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Ballarat, Australia

BALLARAT, country town in Central Victoria, Australia. After the gold rush in 1851 a number of Jews went to Ballarat and in 1853 there was a minyan on the gold fields on the High Holidays and in 1859 there were 347 male Jews in the town. A Jew, Charles Dyte, took a leading part in the diggers' revolt in 1854 (known as the Eureka Stockade) against unjust government licensing. Later he became mayor of Ballarat. In 1855 a small synagogue was dedicated, the congregational president being Henry Harris. D. Isaacs was first minister, shoḥet, and teacher, followed in 1864 by S. Herman, I.M. Goldreich (1868), B. Lenzer (1905), M. Rosenthal (1922), L. Goren (1926), and Z. Mandelbaum (the last resident rabbi of Ballarat who ministered until 1942). A more commodious building, including rooms for a minister's residence and a Hebrew day school, was erected on land granted by the government in 1861. A mikveh was built and a burial plot consecrated. A Philanthropic Society, founded in 1857, was affiliated with the *Anglo-Jewish Association . In 1908 the congregation separated into two factions and the Central Hebrew Congregation was formed, with M. Levy as minister, but lasted only four years. In these early days Ballarat was regarded as the center of Orthodox Judaism in Australia.

Two Ballarat Jews achieved distinction in the arts: Nathan Spielvogel, a well-known short-story writer, and Abbey Alston, an artist whose works are found in most Australian national galleries. With the drift to Melbourne, the Ballarat community declined. In 1969 the Jewish population had dwindled to about 10–15 families. By the early 21st century a few families remained, as well as a historic Orthodox synagogue, open on High Holidays. Sovereign Hill, a popular local tourist attraction featuring a village from the Gold Rush era, includes Emanuel Steinfeld's Furniture Factory, an authentic recreation of the business of a prominent Jewish pioneer.


N.F. Spielvogel, in: Australian Jewish Historical Society, 1, pt. 3 (1940), 92–94; 1, pt. 6 (1941), 206–7; 2, pt. 6 (1946), 350–8; L.E. Fredman, ibid., 4, pt. 5 (1956), 279–80; L.M. Goldman, ibid., 4 pts. 7 and 8 (1958), 440–1, 452–3, 459–60, 465–6, 477–8; D.J. Benjamin, ibid., 4, pt. 3 (1960), 134. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: H.L. Rubinstein, The Jews in Victoria, 1835–1985 (1986), index.

[Shmuel Gorr]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.