NEW ZEALAND, independent country and member of the Commonwealth, situated in the South Pacific. In 1829, some 60 years after the rediscovery of New Zealand, the Sydney firm of Cooper and Levy established itself in the South Island at Port Cooper (Lyttleton) and Port Levy, a little to the north. Solomon Levy, the Jewish partner, later became a benefactor of both Jewish and Christian educational and charitable institutions. During the next decade, other Jewish traders began to arrive. In 1830 Joseph Barrow Montefiore (a member of the English *Montefiore family) from Sydney established Montefiore Brothers, dealing largely in flax and whale oil. In 1831 Joel Samuel *Polack, author of two books on New Zealand, came first to Hokianga to trade and deal in land. He shortly
transferred to Kororareka, Bay of Islands, where a cousin of J.B. Montefiore had established a trading post in 1831. Four other Jews were resident at Kororareka in 1838, but along with David *Nathan who had arrived in 1839 they moved to Auckland after it was made the capital in 1840. With a handful of other Jewish storekeepers and traders, David Nathan founded the Auckland Jewish community. Members of the congregation read the services and conducted religious functions – a pattern to be followed elsewhere in New Zealand. The first ordained minister (J.E. Myers of Auckland) was appointed to a New Zealand congregation in 1859.
In Wellington the first Jewish arrival appears to have been Abraham Hort, Jr. who came in 1840 with two carpenter brothers, Solomon and Benjamin Levy. These were followed in 1843 by Abraham *Hort, Sr. (1799–1869), a London Jewish communal leader who went to New Zealand with the intention of founding a community and promoting planned immigration to relieve Jewish poverty in England, through the New Zealand Company which in 1840 had begun colonizing parts of the country. Although successful in founding the Wellington community, he failed to achieve his immigration plans. The discovery of gold in Otago and Westland in the 1860s led directly or indirectly to the establishment of the communities of *Dunedin and *Christchurch and to the temporary founding of those in Hokitika, Timaru, and Nelson; the Timaru synagogue still stands without a congregation. David Isaacs, formerly of the Wellington and Dunedin congregations, was appointed shortly after 1863 to Nelson, and I. Zachariah of the gold-mining town of Hokitika was appointed in 1870 to the Christchurch congregation. Most of the ordained ministers came from Jews' College, England, including Herman Van Staveren (Wellington, 1877–1930) and Alexander Astor (Dunedin and Auckland, 1926–71). Chananiah Pitkowsky (Wellington, 1905–30) and the brothers N. Salas (Auckland and Christchurch, 1929–58) and M. Salas (Auckland, 1934–55) came from Ereẓ Israel.
New Zealand's links with Ereẓ Israel date from the time of the Crimean War, when money was being collected in Auckland and Wellington for starving Jews in Ereẓ Israel. In 1862 Jacob *Saphir of Jerusalem visited Dunedin on a similar mission. Before New Zealand became a British colony in 1840, the Jewish population numbered less than 30. By 1861 it had risen to 326 (0.3% of the total), and six years later to 1,262 (0.6%). The gold rushes brought hundreds of Jews there, but by the 1870s their number had fallen to approximately 0.2%, above which it has never risen. The Jewish population numbered 1,611 in 1901, 2,380 in 1921, 3,470 in 1945, 4,006 (out of 2,750,000) in 1961, and just over 4,000 in 1968. In the 1980s significant numbers of Jews settled in New Zealand from the former U.S.S.R. and especially from South Africa. The number of Jews by religion reported in the 1991 New Zealand Census was 3,126. Most observers regard the actual number as significantly higher, in the range of 4,500–5,000. The vast majority of Jews are distributed between New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, and the country's capital, Wellington. For much of the country's history these two centers have had comparable numbers of Jews. However, from about the mid-1980s as Auckland's growth continued to outpace that of the rest of the country, so too the numbers of Jews in Auckland began to significantly outnumber the numbers in Wellington. Apart from the city's position as New Zealand's economic capital – with roughly one in four New Zealanders residing there – the imbalance between the two communities has also been the result of larger numbers of South African Jews choosing to migrate there.
For much of New Zealand's history there have been highly restrictive government policies on immigration, with migrants from Great Britain receiving preference. Only a minuscule number of Jews seeking to flee from Europe during the years of Nazi rule were able to gain entry to New Zealand. Similarly, after the war only a small number of homeless Jewish refugees were admitted to the country. Those fleeing persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe during the Cold War also faced strong obstacles if they sought haven in New Zealand.
Those European Jews who did manage to go to New Zealand generally did so through family or communal ties to New Zealand Jews. Jewish leaders also made strenuous efforts to assist Jews trying to go to New Zealand, lobbying parliamentarians and cabinet ministers. Communal organizations
The Jews arriving in the 1930s had an impact on the New Zealand community, as some of them brought with them styles of worship and observance distinct from the largely ex-British Jewry of the country's congregations. Subsequent groups of migrants – including Jews fleeing the Hungarian uprising in 1956, former Soviet Jews during the 1980s and 1990s, and Jews leaving South Africa during the 1990s – have each had an impact on Jewish communities through participation in various communal organizations.
Assimilation into New Zealand society by the country's Jews reflects their being comfortable with the country's predominantly secular outlook and the overall absence of overt antisemitism. The growth of the Jewish population has been small not only because of assimilation and intermarriage, but because there has been substantial emigration from New Zealand over the years, particularly to Australia, by all New Zealanders, Jews among them. Emigration to Israel – aliyah – has been a further factor affecting communal growth and vitality, not only in absolute numbers but because many of those emigrating to Israel, identifying with the country and seeking a stronger Jewish lifestyle, have been those who, had they remained, would have been expected to be among the leaders of their communities.
Today, though complemented by various Zionist, social, and educational organizations, the synagogues remain the hub of the communities in Auckland and Wellington, where there are Orthodox ministers under the authority of the chief rabbi in London. Progressive congregations exist in Auckland (1959) and Wellington (1960). Smaller communal groups are also to be found elsewhere, in Christchurch, Dunedin, and Hamilton. Jewish youth groups continue to exist in Auckland and Wellington, with small numbers of Jews going annually on various programs to Israel – for some, the beginning of a process culminating in eventual aliyah.
From the turn of the century, Jewish social and welfare organizations have developed. Internationally affiliated *B'nai B'rith lodges were established in Wellington (1960) and Auckland (1961). The first national monthly Jewish journal, the New Zealand Jewish Times, was started in the 1920s. In 1971, there was one monthly newspaper, the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle.
Interest in Zionism was rather academic until the *Balfour Declaration and the return after World War I of units from the Palestine campaign. After 1918 Louis Phillips of Auckland, who had been New Zealand's first delegate to the International Zionist Conference, led the Zionist movement. A number of young New Zealanders settled in Israel after 1948.
Free from any discriminatory disabilities, the Jews in New Zealand have made valuable contributions to the country's development and progress. Sir Julius *Vogel, twice premier (1873–75 and 1876), has been called New Zealand's most far-sighted statesman, while Sir Arthur *Myers was minister of munitions in World War I. Almost every major city in New Zealand has honored a Jew as its chief magistrate. There have been five Jewish mayors of New Zealand's largest city, Auckland; these were Philip A. Philips (1869–74) and Henry Isaacs in the 1870s, Sir Arthur Myers (1905–08), Sir Ernest David (1935–41), and Sir Dove-Myer Robinson (1959–65 and 1968–80). Sir Michael *Myers of Wellington was Chief Justice from 1929 to 1946 and acted as administrator during the absence of the governor. Some noteworthy Jewish names in New Zealand journalism have been Julius Vogel, Benjamin *Farjeon the poet and novelist, Fred Pirani, Mark Cohen, and Phineas Selig, and in medicine Sir Louis Barnett (surgery), Alfred Bernstein (chest diseases), and Bernard Myers (medical services). Wolf Heinemann, the philologist of Dunedin, was the first Jew to be appointed professor in a New Zealand university (Otago, 1895). Jews have pioneered in both business and farming. The oldest business in New Zealand is that of L.D. Nathan and Company. Joseph Nathan (Wellington) developed the Glaxo pharmaceutical company, a worldwide concern now operating chiefly from England, while the establishment of New Zealand's steel mills owes much to the industrialist Sir Woolf Fisher. Jews were instrumental in developing New Zealand's brewing and hotel industries, and in the wholesale and retail clothing industries they formed early national groups. Among Jewish farmers and agriculturalists was Coleman Phillips, who formed the first cooperative dairy farm in either Australia or New Zealand. In other aspects of New Zealand life, particularly sporting, cultural, and artistic, Jews have also played their full part.
The number of Jews in New Zealand was estimated at around 5,000 in 1980, most of whom lived in Auckland and Wellington, in roughly equal numbers. There was still considerable assimilation, with a high proportion of Jews marrying non-Jewish partners, some of whom chose to convert to Judaism.
In October 1980, Colin King, an Orthodox Jew, was elected mayor of Auckland succeeding Sir Dove Myer Robinson, also Jewish, who had served as mayor for 12 years. Two Jewish day schools exist in New Zealand – Kadimah College in Auckland, opened in the late 1970s, and Moriah College in Wellington, opened in 1987. There are also Jewish preschool facilities.
In 1981 the fresh supply of kosher meat for the Wellington Jewish community was organized by the Wellington Hebrew Congregation's board of management as a cooperative which functions at the local Jewish community center.
The New Zealand Jewish Council was established in 1981 as an umbrella organization authorized to represent the New Zealand Jewish community, and Wally Hirsch of Wellington was chosen to be the first chairman of the council. The council subsequently relocated in Auckland. Regional councils were also established, with leadership of the New Jewish Council alternating between community leaders in Auckland and Wellington.
Relations between the Jewish community and the New Zealand government soured considerably under the Labor government led by David Lange (1984–90), which constantly criticized Israeli policy on the West Bank and opened a dialogue with the PLO. Left-wing unions in New Zealand, powerful under the Labor government, tended to be dominated by hard anti-American elements who are also anti-Zionist. Relations improved following the return of the more conservative, pro-American National Party government in 1990.
A number of books have appeared over the last few years on New Zealand Jewish life, including Ann Beaglehole's A Small Price to Pay: Refugees from Hitler in New Zealand, 1936–46 (1988), on the very restrictive government policy toward Nazi-era refugees, as well as her Facing the Past: Looking Back at Refugee Childhood in New Zealand, 1940s-1960s (1990), which contains accounts of 20th-century Jewish migration to (and adaptation in) New Zealand; Odeda Rosenthal's Not Strictly Kosher: Pioneer Jews in New Zealand (1988); and Ann Gluckman's two volumes on the Auckland community, Identity and Involvement: Auckland Jewry Past and Present (1990, 1993). Stephen Levine's commemorative volume on the Wellington Jewish community, A Standard for the People: The 150th Anniversary of the Wellington Hebrew Congregation 1843–1993 (1995) describes the community groups, leaders, rabbis, and families of the Wellington congregation. His book The New Zealand Jewish Community (1999) is an analysis of New Zealand's Jewish organizations, part of a worldwide study of Jewish community groups sponsored by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. In 2005 the New Zealand government's Ministry for Culture and Heritage launched its online Encyclopedia of New Zealand, including a chapter (with text and illustrations) on the country's Jews: see Stephen Levine, "Jews [of New Zealand]," in Te Ara: the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, New Zealand government, Ministry for Culture and Heritage, 2005 (online): http://www.teara.govt.nz/NewZealanders/NewZealandPeoples/Jews/en.htm
Other publications of note include Livia K. Wittmann, Interactive Identities: Jewish Women in New Zealand (1998) and Lotte Weiss, My Two Lives (2003) – the latter a biography by a Holocaust survivor who subsequently went to Wellington.
A conference was held in Auckland in 1994 under the heading "Beyond 2000 – Jewish Continuity in New Zealand," which provided a forum for frank analysis. The community, still numbering about 5,000, struggles with problems of resources stemming from a lack of involvement and persistently high rates of emigration, both by young and old alike.
During the 1990s the Jewish day schools in Auckland and Wellington continued to maintain high academic standards and substantial enrollments. In both cases, however, there were generally as many non-Jewish students as Jewish, somewhat defeating the purpose of establishing Jewish day schools. Other positive developments during this period included immigration from South Africa and the former Soviet Union; the maintenance of synagogues in Auckland and Wellington (for both Orthodox and Progressive congregations); and the continued distribution of the national Jewish newspaper, the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle. An important means of communication is also the various congregational newsletters distributed to the membership.
Expressions of anti-Jewish prejudice were sporadic, although declining support for Israel worldwide and an increasingly antagonistic news media made possible often virulent anti-Jewish and anti-Israel correspondence in the country's newspapers. While the influence of organized religion in New Zealand continued to decline, there was an increase in interfaith activity by the Council of Christians and Jews. The campaign of the Anglican Church to remove references to "Zion" from the Psalms was reversed (see below). Where appropriate, Jewish community leaders involved themselves in lobbying with the government, although the presence of an Israeli ambassador in Wellington made intervention by Jewish leaders seem less necessary than during the pre-1975 period. The New Zealand government joined with other countries in cosponsoring the successful United Nations resolution reversing the "Zionism is Racism" resolution.
New Zealand's Jewish community in 2005 remained focused around the congregations of Auckland and Wellington. Unlike the colonial period, when the country was being established, or the era during which New Zealand's primary businesses were being developed, Jews were less conspicuous as leading figures within New Zealand society. Although several members of Parliament had Jewish ancestry, there were no members of Parliament identifying themselves as Jews. The communities in Auckland and Wellington were the focal point of much Jewish spiritual and cultural activity, and the leadership of these communities in turn continued to focus on the usual problems of small communities, reflecting limited human and financial resources. As has been the case for some time, rabbinical leadership has been available from non-Commonwealth sources – the United States and Israel – as well as from the United Kingdom and Australia.
The community's concerns about security and survival were augmented by a number of factors during the post-1996 era, a period that coincides with New Zealand's introduction of a new electoral system (based on proportional representation) giving greater political strength to smaller groups that previously were unable to gain much if any representation in Parliament or government. One of the smaller parties, the Greens, has been more hostile to the United States, even opposing a parliamentary resolution of support in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Another party, New Zealand First, has had much of its support based on its hostility to immigration, a stance that, for some, lends legitimacy to feelings of hostility to immigrants, law-abiding or otherwise. The opportunity for more politically marginal groups to gain a voice, and influence, has coincided with an increased antipathy toward Israel on the part of the news media and the government, particularly with the election of a Labor coalition in 1999. Even when the U.S. government signaled its loss of confidence in Yasser Arafat, the New Zealand government continued its contacts
The attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Wellington (see below), as well as an attack at a small Jewish memorial in the provincial city of Wanganui, provoked considerable alarm and distress, particularly among remaining Holocaust survivors – migrants from Europe who had been in New Zealand for decades – and their descendants. Their sensitivities have been affected as well by elements of "Holocaust denial" in New Zealand, including controversies at several New Zealand universities. Victoria University introduced a course on the Holocaust in its History program in 2001, making a permanent staff appointment in this subject in 2003. Intermittent (though well-publicized) attempts by a British Holocaust denier, David *Irving, to go to New Zealand have also attracted considerable attention, with editorial writers, talk-back radio participants, and newspaper letter-writers divided over questions about the Holocaust, freedom of expression, and other issues. In 2004 the New Zealand government denied permission for him to go to New Zealand based on a conviction in another jurisdiction.
New Zealand's Jews thus faced the future with some of their institutions intact (but lacking strong numbers); with congregations in place in Auckland and Wellington (but facing decisions about resources and about possible relocation, particularly in Auckland); and with some concern about the reputation of Israel, and the image of Jews (and Judaism), in the news media (both New Zealand-based and from overseas) and more widely.
Antisemitism (often influenced from abroad) has appeared at times over the years, particularly in periods of economic hardship, but its manifestations have been limited.
In 1989 the Anglican Church in New Zealand changed its Prayer Book to omit any references to "Zion," substituting phrases like "God's Holy City." According to Jewish sources, this was made in part through anti-Zionist pressures, although this has been officially denied by the Anglican Church. On the other hand, Councils of Christians and Jews have been established in Auckland and Wellington.
There was a small but often noisy extreme right-wing movement in New Zealand associated with the Australian League of Rights, as well as antisemitic Christian fundamentalist groups, but levels of antisemitism continued to be low, with few reports of anti-Jewish vandalism or violence. In 1990, there was a serious knife attack on school children at Kadimah College by a deranged non-Jewish woman who was placed under psychiatric care.
However, in 2004 unprecedented events occurred that led to a renewed focus on the dangers of anti-Jewish sentiments in New Zealand. Following a strong public statement from New Zealand's prime minister, Labor leader Helen Clark, downgrading relations with Israel in the wake of an attempt by an alleged Israeli intelligence agent to obtain a New Zealand passport, the historic Jewish cemetery in the capital, containing the graves of early Jewish settlers, was vandalized. Despite an outcry, no arrests were made. Only several weeks later a second Jewish cemetery, currently in use, was also attacked, and the Jewish prayer house at the site was set ablaze. Once again the police were unable to apprehend anyone. In response to this second desecration – each event found New Zealand gaining unwelcome international publicity – the New Zealand Parliament passed a unanimous resolution deploring antisemitism, with many members of the Jewish community watching from the public gallery. The resolution, introduced and passed on August 17, 2004, was moved by Acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen, who opened the debate, saying: "It is a sad day for this nation when it comes to the point that it is necessary to move a motion of this sort in Parliament."
The resolution, unprecedented for New Zealand, stated: "That this House deplores recent attacks on Jewish graves and a Jewish chapel in Wellington; recalls the terrible history of antisemitism stretching over many centuries, culminating in the Holocaust under Nazi rule; and expresses its unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism, violence directed against Jews and Jewish religious and cultural institutions and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination."
Following speeches by each of New Zealand's party leaders, the speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives rose and, unusually, made his own personal statement, describing the events this way: "In all the 37-and-a-half years I have been in Parliament, this, for me, has been one of the most shocking incidents I have ever noted in this country." He then announced that he was sending the text of the resolution, and all of the speeches made with respect to it, to the speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Subsequently the speaker of the Knesset expressed his appreciation for the resolution and the action taken by New Zealand's speaker.
Relations with Israel
Friendly ties between the two countries go back to the relations established between the yishuv and New Zealand soldiers who served in Palestine and the Middle East during the two world wars. Israel honored the Australian and New Zealand soldiers (ANZAC) by erecting a memorial near Be'eri in southern Israel. New Zealand voted for the partition of Palestine in 1947 and accorded Israel recognition early in 1949. In the early postwar period New Zealand still maintained only a very small foreign service, with embassies located only in a handful of overseas capitals. However, even following subsequent growth in its international representation, New Zealand chose not to be directly represented in Israel, opting instead for one of its ambassadors elsewhere (for many years its ambassador in the Hague) to be accredited to Israel. Israel's ambassador to Australia was accredited to New Zealand until 1975 when the first resident ambassador arrived in Wellington. This asymmetry continued until 2003 when the Israeli government chose to close the Wellington embassy (and consulates in other countries) in a move described by Israel's
During the early years following Israel's reestablishment as an independent state, New Zealand gave the country its support at the United Nations. New Zealand does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and, accordingly, the country's news media, and particularly publicly owned broadcast services, refrain from describing the city as part of Israel. New Zealand's reliance on oil imports, as well as its at times highly profitable trade with Arab countries, contributed to a desire on the part of the government (under both National and Labor administrations) to maintain a more distant relationship with Israel. Following the Yom Kippur War in October 1973 the New Zealand government tended to adopt a more pro-Arab stance, but popular support for Israel's achievements continued.
Journal and Proceedings of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, 1 (1939–40), 53–55, 154–9, 293–5; 3 (1949–53), 142–51, 334–50; Hertz, in: JHSET, 10 (1921–23), 162–5; L.M. Goldman, The History of the Jews in New Zealand (1960).
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.