authority of the British chief rabbinate was respected. Civil rights and the right of Jews to vote and sit in Parliament were never subject to restrictions. The government acceded to Jewish requests for land for cemeteries, synagogues, schools, and ministers' residences, and limited subsidies were granted at different periods for Jewish religious establishments.
The synagogue was the focal point of communal life. Jews were generally highly respected; Judaism was recognized as a "denomination"; and the rabbinical office enjoyed a prestige seldom found in other lands. It is characteristic that throughout Australian Jewish history many Jews who were prominent in public life, at times occupying some of the highest positions in the land, were also active in the congregation. These include Sir Saul *Samuel, minister of the crown in New South Wales and president of the Sydney Great Synagogue; Sir Benjamin Benjamin (1836–1905), lord mayor of Melbourne and president
of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation; Sir Julian Emanuel Salamons (1835–1909), solicitor general in New South Wales; Sir Daniel *Levy, speaker of the House of Representatives and editor of The Australian Hebrew; Vabian Louis *Solomon, premier of South Australia and leader of the community there; George Judah Cohen, a leader in commerce and president of the Great Synagogue from 1878; and Sir Archie Michaelis (1889–1975), speaker of the Victorian parliament and president of the St. Kilda Synagogue. Other Jews who achieved prominence were Barnett Levy, founder of the first theater in Australia, and the composer Isaac *Nathan, described as the "father of Australian music." The historian Joseph *Jacobs and the philosopher Samuel *Alexander were also Australians. The close integration of the Jews in Australian life is exemplified in the careers of Sir Isaac Alfred *Isaacs, the first Australian-born governor-general, and General Sir John *Monash, who commanded the Australian forces in France in World War I.
[Israel Porush /
Role of Sephardi Jewry
Two of the convicts in the First Fleet which arrived in Australia in 1788 were apparently Sephardi Jews. A. Aaron estimates that at least 30 of the 384 Jewish convicts transported to Australia by 1830 were of Sephardi origin.
During the 19th century, representatives of several Sephardi mercantile families from Britain were prominent among free settlers. Solomon Mocatta operated a shipping agency; Benjamin Mendes da Costa and his sister Louisa bequeathed substantial property to a private school and public hospital in Adelaide; Alfred Mendoza served as choirmaster to the Melbourne Synagogue. Edward Cohen was elected to the Parliament in Victoria in 1861 and served for a time as a
member of cabinet. In 1864, Charles Dyte won a seat in the Victorian Parliament; Maurice Salom entered the South Australian Parliament in 1882; and Jacob Levi Montefiore served in the Parliament of New South Wales (NSW).
The Montefiores were closely associated with progress in Australia throughout the century. Jacob Montefiore was one of the commissioners appointed to establish the first non-penal colony, South Australia, in 1836. His brother Joseph Barrow Montefiore became the president of the first formal Jewish congregation on the continent, founded in Sydney in 1832 and run according to Ashkenazi rites. He was a businessman with interests in the various colonies and a cofounder of several banks. Eliezer Levi Montefiore was instrumental in the formation of the Jewish community in Adelaide, promoted the establishment of lending libraries and art galleries, and served as the first director of the Art Gallery of NSW from 1892 until his death in 1894.
In 1854 and 1855 Sephardi Jews in Melbourne held Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur services according to their tradition in a classroom of the Melbourne synagogue. The synagogue management complained that a number of Ashkenazi Jews had joined the Sephardi minyan to avoid paying pew rent required in the main synagogue, so the next year the Sephardim held their services in a private home and applied to the Spanish and Portuguese congregation in London for assistance to form a separate Sephardi community. However, they returned to the synagogue in 1857 and maintained a Sephardi minyan until 1873. This folded when a quorum of Sephardi worshipers could no longer be found.
The Sephardi Jews in Australia in the 20th century (estimated at 6,000 in 1970) are not the descendants of the 19th-century Spanish and Portuguese Jews from Britain but largely immigrants who have arrived since World War II. The main sources of immigration were Egypt and Jews of Iraqi origin who had resided in India and Britain's prewar colonies in the Far East. Smaller numbers also came from southern Europe, Turkey, and North Africa. From the 1960s there was a steady inflow from Israel, of all backgrounds, but particularly Iraqi Jews. The main centers of settlement were Sydney and Melbourne.
At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries Australian Jewry was reinforced by further immigration, mainly from Europe. The *Perth and *Brisbane communities were firmly established, and additional synagogues were founded in Sydney and Melbourne. In 1878 the Great Synagogue of Sydney was opened. Notable leadership in the sphere of religious affairs was provided by such rabbis as Alexander B. *Davis of the Sydney Synagogue (1862–78) and of the Great Synagogue (1878–1903); Joseph Abrahams of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (1883–1919); Abraham Tobias *Boas of Adelaide (1870–1918); David Isaac Freedman of Perth (1897–1939); Francis Lyon Cohen of the Great Synagogue (1905–34); Jacob *Danglow (1905–60); and Israel *Brodie of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (1922–37), who was later chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the British Commonwealth.
The periods immediately before World War I and between the two world wars brought a number of Eastern European Jews to Australia and also some from Palestine who settled in Perth. Mass immigration followed the rise of Hitler. Although the Australian authorities were at first reluctant to encourage non-British immigration, at the *Evian Conference in 1938 the Australian government allotted 15,000 entry permits to victims of oppression. The outbreak of war in 1939, however, prevented the complete realization of this scheme, but some 7,000 refugees, almost all Jews, settled in Australia
The newer immigrants from Europe brought with them deep religious convictions, Hebrew and Jewish scholarship, Yiddish culture, and Zionist sentiments. During the late 1930s a struggle for community control was launched by these new elements. Their impact on community life brought into being state Boards of Deputies on which not only the synagogues but all major organizations (secular, Zionist, cultural) were represented. The Board of Deputies in each state could speak in the name of the whole community. The state Boards of Deputies amalgamated in 1944 to form the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to represent the community on all federal matters and in world Jewish organizations. These new bodies embarked on programs in the spheres of education, Zionism, the combating of antisemitism, and Jewish immigration into Australia with remarkable results, stemming the tide of assimilation and building up a virile Jewish community life. As a result the large majority of Australian Jews adhered moderately to Jewish rituals, was strongly opposed to intermarriage, supported the Jewish day schools, and had strong sympathies with Israel.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry in 1946 dissociated the community from the anti-Zionist views of Sir Isaac Isaacs and wholeheartedly supported the demands for a Jewish state and free immigration to Palestine. From 1945 it strongly influenced the Australian immigration policy, obtaining many concessions from Arthur A. Calwell, minister for immigration, to admit Jews on humanitarian grounds. Later it kept a vigilant eye on the entry of Germans to Australia, ensuring there would be adequate screening to prevent the entry of former Nazis. From the 1950s it succeeded in its efforts to secure Australian government support for the rights of Jews in the U.S.S.R.
[Israel Porush /
Australia's Jewish community more than doubled in size between 1933 and 1954 (increasing from 23,553 to 48,436 persons), as a result of both natural increase and of an immigration policy favorable toward Jewish refugees from Europe. The 1966 census indicated that 63,271 persons had registered as Jews, whereas informed estimates calculated the actual number of Jews in 1968 at 70,000 (constituting 0.5% of the total population). In the last third of the 20th century, Australia was one of the few Diaspora societies whose Jewish population continued to rise steadily, thanks to continuing immigration, low rates of intermarriage and assimilation, and a relatively high birth-rate. Our knowledge of Australia's Jewish population derives primarily from the Australian census, which is held every five years and always includes an optional religious question. In 1971, the declared Jewish population of Australia, according to the census of that year, was 62,208. This figure rose to 69,088 in 1986, to 74,386 in 1991, 79,805 in 1996, and 83,993 in 2001, an increase of 35 percent in 30 years. This steady increase has shown little sign of leveling off, with Australian Jewry experiencing an increase of 5.2 percent in the five years between 1996 and 2001 alone. These figures are, moreover, widely regarded as underestimates, since, as noted, the census question of religious identity is optional. In 2001, 27.92 percent of the Australian population stated they were of "no religion" or declined to answer the religious question ("religion not stated"). Assuming that the Jewish population's non-response rate is similar to that of the general population, the actual number of Jews in Australia was about 116,527 in 2001. Most demographers regard the actual figure as in the range of 110–115,000. There is, however, some evidence that even this figure is too low. The Melbourne Jewish Welfare Society maintains a master list of all Jews in the state of Victoria (which includes Melbourne) that is constantly updated. In the early 1990s it contained about 48,000 names, over 40 percent in excess of the census figure of about 34,000.
Most Australian Jews continue to live in the two principal centers of Jewish life, Melbourne (in Victoria) and Sydney (in New South Wales). Both contain a wide range of Jewish institutions – often seen by visitors to Australia as extraordinary in their scope for so remote a community – especially an extensive Jewish day school system. In 1971 the census Jewish population of Victoria was 30,117. This grew to 32,358 in 1986, 35,963 in 1996, and 38,374 in 2001. The rise in the declared Jewish population of New South Wales was as follows: 1971: 25,971; 1986: 28,197; 1996: 32,652; 2001: 34,345. Jewish communities exist in all other states, with the Jewish population of Perth (Western Australia) and the Gold Coast, a resort area in Queensland, having increased significantly during the past 30 years. On the other hand, the smaller Jewish communities have not experienced much growth. The Jewish populations of the smaller states in 1971, 1986, and 2001 were as follows: Queensland – 1971: 1,491; 1986: 2,631; 2001: 4,271; South Australia (Adelaide) – 1971: 1,137; 1986: 1,144; 2001: 1,072; Western Australia – 1971: 3,102; 1986: 3,919; 2001: 5,072; Tasmania
During the past 35 years, Jewish immigration to Australia has come from a number of main sources, especially the Former Soviet Union and South Africa, as well as from a steady stream of migrants for normal professional reasons from the English-speaking world, particularly Britain, and smaller numbers from Israel and elsewhere. Probably the largest single source of recent Jewish immigration to Australia has been the Former Soviet Union. An estimated 25,000 Soviet Jews have come to Australia since 1970 (many of whom are probably not included in the census figures). In 1971, of Australia's total of 62,208 declared Jews, 41.7 percent (25,964) were born in Australia, 9,302 (15.0%) in Poland, 5,663 (9.1%) in Britain, 3,506 (5.6%) in Hungary, 3,303 (5.3%) in Germany, and 3,081 (5.0%) in Israel and "other Asia." In 1986, 31,619 (45.8%) of the declared Jewish population of 69,088 were born in Australia, with the largest foreign-born sources being Poland– 6,663 (9.6%); Britain – 5,135 (7.49%); the U.S.S.R. – 3,611 (5.2%); and South Africa – 3,420 (4.0%). In 2001, 46.4 percent (38,940) of Australia's 83,993 Jews were born in Australia, followed by South Africa – 10,473 (12.5%); the former U.S.S.R. – 6,751 (8.0%); Britain – 4,329 (5.2%); Israel – 3,886 (4.6%); and Poland – 3,838 (4.6%).
Intermarriage rates among Australian Jews were, by other Diaspora standards, extremely low, and declined significantly between the 1933 Census and the 1961 Census, consistent with the arrival in Australia of the Holocaust survivors, and a greater sense of Jewish identity. In 1961, 6.3 percent of Jewish wives were married to a non-Jewish husband, and 12.3 percent of Jewish husbands to a non-Jewish wife. In 1981 (Victoria and New South Wales only) these figures were respectively 11.2 percent and 14.0 percent; in 2001, these figures were 11.2 percent and 15.6 percent. The 2001 statistics were, specifically, for women and men married to adherents of another religion. Several thousand other Jews were married to spouses giving "no religion" or "religion not stated" in response to the census question, many of whom are believed to be Jewish. Additionally, many Jews married to non-Jews are believed to be divorced (or widowed) and remarried, often late in life. Inter-marriage rates were consistently lower in Victoria than in New South Wales, which were in turn lower than in the smaller states. It seems reasonable to conclude that Australia, especially in its main centers of Jewish life, has managed to avoid the disturbing rates of intermarriage found elsewhere in the Diaspora, especially the United States. While one can debate the reasons for this, observers pointed to the high levels of attendance at Jewish day schools and to the fact that in Australia, unlike the United States and other Diaspora societies, university students generally live at home, attending a local college, and thus often continue to draw their associational networks from among their school friends.
Australian Jews are, for the most part, situated in the upper middle classes, with relatively high income levels and socio-economic attainments. Plainly, not all Australian Jews share in high income levels, although the community has no obvious and well-defined areas of poverty, except among recent immigrants and the elderly. As elsewhere in the Diaspora, Australian Jewry contains a disproportionate number of elderly persons, with 18.97 percent of those declaring themselves to be Jewish by religion in 2001 aged 70 or more, compared with 11.51 percent of the whole Australian population. (On the other hand, it should be noted that the Australian Jewish percentage of children was not much lower than the whole Australian population, with 17.22 percent of Jews aged 0–14 in 2001, compared with 21.7 percent of the whole Australian population.)
The great influx of Jewish immigrants rejuvenated community life in the 1950s. This trend sharply contrasted with the diminishing influence of Jewish communal life and the typical rising intermarriage rates of the previous decade. Synagogues, centers, and schools sprang up in the suburbs of the capital cities. By the end of the 1960s a number of day schools and over 45 synagogues existed throughout Australia. Brisbane, Adelaide, and other communities with small Jewish populations carried on religious and Jewish cultural activities. In the new federal capital, Canberra, the Jewish community was granted a site for a synagogue. An estimated 55–65% of the adult members of the communities were members of synagogues, 80% of them Orthodox and 20% Liberal. The first Sephardi synagogue was established in Sydney in 1962. The congregations' rabbinical courts were located in Melbourne and Sydney. The Orthodox congregations in Sydney were organized in the United Synagogues of New South Wales. All six Liberal congregations, which were first introduced in 1935, were affiliated with the Australian Union for Progressive Judaism.
Between 1970 and 2004 the Australian Jewish community grew and developed on the foundations of community life which had been, for the most part, laid between about 1935 and 1955, when the community was transformed by the arrival of refugees and migrants from Europe and the institutional bases of the community were altered to a considerable extent. The Australian Jewish community has remained centered on much the same framework of communal governing bodies, synagogues, day schools, and even areas of neighborhood residency as 40 years earlier. This stability probably accounts for its relative success. Australian Jewry remains notably pro-Zionist, while Australia's mainstream political culture has been generally favorable to Israel and the West. The growth and development of the community which has occurred during the past 45 years has generally come by additions
One of the most notable features of the modern Australian Jewish community is the extent of its Jewish day school system, which is arguably without parallel in the Diaspora with the possible exception of South Africa. In 2004, 15 full-time Jewish day schools existed throughout Australia, attended by an estimated 60 percent of Australian Jewish children. Most of these were founded between 1949 and about 1970, although some schools have been established since. In Melbourne and Sydney, Jewish day schools were established by different religious and secular factions within the overall community, whose outlook was not, in their view, well-served by any existing Jewish school. Eight Jewish day schools exist in Melbourne: Mount Scopus (Orthodox Zionist), Bialik (secular Zionist), Sholem Aleichem (secular Yiddish), Leibler Yavneh (Mizrachi), Adass (non-Lubavitcher Strictly Orthodox), Yeshivah College (boys' Lubavitcher), Beth Rivkah (girls' Lubavitcher), and King David (Liberal Judaism). All take students from ages 5–18 except for Sholem Aleichem, which is only a primary school. For many decades, Mount Scopus, the oldest of these day schools, was regarded as the largest day school in the Diaspora, although in recent years its numbers have declined slightly, from about 2,200 students in the 1980s to about 1,700 in 2004. Overall, about 6,000 students attend these Melbourne day schools.
In Sydney, there are six Jewish day schools: Moriah (Orthodox), Yeshivah College (Lubavitcher), Yeshivah Girls' High School (Lubavitcher), Masada College (Orthodox, on Sydney's North Shore), Mount Sinai College (Orthodox, in Sydney's south), and Emanuel College (Liberal Judaism). Throughout most of the period since the first of these schools, Moriah College, was founded in 1951, a lower percentage of Jewish students have attended a Jewish day school in Sydney than in Melbourne, although the percentage gap has narrowed since the 1980s. There are also three Jewish day schools in other Australian cities: Carmel College (Orthodox) in Perth, Western Australia; Sinai College in Brisbane; and Massada College, a primary school, in Adelaide.
Jewish children who do not receive a full-time Jewish education often attend a Jewish Sunday school or receive tuition from United Jewish Education Boards which exist in Melbourne and Sydney. There have been many concerns that, in very recent years, the high cost of education at Jewish day schools – in 2004 up to A $20,000 (U.S. $13,000) per year for senior students – is driving students into the state sector, although the number of students at Australia's Jewish day schools continues to grow.
While there has been a growth in Jewish-interest courses at the university level in Australia in recent years, these have certainly not kept pace with the growth of "Jewish studies" at college level in America and elsewhere. Monash University in Melbourne and Sydney and New South Wales universities do offer sequences in Jewish studies. It should be pointed out that courses in Australia last for three years (not four) and are more career-oriented than in American institutions of higher education. An Australian Association for Jewish Studies was founded in 1987. It holds well-attended annual conferences and publishes the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies. Hillel organizations exist on some campuses. There are also a number of kolelim conducted by Orthodox synagogues. It might also be noted that Australian Jewish millionaires have been notably more reluctant to fund university chairs and research compared with their equivalents elsewhere.
The broadening and extension of the religious bases of Australian Jewish life, which also began in the 1935–55 period, has continued into the 21st century. Most Australian Jews who are affiliated to a synagogue are Orthodox, with a minority as members of Progressive (Liberal) (affiliated to the World Union for Progressive Judaism) congregations. Recently, a small Conservative (Masorti) movement, unknown before the 1990s, has emerged in Melbourne. By 2004, there were 50 synagogues in Melbourne, 34 of which were Orthodox, of which eight were Strictly Orthodox – seven Lubavitcher and one Adass, non-Lubavitcher Strictly Orthodox – one Mizrachi, and two Sephardi; the others were mainstream Orthodox representing both British United Synagogue and European origins. Four Melbourne synagogues were Progressive, one Masorti, and one Independent. Another Orthodox synagogue also existed in Ballarat, Victoria, about 100 miles (160 km.) north of Melbourne. In Sydney, there were 19 synagogues, with the same denominational breakdown: three were Progressive, two Sephardi, the rest Ashkenazi Orthodox, of which four or five were Strictly Orthodox. Two synagogues existed in New South Wales outside of Sydney, in Byron Bay and Newcastle. Among the smaller states, there were five synagogues (four Orthodox, one Progressive) in Perth, Western Australia; five in Queensland (two Orthodox, three Progressive); three in Tasmania (all Orthodox); as well as both Orthodox and Progressive services at the Jewish community center in Canberra. There were thus approximately 87 synagogues in Australia in 2004. Some, especially the Great Synagogue in central Sydney and the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation near central Melbourne, are historically important or architecturally distinguished. Both the Orthodox and Progressive movements held national rabbinical conferences. Orthodox and Progressive battei din existed in Melbourne and Sydney, with Melbourne's Orthodox Beth Din involved in controversy over its structure from the 1990s on. A number of postwar Australian
Community Organization and Services
The Australian Jewish community has evolved a recognized structure of bodies who are entitled to speak on its behalf on public issues, make representations to the government, liaise with the media, and so on. Each state has a local Board of Deputies (which, in Victoria, has since 1988 been known as the Jewish Community Council of Victoria) headed by a president and other office holders, and composed of delegates from affiliated Jewish bodies, including most synagogues. In New South Wales (but not elsewhere) there is a measure of direct election of delegates from the Jewish community. Nationally, the Jewish community's central body is the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), whose president usually serves for a two-year term, the post normally rotating between a leading figure in Melbourne and Sydney. Among the presidents of the ECAJ, Maurice *Ashkanasy, Syd *Einfeld, Jeremy Jones, and, in particular, Isi *Leibler, have been recognized as influential spokesmen for the Australian Jewish community. Before making aliyah in 1998, Isi Leibler had unquestionably been the dominant Jewish lay leader in Australia during the previous quarter-century. Australia also contains a strong Zionist movement, based in organizations in each state and a national Zionist Federation of Australia (ZFA). *WIZO, with 3,000 members, is a particularly strong component, which also includes *Po'alei Zion, *Mizrachi, *Revisionists, and youth groups. The ZFA has often lobbied politicians as equal partners with the ECAJ, often to good effect, especially under the presidency of Mark *Leibler in the 1980s and 1990s.
Since 1976, the Australian Zionist movement has been associated with a well-known semi-independent bimonthly magazine, known until the late 1990s as Australia-Israel Review and, since then, as The Review. Apart from publishing pro-Israel material, it examines antisemitic and anti-Zionist extremists in Australia. In 1996 The Review received considerable publicity in the mainstream media for publishing a list of financial donors to One Nation, a right-wing anti-Asian, anti-Aboriginal party, an act which was widely criticized as an invasion of privacy. Since 1983 its editor has been Dr. Colin Rubenstein (1942– ), formerly an academic at Monash University.
Since 1968, when the Australian Jewish Herald ceased publication, the Australian Jewish community has had one weekly community newspaper, the Australian Jewish News, published in both Melbourne and Sydney editions with the same national news but different local coverage. A high-quality, wide-ranging paper, it was edited in the 1980s and 1990s by Sam Lipski (1936– ), a respected communal figure and formerly the Washington correspondent of The Australian. Its Sydney edition was edited by Susan Bures. In the early 21st century the newspaper was edited by Dan Goldberg. Until the early 1990s, it also contained a weekly Yiddish supplement, Die Yiddishe Naes, which ceased publication due to the decline in the number of Yiddish speakers. A number of other Australian Jewish publications have existed, such as The Bridge, a quarterly which existed in the 1960s; Generation, another quarterly journal of commentary and fiction, edited in the 1980s and 1990s by Melbourne historian and novelist Mark Baker; and the Melbourne Chronicle, a Yiddish-English quarterly edited by Melbourne writer Serge *Liberman. Unfortunately none of these publications became a permanent fixture. The Australian Jewish Historical Society, founded in 1938, has, however, published a continuing Journal since the 1950s, which, since 1988, has appeared twice annually, with its Melbourne and Sydney committees each producing an annual issue. The Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal has also included memoirs and commentary.
Welfare provisions in the Australian Jewish community are, for the most part, in the hands of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society (known since 1999 as Jewish Care). The Welfare Society was founded in Melbourne and Sydney in the 1930s as an immigrants' aid society, specifically to assist German Jewish refugees. It remained mainly a refugees' aid society until the 1970s and helped to bring thousands of former Soviet Jews to Australia then and after the collapse of the USSR. Since the 1970s, it has chiefly functioned as a welfare society in the more normal sense, assisting the disabled, the elderly, and other disadvantaged groups.
Many other Jewish groups exist, especially in Melbourne and Sydney, including women's groups such as the National Council of Jewish Women and WIZO, youth groups, and Hillel on campuses. From about 1983 until 1998 the Australian Institute of Jewish Affairs existed, headed by Isi Leibler. It conducted significant research, brought well-known overseas speakers to Australia, and published a journal, Without Prejudice, designed to combat antisemitism. Australia is also home to a significant *B'nai B'rith movement, which is particularly well known for combating antisemitism. Virtually all are pro-Zionist, with support for Israel unusually strong. A number of left-wing groups, critical of right-wing Israeli policies, and with a progressive agenda on such issues as Aboriginal rights, exist, most notably the Jewish Democratic Society.
From the early 1940s until about 1970 a controversial but, in its early phase, very influential body existed, the Jewish Council to Combat Fascism and Antisemitism. From the late 1940s it was accused by conservative sources of being a
Jews in Public Life
Fewer Jews have been elected to public office in contemporary Australia than in many other Diaspora societies. Nine Jews have served as members of the federal Parliament since World War II, most notably Peter *Baume, Moss *Cass, Barry *Cohen, Sam *Cohen, and Michael *Danby. On the other hand, one of Australia's most distinguished Jews, Sir Zelman *Cowen, served as governor-general of Australia in 1977–82.
Jews are prominent in the spheres of business and professional life, with an estimated 15–20 percent of Australia's annual "rich lists" being Jewish, mainly Melbourne Holocaust survivors and their relatives. Jews also comprise a disproportionate percentage of Australia's lawyers and doctors, especially in Melbourne and Sydney. Jews are not as numerous in academic and cultural life as in other societies, with only a handful of Jewish "public intellectuals," such as Frank Knopfelmacher (1923–95), a right-wing political commentator; Robert Manne (1947– ), an academic political commentator; Dennis Altman (1947– ), a well-known social critic and advocate of gay rights; and Peter Singer, internationally known for his views on animal rights. In general, however, Jews are much less publicly visible as opinion leaders and trendsetters than elsewhere. It is perhaps indicative of this that unquestionably the Australian work about Jews which has had the greatest international impact was written by a non-Jew: Schindler's Ark, by gentile Australian writer Thomas Keneally, which formed the basis for Steven *Spielberg's famous film, Schindler's List.
In general, relations between Australia and Israel have been unusually good, a continuation of a trend which began with the foundation of the State of Israel. Most Australian governments have consistently sided with the small minority of states of the U.N. and other bodies which have supported Israel when anti-Israel measures were proposed. Australia sent troops to the *Sinai MFO in the 1980s to enforce the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Trade between the two states, despite their geographic remoteness, is not inconsiderable and an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce has existed since the 1950s. The absence of a direct air link between Israel and Australia as of 2004 (travelers must change at Bangkok or some other midway point) remains a barrier to increasing tourism.
There has only been one notable exception to this pattern of bilateral friendliness, the Whitlam government of 1972–75, which went out of its way to stress its pro-Third World credentials and alienated many Jews. In contrast, Malcolm Fraser (Australia's prime minister in 1975–83), Bob Hawke (prime minister in 1983–91), and John Howard (prime minister from 1996) have been notable supporters of Israel, with Hawke's warm backing for Israel being legendary. It is, however, probably accurate to state that most Australian governments, especially its Australian Labor Party administrations, are much happier with a Labor government in power in Israel than with a Likud government and also that, as everywhere, the left and the organs of opinion it controls or influences have turned sharply against Israel in recent decades.
Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism, War Crimes
Australia has also been relatively free of extreme right-wing antisemitic groups or activists. On the far right, the best-known continuing antisemitic group is the League of Rights, loosely related to the Social Credit movement. Individual antisemitic activists and local "Holocaust deniers" exist, and some antisemitic attacks occur periodically. On the far left, Australia has long had a series of extremist anti-Zionist activists. From 1978 until the late 1980s very extreme anti-Zionist groups had air time on Radio 3cr, a Melbourne "community radio" station dominated by the extreme left, especially the far left of the Victorian branch of the ALP. In 1978–80 the local Jewish community appealed to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to remove these programs from the air, with mixed success at the time, although they largely disappeared by about 1990. More recently, several left-wing members of the Australian Parliament, particularly from Sydney seats with high concentrations of Muslims, have caused concern. The numberof Muslims in Australia rose from 100,000 to 300,000 during the period from 1970 through 2001. Most were Turks or east Asians rather than Arabs. Nevertheless, antisemitic extremism from Muslim fundamentalists, especially from Sheik Taj El-Hilaly of Sydney, has caused considerable concern to Australian Jews.
From the mid-1980s, efforts were made to bring to justice former Nazi war criminals who, it was widely believed, migrated to Australia after World War II. Most were Balts or Ukrainians. The effort was chiefly sparked by a series of radio broadcasts in 1985 by Mark Aarons, an investigative journalist. After a full investigation by a Government Commission, which found that up to 50 serious Nazi war criminals had migrated to Australia, in 1989 Australia's Parliament, after bitter discussion, passed a War Crimes Act allowing alleged Nazi war criminals to be tried in Australia. For a variety of reasons, especially the lack of interest by Paul Keating, Australia's prime minister, 1991–96, in pursuing these efforts, no prosecutions have ever been commenced, and it is now most unlikely that any ever will.
In many respects, Australia is a model Diaspora community; if any Diaspora Jewish community has a viable future, it is Australia's. This has probably been due, in part, to the concentration of resources on what some sociologists describe
[Israel Porush and
Yitzhak Rischin /
William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]
H.L. Rubinstein and W.D. Rubinstein, The Jews in Australia: A Thematic History (2 vols., 1991); S. Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora (20012); H.L. Rubinstein, Chosen: The Jews in Australia (1987); M. Turnbull (ed.), Safer Haven: Records of the Jewish Experience in Australia (1999); S. Liberman and L. Gallon (eds.), Bibliography of Australian Jewry (1991); S. Rutland, Pages of History: A Century of Australian Jewish Press (1995); W.D. Rubinstein (ed.), Jews in the Sixth Continent (1986); P.Y. Medding (ed.), From Assimilation to Group Survival (1968); C.A. Price, Jewish Settlers in Australia (1968); B. Hyams, History of the Australian Zionist Movement (1998); H.L. Rubinstein, The Jews in Victoria, 1935–1985 (1986); D. Mossenson, Hebrew, Israelite, Jew: A History of the Jews in Western Australia (1990); H. Munz, The Jews in South Australia, 1836–1936 (1936); M. Gordon, The Jews of Van Diemen's Land (1965); A. Aaron, The Sephardi Jews of Australia and New Zealand (1979); J.S. Levi and G.F.J. Bergman, Australian Genesis: Jewish Convicts and Settlers, 1788–1860 (20022;); I. Getzler, Neither Toleration Nor Favour: The Australian Chapter of Emancipation (1970); P.R. Bartrop, Australia and the Holocaust, 1933–1945 (1995); J. Foster (ed.), Community of Fate: Memoirs of German Jews in Melbourne (1986); J.E. Berman, Holocaust Remembrance in Australian Jewish Communities, 1945–2000 (2001); A. Andgel, Fifty Years of Caring: A History of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, 1936–1986 (1988); R. Benjamin, A Serious Influx of Jews: A History of Jewish Welfare in Victoria (1998); R. Gouttman, Bondi in the Sinai: Australia, the mfo, and the Politics of Participation (1996); G.F. Levey and P. Mendes (eds.), Jews and Australian Politics (2004); Y. Aron and J. Arndt, The Enduring Remnant: The First 150 Years of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (1992); I. Porush, House of Israel: A Study of Sydney Jewry from its Foundations … and a History of the Great Synagogue of Sydney (1997); J.S. Levy, Rabbi Jacob Danglow: "The Uncrowned Monarch of Australian Jews" (1995); D.J. Elazar, Jewish Communities in Frontier Societies: Argentina, Australia, South Africa (1983). The Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal appears twice annually and should be consulted by anyone interested in the history of Australian Jewry.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.