SYDNEY, capital of New South Wales, *Australia. Founded in 1788 as a British penal settlement, it was the cradle of Australian Jewry. Several Jews were sent there from England as convicts in the first transport and others subsequently. After release they played their part, at times under conditions of great hardship, in the colonization of the country. Some of them prospered and became leading citizens. When in 1817 a Jew died in Sydney there was no Jewish cemetery, but a religious service was held and a ḥevra kaddisha formed. P.J. Cohen may be considered the founder of the religious community. He carried the chief rabbi's authority to perform marriages, one of the first being that of Samuel Cohen, founder of a family prominent in both Jewish and general affairs for three generations. When the first congregation was organized in 1832, Joseph Barrow Montefiore – a cousin of Sir Moses *Montefiore – who played a pioneering role also in Melbourne, Adelaide, and New Zealand, was elected president. Services were held in private homes and hotels which were often owned by Jews; in 1837 a house was hired and converted into a synagogue. Soon the congregation was again homeless, until in 1844, when the Jews in New South Wales numbered about 900, the Sydney Synagogue, the first to be specifically built as such, was opened. The Great Synagogue, still in existence, was opened in 1878, when some 3,000 Jews lived in the state.
In the 1850s there was an influx of Jews to New South Wales, still mainly from England but including a number from Germany. Many first settled in the rural areas, often to keep the local store, and in 1861 only 61% of the Jews in New South Wales lived in the metropolis; a century later, however, only 4% lived outside Sydney. The obstacles to religious life were formidable: lack of ministers, difficulty in maintaining observance, and scarcity of women; intermarriage was thus the gravest danger. A.B. Davis served as minister at the Great Synagogue from 1862 to 1905, and Rabbi F.L. Cohen, author of a standard work on synagogal music, from 1905 to 1934. Immigration from 1933 on did much to change the pattern of the community, in which Western European and British immigrants predominated. In 1933 Sydney had four congregations, all Orthodox, and in 1970, 17 Orthodox and two liberal congregations; the bet din was under the chairmanship of Rabbi I. Porush. The Rabbi L.A. Falk Library at the Great Synagogue with its 7,000 volumes is the largest Judaica library in Australia.
From the 1930s until the late 1950s Sydney experienced the same patterns of growth as did *Melbourne and other centers of Jewish life in Australia, but with significant differences. More Holocaust refugees and survivors came to Melbourne than Sydney, and, during the second half of the 20th century, Melbourne was clearly the leading Jewish community in Australia, with Sydney a close but perceptible second. Victoria (Melbourne) overtook New South Wales (Sydney) in population around 1939. By 1961, 23,106 declared Jews by religion lived in Sydney, according to the Australian census, compared with about 28,000 in Melbourne. In recent years this gap has remained. In 1996 there were 31,450 declared Jews in Sydney compared with 35,383 in Melbourne, and, in 2001, 32,941 in Sydney and 37,779 in Melbourne. The sources of immigration to the two centers of Jewish life also differed, with Melbourne taking in many more Polish Holocaust survivors and Sydney more Hungarians (following the 1956 Revolution) and also more British emigrées for normal professional reasons. The Jewish presence is also more marked in Melbourne than in Sydney. Sydney has a larger population than Melbourne, 4.2 million compared with 3.5 million, while Melbourne has a much larger, highly visible strictly Orthodox community. Although there are recognizable Jewish neighborhoods in Sydney, Melbourne's community is clearly centered in the Caulfield–East St. Kilda area, while Sydney's is dispersed in two geographically distinct areas, the Eastern suburbs (Bondi, Vaucluse, Rose Bay, Bellevue Hill) south of Sydney harbor, and areas of the North Shore such as St. Ives. Of the 17 postal districts in Australia with more than 1,000 declared Jews in 2001, seven were in Sydney and nine in Melbourne. Sydney's Eastern suburbs were home to nearly 13,000 declared Jews.
In recent years the cultural and political ambiance of the two communities also differed, with Sydney's Jewish community more moderate and conciliatory in its dealings with the government, Melbourne's more forthright and even militant. Sydney itself has also differed socially from Melbourne, the former a cosmopolitan harbor and metropolis well-known for its hedonism, the latter more conservative and containing
Because of these factors, full-time Jewish day schools were founded later in Sydney than in Melbourne, and, until the 1980s, attracted smaller enrollments. Sydney had six full-time Jewish day schools: Moriah College (Orthodox), Yeshivah and Yeshivah Girls' High School (Lubavitcher), Masada (Orthodox) on the North Shore, Mount Sinai (Orthodox, in Sydney's southeast), and Emanuel (Liberal). Enrollments totaled nearly 4,000. In general, the evolution of Sydney in the postwar period may be seen as a process of "catching up" to Melbourne, an evolution reflected in increasing Jewish day school numbers in Sydney. It has also been reflected in the growth of Sydney's synagogues, which increased from around ten in 1960 to 25 in the mid-1990s and 33 by 2005. Of today's 33 synagogues in Sydney, 18 are mainstream Orthodox, nine strict Orthodox/Lubavitcher (including Chabad houses), four Sephardi, and two Liberal. Recent notable rabbis in Sydney include Israel *Porush and Raymond *Apple of the Great Synagogue in central Sydney, Brian Fox of Temple Emanuel, and Selwyn Franklyn of the Central Synagogue.
The representative body of the Jewish community in Sydney is the New South Wales Board of Deputies. Half of its members are selected by member bodies and half by a community-wide poll. Sydney has its own edition of the Australian Jewish newspaper, The Australian Jewish News, and there are Jewish community broadcasting slots on public radio. There is a well-presented Sydney Jewish Museum, opened in 1992, at 148 Darlinghurst Road, with exhibits on the Holocaust and on Australian Jewish history. The historic Great Synagogue, at 166 Castlereagh Street, offers guided tours to visitors.
[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]
S.D. Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora: Two Centuries of Jewish Development in Australia (1998; rev. ed. 2001); H.L. Rubinstein and W.D. Rubinstein, Jews in Australia; S.D. Rutland and S. Caplan, With One Voice: A History of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies (1998); S. Encel and B. Buckley (eds.), The New South Wales Jewish Community: A Survey (1978); S.D. Rutland, Pages of History: A Century of the Australian Jewish Press (1995); idem., If You Will It, It is No dream: The Moriah Story, 1943 – 2003 (2003); I. Porush, The House of Israel: A Study of Sydney Jewry… (1977); L. Cohen, Beginning with Esther: Jewish Women in New South Wales from 1788 (1987); A. Andgel, Fifty Years of Caring: A History of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, 1938 – 1986 (1988); G.B. Levey and P. Mendes (eds.), Jews and Australian Politics (2005).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.