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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in New Zealand

Jewish businessmen since 1829 - gold rushes - immigration restrictions - newspapers - Herzl Zionism

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, vol. 12,
                col. 1129, synagogue at Hokitika (1867), the first
                synagogue in New Zealand
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, vol. 12, col. 1129,
synagogue at Hokitika (1867), the first synagogue in New Zealand

from: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 12

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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[Jewish businessmen in New Zealand: Kororareka, Auckland]

<NEW ZEALAND, member of the Commonwealth of Nations in the S. 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 (col. 1127)

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.

Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): New
              Zealand, vol. 12, col. 1128, map with Jewish communities
              (main centers) in New Zealand, with year of establishment
Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): New Zealand, vol. 12, col. 1128, map with Jewish communities
(main centers) in New Zealand, with year of establishment

[Jewish businessmen in Wellington - gold in Otago and Westland - communities of Dunedin and Christchurch - gold-mining town Hokitika]

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 Wellington and Dunedin congregations, was appointed shortly after 1863 to Nelson and I. Zachariah of the (col. 1128)

gold-mining town of Hokitika was appointed in 1870 to the Christchurch congregation. Most of the ordained ministers came from Jews' College, England, including H. *Van Staveren (Wellington, 1877-1930) and A. Astor (Dunedin and Auckland, 1926-71). C. Pitkowsky (Wellington, 1905-30) and the brothers N. Salas (Auckland and Christchurch, 1929-58) and M. Salas (Auckland, 1934-55) came from Erez Israel.

[1860s: Fund raising for Jews in Israel]

New Zealand's links with Erez Israel date from the time of the Crimean War, when money was being collected in Auckland and Wellington for starving Jews in Erez 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%).

[Population figures - Jewish centers Auckland and Wellington - immigration restrictions and only little immigration]

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.

The vast majority of Jews are distributed equally in Auckland and Wellington. There has always been a highly restrictive government policy on immigration except by those of British stock, and only a small number of Jewish refugees from persecution in Russia and Eastern Europe were admitted. Similarly, the numbers admitted in the wake of Nazism were inconsiderable, but these had an invigorating effect on the New Zealand community.

Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, vol. 12,
                col. 1130, Nelson synagogue at Wellington which is not
                used since 1895, foto from 1911
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, vol. 12, col. 1130, Nelson synagogue
at Wellington which is not used since 1895, foto from 1911


[after 1945: intermarriage as important factor - chief rabbi is in London]

Assimilation, principally through intermarriage, which has always been high, has accounted for the small growth of Jewish population. Today, though complemented by numerous Zionist and social organizations, the synagogues remain the hub of the communities in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, where there are Orthodox ministers under the authority of the chief rabbi in London.

Liberal congregations exist in Auckland (1959) and Wellington (1960). 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).

[Newspapers]

The first national monthly Jewish journal, the New Zealand Jewish Times, was started in the 1920s. In 1971, there was one monthly journal, the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle.

[Herzl Zionism]

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 Philips 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.

[Developments of the country by Jews]

Free from any discriminatory disabilities, the Jews in (col. 1129)

New Zealand have made valuable contributions to the country's development and progress. Sir Julius *Vogel, twice premier (1872-75 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 city in New Zealand has honored a Jew as its chief magistrate. There have been five Jewish mayors of 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-   ).

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 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, now operating chiefly from England, while the establishment of New Zealand's steel mills owes much to the industrialist Sir Woolf Fisher.

Jews were chiefly 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.

Anti-Semitism (often influenced from abroad) has appeared at times, particularly in periods of economic depression, but its manifestations have been limited.

[M.S.P.]

[[The discrimination of the natives, the elimination of native animals, and the ecological destruction by clearings and importation of foreign animals are mentioned]].

Relations with [[Herzl]] 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 (AN-ZAC) 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. As it maintains only a very small foreign service, New Zealand is not represented in Israel, but Israel's ambassador to Australia is also accredited to New Zealand. New Zealand's support for Israel found expression in its votes in the U.N.

[ED.]> (col. 1130)

[[Herzl Israel has it's base on the statement of Theodor Herzl's book "The Jewish State" which states that the Arabs can be driven away as the natives in the "USA" had been driven away. So there is an eternal war without end]].






Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, sources
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand,
                        vol. 12, col. 1127-1128
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, vol. 12, col. 1127-1128
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand,
                        vol. 12, col. 1129-1130
Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971: New Zealand, vol. 12, col. 1129-1130


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