The Jewish Bushranger

The Jewish Ned Kelly -- with apologies to Sydney Nolan
A most readable account of Australia's only Jewish bushranger, Edward Davis, known as Teddy the Jewboy, can be found online at Plus71JMedia a website devoted to "Israel, Australia, and the Jewish World". [ From a graphic on PLUS61J this Jewish Ned Kelly pseudo-Nolan image was created. ]
David Hunt, in True Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, wrote: ‘Teddy the Jewboy Davis’, as he was known, terrorised the Hunter Valley between 1839 and 1841 “except on Saturdays” The story of strict sabbath observance by the gang lead by the Jewish Teddy Davis is an invention of Hunt. Far more remarkable is a most eloquent letter by his father published in the Sydney Gazette 11 March 1841 which can be downloaded As you can read the bushranger's father's letter was most eloquent in defence of a lawless young man bent on plunder but not intent on slaughter-- but the publication of this letter had been delayed, was far too late to have any impact, and on March 16 Edward Davis and the other five members of his gang were publicly executed.

The Jewish Bush Poets

Portrait of Henry Lawson
Henry Lawson

Joseph's Dreams
Reuben's Brethren

In colonial Australia a detailed knowledge of the Torah (aka Old Testament) was held by all literate (and semi-literate) Australians. Hence in this colourful and popular poem the biblical saga of Jacob-Isaac and Joseph is expressed in terms of the Outback by the nationalist writer hero Henry Hertzberg Lawson who proclaims "My best friend was a Yid". [Click to read poem - new window].

So Henry Lawson - though not a Jew -- was most certainly Jewish.
Sketch of Yossi  Birstein by Yosi Bergner Acclaimed as Australia's most talented Yiddish poet, Yossel Birstein (1920-2003) grew up in Poland, with Yiddish as his mother tongue, coming to Australia when still a teenager. At age 24, he learnt his family had been lost in the Holocaust, and "his poetry rises to the task of commemorating them, and people of his hometown Biala-Podolsk as well - in unsentimental yet heartrending lyrical verses" Birstein's collected poems, translated into both English and Hebrew, are now online at [ Link opens in a new window. ].
Portrait of Jack Moses
Jack Moses

Nine Miles
From Gundagai

Jack Moses was a bush balladeer who recited poetry at agricultural shows and the like. One of his favourite authors was Henry Lawson, who in the poem Joseph's Dreams says of him 'my best friend was a Yid'. His own most well known poem is the classic "Nine Miles from Gundagai" [Click to read poem and biography of Moses in a new window]. Moses was buried in the Anglican section of South Head Cemetery, Sydney. Saul Mendelsohn was another outstanding Jewish bush balladeer. In the 1880's he penned Brisbane Ladies , with opening verse
Farewell and adieu to you, Brisbane ladies
Farewell and adieu, you maids of Toowong
We've sold all our cattle and we have to get a movin'
But we hope we shall see you again before long
with a debt to the British sea song Spanish Ladies about British sailors returning to England from Spain.
Another member of the same family, the musicologist Oscar Mendelsohn, researched the origins of Walzing Matilda with lyrics by Banjo Paterson, to establish that the original arrangement was by Harry Nathan, a grandson of Isaac Nathan (the "Father of Australian Music") See Who'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me?

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