Broken Hill Synagogue

"Back to Broken Hill" for the Synagogue Centenary

by Leon Mann
Broken Hill is a mining city in the far west of Outback New South Wales, Australia.

From the beginnings of its settlement around 1885, Jews have been part of its colourful and sometimes turbulent history.

The first headstones in the Jewish section of the Broken Hill Cemetery date from July 1888, the year in which a typhoid epidemic claimed 123 lives in the new town.

While Jewish religious services were held in the Masonic Hall from 1900 when the Jewish community numbered about 150, it was not until 1910 that a Synagogue was erected in Broken Hill on land purchased in July 1907 by Abraham Rosenberg, Samuel Dryen Snr., and Albert Edelman.
On November 30 1910 the foundation stone was set in place on the newly erected Synagogue. A famous photograph taken on the day shows Rev Zev Mandelbaum, the first Minister, and Solomon Saunders, President of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation, together with members of the Synagogue committee at the ceremony.

The Synagogue was consecrated in 1911 and Rabbi Francis Lyon Cohen of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, attended.

As the Jewish community grew to around 250 in the 1920s and 30s the Synagogue on Wolfram Street with its adjoining residence for the Minister and family became a vibrant hub for residents and visitors. 

During and following the Second World War Broken Hill’s Jews began to leave for Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide and beyond.

The Synagogue finally closed its doors in 1962 and the scrolls were transferred to the Yeshiva on Hotham Street, St Kilda, Melbourne.

The last Jew of Broken Hill, Alwyn David Edelman, died in August 2005 and is buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery.Following closure the Synagogue became a private residence. Then in a stroke of good fortune, the building was heritage listed and then purchased by the Broken Hill Historical Society in 1990.

The Broken Hill Historical Society has been dedicated in its efforts to preserve the Jewish origins and significance of the Synagogue building.
Today the building has been faithfully restored by the Broken Hill Historical Society which has its premises at the rear of the property.

The name of the congregation appears above the Synagogue entrance in Hebrew. The ark, bima, and pews are in place. A magen david is painted on the ceiling.  And the spirit of the Synagogue lives on for visitors who come each month to see the handsome stone building and view the small collection of Judaica, photographs, and artifacts.
The Broken Hill Historical Society has invited the Australian Jewish Historical Society to assist in organising two days of events in Broken Hill on November 28-29, 2010 to mark the centenary of the Synagogue.
The events will include a ceremony in the Synagogue, a program of historical talks and personal reminiscences about the Jews of Broken Hill and their contribution to the town, a bus tour of places where Jews lived and worked, a walking tour of central Broken Hill, visits to the Miners’ Memorial Arch, Art Galleries, the living desert Sculpture Park, and the historic town of Silverton, and a civic reception by the Mayor.
Committees have been formed in Melbourne and Sydney under the umbrella of the Australian Jewish Historical Society to assist the Broken Hill Historical Society in planning and implementing the two days of events in November 2010.
Anyone with an interest in Broken Hill is welcome to attend the centenary celebration events on November 28-29.

There are flights from Sydney and Adelaide to Broken Hill on Rex regional airlines. There is a Sydney-Broken Hill train service. Melbourne-Broken Hill is around 12 hours by road via Mildura. Accommodation will be available in comfortable air-conditioned hotels.
Anyone with Broken Hill photos, letters, diaries, and other memorabilia of interest for the centenary celebrations and for the historical archives is encouraged to have them copied and loaned for display in the Synagogue building and for safekeeping.
For enquiries, expressions of interest and for donating memorabilia please contact the following:
In Melbourne:
For enquiries - Margaret Wise 0431 153439

For memorabilia, letters and photos – Howard Freeman 0419-399-213; Liz James 9822-2849; Lionel Sharp 0407- 523-679 of the Australian Jewish Historical Society.

In Sydney:
Australian Jewish Historical Society (02) 9518-7596; or (02) 9692-5260.

In Broken Hill:
Margaret Price, Broken Hill Historical Society 08-8088-2058;   0439-680-944 

Broken Hill - General Links
Wikipedia Broken Hill page Broken Hill Tourism
Broken Hill City Council Broken Hill Maps
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Special thanks to Martin Splitter of imageworks for preparing all images for the web