The Timelines

Timeline of Australian Jewish History since 1788
YEARHistorical Event
178818 January: First Fleet under Captain Phillip arrives at Botany Bay with 14+ Jewish convicts.
18038 Jewish convicts at short-lived settlement at Sorrento in Port Phillip Bay.
180420 February: Hobart inaugurated as a penal colony with 8 Jewish convicts at establishment.
180826 January, Governor Bligh deposed by Lt. Col. Johnson, whose common-law wife was Esther Abrahams of the First Fleet.
1817Jewish burial society formed in Sydney
1830Jewish free settlers arrive in Sydney.
1828+ Swan River (free-immigrant) Colony, Perth, promoted. Major visionary figure was Solomon Levey.
1831Earliest known Australian Ketuba for a Jewish marriage of 4 August, Sydney.
1831Organised Jewish community formed in Sydney
1834-37Establishment of the Province of South Australia, lead by the visionary Wakefield including such backers as Moses Montefiore.
1835John Batman as leader of a Tasmanian group with several Jewish members negotiated with Aboriginal leaders for the site of Melbourne. Batman's Treaty was denounced by the Crown as contrary to "terra nullius" principle.
1839The "Jewboy" bushranger Edward Davis active in Hunter Valley.
1841Organised Jewish community formed in Melbourne
1841The York Street Synagogue, built in Sydney. In use 1844-1877
1845Hobart synagogue built - still in use
1842The first ever Australian Jewish Newsletter published as the Sydney edition of the London Voice of Jacob. Short-lived.
1845Melbourne founded -- earliest communal activity; Solomon's Ford crosses Salt Water Creek (now the Maribyrnong River), upstream of the future Flemington.
1849-1900First Jewish parliamentarian elected; over fifty Jews MPs served during the colonial period.
1850Adelaide's first Synagogue completed on the corner of Rundle Street and Synagogue Place.
1851Gold discoveries at several sites in New South Wales and Victoria promoted a great burst in free immigration, including a significant percentage of Jews.
1853Ballarat community founded.
1857East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation founded, after separating from the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation.
1854 Dec 8: Eureka Stockade, Ballarat stormed by troops. Teddy Thonen, a German Jew was the first of 24 miners killed defending the stockade. Earlier Manastra Flatow was one of those arrested in connection with the burning of the Eureka Hotel.
1855Original Ballarat Synagogue dedicated. Of wooden construction.
1859Alexander Marks goes to Yokohama when the city is first opened to foreigners; birth of Australian trade with Japan. From 1879 to 1902 Marks was honourary consul general of Japan in Melbourne, one of the very first consular representatives of Japan.
1861New synagogue erected for the Ballarat congregation. (The oldest mainland synagogue still in use.)
1861-63Visit of Jerusalem emissary Rabbi Hayam Zevee Sneersohn to Australia. Successfully acquired funds to erect a housing cluster for visiting scholars near the Wall (Ha Kotel) in Jerusalem.
1864Accidental death of Isaac Nathan (1790-1864) "the Father of Australian Music".
1873New synagogue erected/dedicated in Albert Street for the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation - now oldest in Melbourne and only synagogue in the CBD.
1873First Australian Beth Din established, headed by Rabbi Herman of Ballarat.
1878The Great Synagogue Sydney dedicated, to replace York Street Synagogue.
189213 Nov. Perth Hebrew Congregation established. The Brisbane Street Synagogue was opened in 1897.
1894 Chovevei Zion (Lovers' of Zion Society) active in Sydney, three years before the first Zionist Conference in Basle, Switzerland.
1896Synagogue constructed at Coolgardie, on the Western Australian goldfields.
1901Federation. First Australian Parliament includes four Jews, Isaac Isaacs, Vaiben Louis Solomon, Elias Solomon, Pharez Phillips, in the House of Representatives.
1903April 19: Kishinev pogram. Protest (at the Czarist policies that promoted this pogram) meeting held at Sydney Town Hall by concerned citizens of all faiths. Speakers included Abraham Pearlman, storekeeeper in Boggabri (NSW), born in Kishinev.
1905Isaac Isaacs Commonwealth Attorney General
1915Colonel, later Brigadier John Monash leads Australian troops of the 4th Infantry Brigade, at Gallipoli.
1918General Sir John Monash leads the Australian Corps through the victorious battles of the closing stages of the war.
1922-26British official, Sir Mathew Nathan, serves as Governor of Queensland. Early in his career, when a military officer, he was rejected as a military attachée in Vienna by the anti-semitic Austro-Hungarians.
1923Council of Jewish Women (CJW) founded in Sydney by Dr Fanny Reading. Later became the NSW branch of the National Council of Jewish Women of Australia, NCJWA.
1924First interstate Jewish cricket match was the fore-runner of interstate Jewish Sporting Carnivals that have been staged mostly annually since.
19301st April. Inaugural meeting of those interested in Liberal Judaism in Melbourne. Liberal community established.
193123 Jan Sir Issac Isaacs sworn in as the first Australian born Governor General.
1931Dr Jacob Jona elected President of Hawthorn Football Club, which position he held to 1949. Dr Jona was the first, but other Jewish presidents of VFL Clubs in the 1930's were Dr D. Berman of North Melbourne; Reuben Sackville of St Kilda, Ewart Joseph of Fitzroy.
19318 October: Death of Sir John Monash. An estimated 250,000 mourners attended his state funeral.
1930+Years of the Great Depression. Modest scale migration of Jewish refugees, about 9000 in total. Australian Jewish Welfare Society plays major role in refugee migration, settlement.
1937Sir Isaac Isaacs lays foundation stone for Temple Beth Israel, St Kilda, the first Liberal/Progressive Synagogue built in Australia.
1938July: Evian Conference on Jewish Refugees. Australian representative, White says Australia would not undertake "any scheme of large-scale foreign migration", but Sydney Morning Herald editorial condemns White's speech.
19389 November Kristallnacht in Berlin. Australian reverberations. Rabbi Sanger, of Temple Beth Israel, Melbourne, aids the establishment of Temple Emanuel, the first Liberal congregation in Sydney
1938December 6th, Melbourne. The Australian Aborigines League attempts to present a resolution ‘condemning the persecution of Jews and Christians in Germany’ to the German Consul-General.
Aboriginal delegation lead by William Cooper.
1938December: Australian Government announces that it will admit 15,000 'non-Aryan' refugees over next three years.
1938Australian Jewish Historical Society founded in Sydney.
1939Hakoah (Soccer) Club established in Sydney.
1939September: World War II commences. Jewish immigration ceases.
1939-44Isaac Steinberg of the Freeland League visits Australia (in 1939). Proposal for settling Jewish refugees in the Kimberley region of Western Australia is a public issue.
1940Last of 8,586 Jewish refugees enter Australia under AJWS sponsorship 1938-40.
19407th September 1940 Duneera arrives Sydney, carrying Jewish refugees from Axis countries, incarcerated as enemy aliens.
1941 Struma incident where this ship crammed with 750 Jewish refugees who could not be landed at Palestine, was towed into the Black Sea where it sank, with just one survivor. A critical event in Australian Jewish history as British apologists, notably Sir Isaac Isaacs, lost all community credibility.
1944 Julius Stone, Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law at the University of Sydney, published Stand Up and Be Counted , an open letter to Sir Isaacs Isaacs, who in his extreme old age had sought to lead a bizarre crusade against Zionism.
1944 B’nai B’rith Sydney Lodge inaugurated; followed by Melbourne Lodge in 1945.
1945Arthur Calwell becomes Minister for Immigration in the Chifley government. Commences program of mass immigration, which continues under the Menzies governments.
1945-1954Total of 17,768 Jewish refugees enter Australia under auspices of the AJWS. Very small numbers in comparison with overall migration level.
1948May 15: Israel comes into being. Is immediately recognised on de facto basis by the United States. Shortly afterwards the new state was recognised on a de jure basis by Australia. [ The US does not recognise Israel on de jure basis until January 31, 1949.]
1949July. Israeli Consulate-general established in Sydney. This was "the first diplomatic mission of Israel for 2000 years".
1949+During these years arrival in Australia of some of the 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries and Iraq broadens the Community.
1949Mt Scopus War Memorial College established in St. Kilda Road, near central Melbourne, with 143 students.
1950July 27 New Zealand (finally) recognized the State of Israel.
19511st July Inaugural meeting of the ACT Jewish Community. Dr Ronald Mendelsohn elected first president.
1952Moriah College established in Bellevue Hill, Sydney.
1956 Melbourne Olympics staged. Maurice Nathan, key organiser, was chairman of the Olympic Civic Committee. Nathan, later on was Lord Mayor of Melbourne
1957The Australian Judean Sports Council established to coordinate Jewish sport; later called the Australian Maccabi council, and today Maccabi Australia.
1958Israeli Embassy in Canberra erected.
1963 Estimated total of 35-40,000 Jewish immigrants arriving 1933-1963 who had been victims of Hitler. Melbourne has become the Diaspora community with the highest percentage of holocaust survivors.
1965-67Australia-wide focus on aboriginal status. February 1965, Freedom bus tours NSW. lead by Charles Perkins (the first Aboriginal graduate) and Jim Spigelman (Cultural Officer of the Sydney University Jewish Students Union). During 1965-7 the Australian National University Jewish Students Society conducted a children's club, the Nulla Nullas, on Wallaga Lake Aboriginal Reserve, NSW. More info. The 1967 referendum removed two references in the Australian Constitution, which discriminated against Aboriginal people.
1967The Six Day War ends the ethnic cleansing of the old city of Jerusalem imposed by Jordan. The buildings once erected with Australian donations circa 1862 once more in Jewish hands to be ultimately reconstructed as the Yeshivah HaKotel.
1970Victorian legislation that made the wearing of seatbelts in cars compulsory is a world first. This innovation was the recommendation of the legislatures all party Road Safety Committee that Walter Jona MP chaired from 1966-1973
19715th September Consecration of the first Canberra Community Centre (the ACT Jewish Memorial Centre), featuring both an orthodox synagogue and provision for liberal services in the Dr Fanny Reading Auditorium.
1975Constutional crisis. Prof Zelman Cowen proposes political solution in notable public letter. Nevertheless, on 11 Nov "The Dismissal". as GG Kerr sacks PM Whitlam. No Jews in leading roles, but Sir John Kerr's secretary, David Smith, prorogues parliament on steps of (old) Parliament House.
1978Sir Zelman Cowen becomes the second Australian-born Jew to be appointed governor-general.
1982Bombs go off at Sydney's Hakoah Club and at the Israeli consulate. First instance of international islamic terrorism in Australia.
1990Sinai College, the first Jewish primary school in Brisbane, opened with 14 students, increasing to 53 during 1991
1992 3rd June, High Court Mabo decision, established concept of native title. Claimant Mr Eddie Mabo, a Murray Islander; senior counsel was Ron Castan QC. Brian Keon-Cohen, the junior barrister in this case, was later active in related aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land-claim cases.
2000The second millenium commences with Jews in prominent positions; In Sydney both the Governor and the Chief Justice were Jews; in Melbourne, birthplace of Australian Football, two Jews were presidents, and one a vice president of AFL Clubs.
2004JECO = the Jewish Ecological Coalition formed as a roof body of Australian Jewish environmental and ecological groups, with B'nai B'rith Environmental group as major component, Rabbi Jonathan Keren Black as a leading member.
2005Yiddish accepted as Victorian Certificate of [High School] Education subject.
200617-21 May: First Sydney Jewish Writers' Festival staged.
2008John Key became Prime Ministerof New Zealand. Keys, born to a Jewish mother, is an Anglican, who however recognizes his Jewish roots.
2011Sir Zelman CowenMahla Pearlman In December 2011 two outstanding Jewish legal figures died. Sir Zelman Cowen was Governor General 1976-79. His State funeral, at Temple Beth Israel in St Kilda, was attended by the current PM and the Opposition Leader, two former prime ministers, the current Governor General, and a host of other dignatories.
The Hon Mahla Liane Pearlman AO AM was an outstanding and historic legal figure, being the first female Head of a Court (the Land and Environment Court) in NSW, as well as serving as the first female president of NSW and National legal associations. Her funeral, at the Sydney Chevra Kadisha, was attended by the legal lumineri.
The above is the first published timeline for Australian Jewish History.
Some dates and events, and Jewish involvement in major public affairs, automatically joined the above list. Within the narrower confines of Jewish communal history, the birth of the long-lived organisations, and the erection of long standing synagogues, naturally add to these listing. Other Jewish communities in Australia, on the Victorian and Western Australian Goldfields, and in regional centres in all states, were established in the nineteenth century, but lasted only a few years; only a representative few of such communities are named above.
Many Jews have been active in public affairs, in the professions, in the arts, in a range of business and philanthropic activities. Only the most prominent, or of great distinction, or the "first" within a field are listed above.
In the above listing, no explicit indication of the growth of the Jewish population is given. In fact the percentage of Jews was generally high at the start of new colonial ventures, but Jews soon came to represent close to 0.5% of the (non-aboriginal) population -- a fraction remarkably stable over long periods.

Historical Timelines of Various Organisations

Just a few organisations have placed on the web timelines of their history and development.

  • National Council of Jewish Women of Australia History Timeline 2004 > 1923 (Opens in new window)
  • The American Jewish Museum has an excellent timeline (Opens in new window) linking as a matrix American History, American Jewish History and World Jewish History
  • The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAI) History Timeline 1917+ . Has columns JAI, Israel, Jewish History & Culture
  • A "Chronology (Opens in new window) of the Jews in England" is on the Jewish Historical Society of England website. This chronology is usefully detailed for events before the 1290 Expulsion, has few entries of more recent history, but is usefully augmented by a list of British Jewish Firsts.

The Ghost Synagogues of Australia Defunct Regional Congregations and Launceston

Goulburn NSW
Dates unclear. Active community circa 1824. Station building claimed to have been the synagogue, but doubtful.
Launceston TAS
Synagogue erected 1846 only used off and on over the years. But now revived. In 2014 all High Holiday services were held (with a Minyon present), after a gap of 25 years, and three bar and bat mitzvah services are scheduled over a 12 month period.
Maitland NSW
Jews settled at Maitland from 1830 onwards. Community grew to about 70 between 1850-1870. Substantial synagogue erected 1879, closed in 1898.
Sandhurst (now Bendigo) VIC
Synagogue erected 1862. Closed approximately 1910.
Grafton NSW
A small but active community in the pioneering era. Land granted in South Grafton for synagogue in 1870; first trustees appointed 1872. No building ever erected. Land resumed by the Crown in 1937.
Fremantle WA
Congregation active from 1887, small building on South Terrace. New synagogue in 1902. But wound up in 1908.
Coolgardie WA
Goldfields Hebrew Congregation established 1894, Synagogue erected 1896 closed in 1899.
Kalgoorlie WA
High Holiday services 1896,7. Kalgoorlie Hebrew Congregation formed 1901. Congregation dwindled, finally closed in 1940.
Menzies WA Small town 130k north of Kalgoorlie
Small congregation from 1902 to 1908.
Geelong VIC
Founded 1849, synagogue erected 1861. Active during the twentieth century, but now closed.
Broken Hill NSW
Community inaugurated in 1900. First minister 1905. 1910 foundation stone laid for synagogue. Congregation dwindled, and in 1962 shul closed. Building now home to the Broken Hill Historical Society.
Other outlying communities, now defunct
Windsor, Bombala, Boggabri, Hay, Cowra, Gulgong in NSW.
References for WA
David Mossensen, Defunct Congregations AJHSJ, Vol XI (1992) Part 5, pp 864-866.

Australian & NZ Involvement in the Re-establishment of Israel
1917October 31: The Fourth Australian Light Horse capture Bersheeba from the Turks, paving the way for seizure of Jerusalem and all Ottoman Territory.
The famous image above was most likely photographed using the actual cavalry in a re-enactment one or two days after the extraordinarily brave charge on horseback against the Ottoman machine guns of Beersheba.
Jews had lived in Beersheba for more than 3000 years, bu earlier in the war the Turks had cleared the town of Jews, some making their way to Egypt, and thence to Australia.
By an amazing coincidence, on the actual date of the charge, October 31, 1917, the British Cabinet met in discussions which lead to issue two days later of the Balfour Declaration [ i.e., on November 2, 1917]
For a pix of a Jewish member of the Australian Light Horse, see Hymie Pearlman in uniform (pre WW2).
1918 September 25: In (almost certainly) the last cavalry charge of WW1, the Australian Light Horse captured Tzemach railway station in the Jezreel Valley, part of the broader Jordan Valley.
In this pix, a grandson of a Australian Light Horse cavalryman, Barry Rogers wearing the Light Horse diggers hat with emu feather, at the Tzemach Railway Station in 2010. [Station being restored.]
1918 November. Both the Auckland and Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiments from New Zealand were involved in the engagements near Jaffa described as the Battle of Jaffa
1918October 1: Major Olden (10th Light Horse) takes the ultimate surrender of the Turks at the Damascus Town Hall.
1941 Moshe Dayan Australian 7th Division in Syrian and Lebanon fighting the Vichy French. Moshe Dayan, recently released from Acre prison, in a covert operation in which he played a key role, attached to these forces, loses his left eye; is awarded an Australian military honour, (the DSO = Distinguished Service Order).
For information, download How Moshe Dayan won his DSO.
1947 Dr HV Evatt, Australian Minister for External Affairs, chairs UNSCOP the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, that recommended the establishment of an independent Jewish State in a fraction of mandated Palestine, comprising Jewish majority areas except Jerusalem together with the Negev desert, an internationalised Jerusalem, together with a Arab State in the remaining territoty west of the Jordan River. The Arab state was designed so as to maximise the distance from actual Jerusalem (new and old cities) to the territory of the Jewish state. The UNSCOP recommendation was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 (1947).
Under Evatt UNSCOP had ignored the 250,000 Jews in European DP camps passionately eager to make aliyah, the 20,000
Overall the UNSCOP design was a very specific gerrymander.
1948May 15: Israel comes into being. Is immediately recognised on de facto basis by the United States. Shortly afterwards the new state was recognised on a de jure basis by Australia. [ The US does not recognise Israel on de jure basis until January 31, 1949.]
1949July. Israeli Consulate-general established in Sydney. This was "the first diplomatic mission of Israel for 2000 years".
1948 Individual Australian pilots flew six (Pacific) war surplus aircraft to Israel before July 1948 Subsequently Australia zealously enforced the UN ban on the export of military equipment to parties in the Middle East conflict. [ At the same time Britain violated the ban by exporting Spitfires, tanks and small arms to Egypt and Jordan. ]

Chronology of the First Arab-Israel War of 1948

This timeline gives a detailed listing of incidents within the time period for this War which was not a War of Independence -- as the British simply abandoned the mandated territory moere or less overnight leaving Arab militia in key locations including in Jewish majority areas -- but a fiercesome battle for Survival.

The coverage by the Australian Press of the birth of Israel is detailed by Rabbi John Levi in the "What Israel Means to Me" Symposium Australia/Israel Review,May/June 1998, pp 20-22.

However the full story about the attitude of Australian public figures to the Jews in the British mandate territory of Palestine pre-1948, and to Israel in its early years is rather complex; this is detailed by Chanan Reich in Australia and Israel: An Ambiguous Relationship, published by MUP 2002.

Australia as a Sanctuary for Holocaust Refugees

1938July 6-15: Evian Conference: Australia agrees to accept 15,000 Jewish Refugees. At this date only Germany viewed as refugee source. On September 3, 1939 World War II starts, and escape becomes impossible, so few admitted under this scheme. Nevertheless, the Australian offer was more generous than that of all other countries. In total, 1933-1940 8,586 Jewish refugees known to AJWS came. (Excludes the approx 1500 Jewish "enemy aliens" on the Duneera).
1933+Prior to World War II, about 1,000 Jewish refugees from Central Europe settled in New Zealand. Negligible numbers of Jewish immigrants in the immediate post-War years.

Historian Dr Ann Beaglehole reported (July 2007) with regard to New Zealand as a haven for holocaust survivors: "about 120 permits were issued in the immediate post-war years. About 200 more permits issued by 1948 – but not clear if these were part of NZ’s displaced person’s quota or in addition to it."


19401,500 (Duneera)
Israel1945-482,000Aliyah Bet
1948+150,000Incl. Cyprus detainees.
South Africa1945-551,500
New Zealand1933-451,000
1945+Very few
Australia, with its modest Jewish population, was a haven for more than 35,000 holocaust refugees. Only Israel gained a greater percentage of Holocaust survivors.
The migration of Jews to the Palestine Mandate territory was officially banned from the onset of the Holocaust. Possibly one thousand Jews succeeded via the Alyah Bet program. As many as 50,000 Aliyah Bet migrants were captured by British forces and held in camps on Cyprus. All those on Cyprus eventually reached Israel, though males of military age were held in Cyprus until long after the War of Independence.

Official Australian War Artist Alan Moore was present at the liberation by British troops of the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp on 15 April 1945. More on Moore

Online Australian Jewish History
NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Article, The Normalcy of the Australian Jewish Experience An outstanding short history online, emphasising how Jews, in Australian from the beginnings of white settlement, have fully contributed to and participated in Australian life. Has, however, a typical Sydney rather than Melbourne bias, detailing Jewish involvement at the highest level of the law, rather than prominent Jewish leadership of AFL football clubs.