The fate of New
Zealandís Jewish heritage is bleak. Only two buildings survive from the
nineteenth century and neither is now in use as a synagogue. Today as
a miniscule minority of about 5,000 in a nation of 3.6 million, most Jews live
on the North Island around the capital of Wellington and the cosmopolitan business
center of Auckland, 400 miles north. The earliest Jewish community was
founded in the 1840s. One claim to fame for the Kiwi Jews is Dunedin:
the closest Jewish community in the world to Antarctica. Though the Jewish
community is very small, it has produced leaders in the garment (Nathan Department
Store), hotel and brewing industries and has been well represented in politics
(two time prime minister Sir Julius Vogel), education, medicine, journalism
(Mark Cohen, editor of The Star) and law (Chief Justice Sir Michael Myers, 1929-1946).
The finest of New Zealandís synagogues was the one designed by Louis Boldini for the Dunedin congregation. It was built in 1882 (razed in the 1970s.) Christchurch until the 1980s had a gem of a synagogue, built in 1881 of grey stone with Oamaru stone facings. In Timaru a building was erected in 1875 using the ballast stones of sailing ships (razed in 1921.) Many synagogues were abandoned when their congregations dwindled, because it was too costly to keep them up and because few had any interest in their historic significance.
[Tigay, Alan M., ed., The Jewish Traveler: Hadasah Magazine's Guide to the World's Jewish Communities and Sights (1994) pp.367-371; Rosenthal, Odeda, ďFew of New Zealandís Old Synagogues SurviveĒ in Historic Places (June 1989) pp.4-6; Encyclopaedia Judaica, v.12 (1978) pp.1127-1131.]
For further reading:
Albert, L., Some of the Jewish Men and Women Who Contributed to the History of Auckland,1840-1981
Cowen, Ida, Jews in Remote Corners of the World (Prentice-Hall)
Goldman, L.M., History of the Jews in New Zealand (1958) (Reed)
Jewish Writings from Down Under: An Anthology of Australian and New Zealand Literature
Levine, Stephen, ed., A Standard for the People (Wellington Hebrew Congregation)
Rosenthal, Odeda, Not Strictly Kosher. Pioneer Jews in New Zealand
Embassy of Israel, DB Tower, 111
The Terrace, Wellington.
Tel.: (04) 472-2368; Fax: (04) 499-0632
P.O. Box #2171, Wellington.
Beth Israel Orthodox Synagogue
and Communal Centre
108-116 Greys Avenue, P.O. Box #68-224; tel.: (09) 373-2908; fax: (09) 303-2147
Designed by local architect and congregation member John Goldwater, the airy 750-seat synagogue sports an impressive three-dimensional Star of David light that hovers over the bima.
For the Auckland Hebrew Congregation:
108-116 Greys Avenue, Auckland, New Zealand
Or: Box #68-224, Auckland, New Zealand
Temple Beth Shalom Liberal Congregation
180 Manukau Road, Epson (Auckland suburb); tel.: (09) 524-4139; fax: (09) 524-7075
This is a modern structure, in the tradition of many suburban American synagogues.
Canterbury Hebrew Congregation
406 Durham Street, P.O. Box #21-253; tel.: (03) 358-8769 or 365-7412
Dunedin experienced a gold strike in 1880s. In 1882, Dunedinís 200 Jews built a Greek revival synagogue with 500 seats and a double balcony. Gold ran out by the early twentieth century.
Built in 1864, the synagogue was later taken over by the Freemasons and still stands today.
Dunedin Jewish Congregation
George St., corner of Dundas St., P.O. Box #1114; tel.: (03) 455-7293
Jewish Progressive Congregation/Temple Sinai
147 Ghuznee Street, Wellington
Tel.: (04) 385-0720
Fax: (04) 385-0572
You will be warmly greeted inside this 1959-founded 85-seat synagogue, where an estimated one-third of the members have converted to Judaism.
Wellington Jewish Community Centre
80 Webb Street, tel. & fax: (04) 384-5081
Completed in 1977 and sitting on the same block as the Beth El Orthodox Synagogue (see below) and the Wellington Jewish Social Club, the Centre is the focal point for Jewish clubs and societies. It sports a 700-seat main sanctuary and a 90-seat junior synagogue. Eat kosher? With no kosher restaurants in New Zealand, visitors can order a kosher meal by contacting the Centre at tel.: (3) 843-136.
Wellington Hebrew Congregation/Beth-El
80 Webb Street; tel. & fax: (04) 384-5081
Originally organized in 1843, the new synagogue was built in 1977. A Kosher co-op store is present.
International Survey of Jewish Monuments
c/o Jewish Heritage Research Center
Box 210, 118 Julian Pl.
Syracuse, New York 13210-3419, USA
tel: (315) 474-2350
fax: (315) 474-2347