Two anniversaries for the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation
By JOL Admin | 25 November 2015
2015 marks two significant historical anniversaries for Brisbane's Jewish community - 150th anniversary of the formation of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation and the 130th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Brisbane Synagogue on Margaret Street.
The genesis of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation started with a meeting of community members in March of 1865; an advertisement was published in the Brisbane Courier newspaper on 3 March -
"All Members of the Jewish Community are requested to attend a MEETING, at Mr. B.Benjamin's (who owned a store in Queen Street) on SUNDAY next (which was the 5th March), at 11a.m., to take into consideration tho necessity of forming a Congregation in Brisbane".
At this meeting there was a discussion about finding a suitable temporary place of worship. It was argued that smaller towns in New South Wales and Victoria, with half the number of Jewish residents than there were in Brisbane, had regular ordained places of worship.
On 17 March, the first service for Brisbane's Jewish Community was held at 6pm in Bulcock's Buildings on Queen Street, which the community called their "temporary synagogue".
At another meeting on 19 March, the Brisbane Hebrew Congregration was officially formed. Queensland’s Jewish population steadily grew from 49 in the 1861 census to 245, according to the 1868 census.
Thirty years later, on July 7, 1885 (24th day of Tamuz, Annon Mundi 5645), the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation took the first steps towards establishing their own Synagogue, with the laying of a foundation stone at the present site in Margaret Street, by the then President of the Congregation, Rev A.P. Phillips. During the ceremony a bottle containing copies of newspapers of the day, coins and a document bearing the names of the Synagogue and Building Committee was placed under the stone.
When the building was consecrated a year later (on July 18, 1886), a number of influential Queenslanders were present, including Sir Charles Lilley, Chief Justice of Queensland and former Queensland Premier as well as MP's W.D. Power and S. Horowitz.
The Margaret Street Synagogue was designed by Brisbane architect Arthur Morry. In 1992 the Synagogue was placed on the Queensland Heritage Register as a historically and culturally significant building.
State Library of Queensland holds several collections documenting Queensland's Jewish community. Among the OM65-34 Adolphus M Hertzberg Papers 1886-1917, is a beautifully illuminated address presented to Hertzberg on 28 August 1896 (Ellul 5656), from the Board of Management of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation. The address is housed in a gold embossed album. Hertzberg was President of the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation for over 16 years. The address has been digitised and can be viewed in more detail on our One Search catalogue.
In April 2015, Carmel Hart from the UK, shared the story of her father Rev Nathan Levine who was the Rabbi of the Brisbane Synagogue from 1926 to 1936. You can read Carmel's story on our blog. Carmel also donated a copy of the 1959 book, A memoir, the Rabbi Nathan Levine, H.C.F. : a faithful pioneer in the the Anglo-Jewish ministry who loved and served his fellow men with selfless devotion : 1890-1958, written by her mother, Evelyn. This publication is now part of the State Library of Queensland's collection.
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