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Christchurch, New Zealand

CHRISTCHURCH, city in New Zealand. Louis Edward Nathan, merchant, founded the Canterbury Hebrew Congregation, holding the first services at his home. In 1863 he obtained a crown grant of £300 and land to build a small wooden synagogue for the congregation of 30. The gold rush to Hokitika almost caused the congregation to collapse. The Jewish diggers and traders returned in 1870, bringing with them from the goldfields their minister Isaac Zachariah (born in Baghdad but educated in Jerusalem), who served the community from 1870 to 1886. Nathan kept the congregation together and the beautiful new synagogue was consecrated in 1881. The community flourished under the leadership of Phineas Selig, later doyen of the New Zealand press, assisted by a group of energetic colleagues. Kosher meat was supplied locally from 1933, a welfare society was founded in 1938, a social club in 1940, and women's synagogue membership was inaugurated in 1942. From 1930 to 1958 Jerusalem-educated S.N. Salas of Auckland was minister. A small number of immigrants of German and Polish origin came in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1967 there was a Jewish population of 330, and in 2004, after some growth through immigration, 650.


L.M. Goldman, History of the Jews in New Zealand (1958), index. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Levine, The New Zealand Jewish Community (1999), index; JYB 2004.

[Maurice S. Pitt]

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