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By the late 1810s, there were about 20 people of Jewish origin living in Sydney. Mostly convicts, they generally did not observe Jewish religious customs. It was not until 1817 that the first expression of Jewish faith was evident in New South Wales. This was the formation of a burial society, Chevra Kadisha, to ensure that Sydney's Jews were buried according to Jewish rites. Former convict Joseph Marcus, who claimed to have had rabbinical college education, performed these rites until about 1825.
With the increasing migration of free Jews from England in the 1820s came the need for a place for regular worship. Weekly services were held at the George Street house of Phillip Joseph Cohen before the congregation used a warehouse in Bridge Street as Sydney's first synagogue. The Jewish community's place in Sydney was solidified when the stylish York Street Synagogue opened in 1844. In 1859, a group broke away from the York Street congregation and established a synagogue in Macquarie Street. The two congregations were united by the opening of the Great Synagogue, Elizabeth Street, in 1878. The Great Synagogue and several suburban and regional synagogues provide focal points for Jewish religious and community life in New South Wales.
Synagogues for Sydney
As the numbers of Jewish immigrants in Sydney grew, the need for a place to hold regular services and to express religious identity was evident. Former convict Joseph Marcus, who had trained as a rabbi, is said to have conducted occasional services for Sydney’s Jews between 1817 and 1825. Phillip Joseph Cohen, who arrived as a free immigrant in 1828, held regular services in his house in George Street.
By 1833, a community known as the Sydney Hebrew Congregation was flourishing. The congregation initially met in a makeshift synagogue above Mr Rowell’s chemist shop in George Street, and established a set of laws to govern it. The published laws (below) appear to be the first item of Judaica printed in Australia.
The building located at 4 Bridge Street was the first building in Australia to be specially set aside for use as a synagogue. The Sydney Hebrew Congregation used it from about 1837 until the construction and consecration of the York Street Synagogue in 1844. The building was later a liquor warehouse, before becoming W. N. Beaumont & Company’s Federal Electrical and Engineering Works. It was demolished to make way for the office/residential complex that was constructed in 1915, and now known as Cliveden.
Hebrew Ladies' Bazaar, 1875
The Hebrew Ladies' Bazaar was a fundraising initiative established by the Jewish women of Sydney in 1875. Its aim was to raise money to contribute to the Great Synagogue building fund. As Sydney lacked a venue for such a large fair at this time, a pavilion was purpose-built on vacant land near near the General Post Office.
Several prominent women from Sydney's Jewish community organised the bazaar. Blanche Davis, whose husband Alexander Barnard Davis was to become the Great Synagogue's first senior minister, was committee president. Bessie Hoffnung, wife of the Sydney merchant Sigmund Hoffnung, was treasurer; while Jennie Cohen was the honorary secretary.
Most of the goods sold at the bazaar were donated by Sydney businesses and by the general public. In addition, the 'Hebrew ladies' of Sydney produced many fine specimens of clothing, embroidery, jewellery and toys for sale. Other items, such as the bookmark reporduced below, were made specially and imported from England.
The Hebrew Ladies' Bazaar was open for only a week in December 1875, and was a great success. Over 10,000 people visited the bazaar. The entrance fees and sales of goods raised a profit of almost 5000 punds, an impressive kick-start for the building of the Great Synagogue.
REPORT of Sydney Hebrew Ladies' Bazaar, READ AT MEETING, MARCH 1ST, 1876.
The efforts in connection with the Sydney Hebrew Ladies' Bazaar being brought to a conclusion, and the balance of profits accruing from the undertaking prepared and published, I have much pleasure in submitting a precis of an enterprise which has resulted in a success almost unparalelled; a success which cannot fail to be eminently gratifying to all who were instrumental in producing so grand a result.
Early in the month of February, 1875, an initiatory movement was set on foot by Mesdames S. Hoffnung and D. L. Levy, who waited upon many of the ladies of the congregation and laid before them a plan for holding a bazaar on behalf the building fund of the New Great Synagogue. Having received a promise of general co-operation, a meeting was convened and held on February 16th, when a hearty concurrence being given to the movement, and the intended undertaking being entered into with spirit and enthusiasm, it was declared unanimously — "That a Fancy Fair on a large scale, should be holden as soon as all the necessary arrangements could be completed." At this meeting, Mrs. A. B. Davis was appointed President; Mrs. S. Hoffnung, Treasurer, and Miss Jenny M. Cohen, Hon. Secretary. It was also resolved, that there should be seven stalls, and the ladies to preside over and take the government of each stall were selected as follow:— 7, Mrs. S. Hoffung; 6, Mrs. H. Solomon and Mrs. M. Myers; 9, Mrs. B. Levi and Mrs. H. Harris; 5, Mrs. D. L. Levy and Mrs. A. Hort, 4, Mrs. M. Levey and Mrs. S. Benjamin, 1, Mrs. M. Nelson; 3, Mrs. Alexander and Mrs A. De Lissa.
The Ladies set to work, without delay, to obtain donations of money, goods, and needle and fancy work, and applied for assistance from their various friends in this and the neighbouring Colonies, as well as from Europe and America. The work of organization being in a sufficiently forward state, a second meeting was held on July 26th, at which the time for holding the Bazaar was fixed; and at a further meeting on September 13th, a request was made to the President of the Synagogue for a Committee of Gentlemen, to be named to assist in carrying out the more active arrangements necessary for the Fancy Fair. The suggestion was promptly acted upon, and the gentlemen appointed gave early evidence that they were no less zealous than their fair partners in the religious work, and ably seconded by Mr Sigmond Hoffnung, who had obtained useful particulars of the working details of the late Liverpool Bazaar, their efforts contributed, in no small degree to the general success.
A difficulty was experienced in the selection of a suitable building or site; but acting upon the suggestion made by Mr. Jules Joubert, who took a warm interest in the matter, one in the central part of George-street was obtained by the kind permission of the Government, and admirably adapted for the purpose. A Pavilion on a large and grand scale was erected thereon, under the immediate auspices of the Sub-committee, Messrs. H. L. Nelson, Henry Solomon (of the firm of Myers and Solomon), David Marks (of the firm of S. Hoffnung and Co.), and Mr. S. Benjamin. The exertions used in setting up this temporary edifice are beyond all praise, especially those of Mr. Nelson who devoted himself to the labour of supenitendence without intermission; its construction and decoration being greatly forwarded by the liberal assistance of Mr. Moore of the Botanic Gardens, Messrs. Lassetter and Co., and others.
The building rose as a veritable Fairy Palace, and was formally opened with an address by the Rev. A. B. Davis, on the 14th December. It was then discovered with what uncommon zeal and patience, and earnestness the Lady stallholders must have laboured for months past to have succeeded in obtaining so vast, and varied, and beautiful a collection, and to have arranged the same with so much taste and discernment. The Bazaar was opened six days and seven evenings, and, a though capable of holding Fifteen Hundred persons, was crowded on all occasions, being visited and liberally patronised by every class in the community. Day and night the ladies were at their post of voluntary duty, assisted by nearly 200 of their younger sisters and friends and aided by the untiring efforts of the whole ot the Gentlemen's Committee, who did service as treasurers, arrangers, and even money-takers at the door.
The result, unprecedented in the annals of any undertaking of the kind for a denominational purpose, cannot but be a source of unfailing satisfaction to all who took an active part in its furtherance. The receipts at the seven stalls in the course of six days, of a sum nearly reaching Five Thousand Pounds, is at once a proof, not only of the enormous effort put forth in the gathering together of value to that amount, but also of the art and the necessary labour incidental to its disposal; while the gross expenditure in building, decorating, and fitting a pavilion of such magnitude, together with all other requirements, being kept below Four Hundred Pounds, is evidence of an amount of gratuitous service indeed, and of generous zeal evinced, that are worthy of all commendation.
Having traced concisely the history of a Bazaar which reflects no ordinary credit in preparing for it so long and so unweariedly, I may be permitted to add, that the effort will dwell long in the memory of the people of Sydney as a witness of what a combination of willing minds working for a special object can effect, when actuated by one impulse, and moved as with one accord. Among the body of Israelites it will be remembered as a thing of surpassing interest, that not alone, for the time, became the theme of universal admiration, but which resulted in a success far exceeding the expectation of the most sanguine. The Ladies and Gentlemen, one and all, who laboured so strenuously and so triumphantly, and who, being so many it would be invidious to specify, — for it would be difficult to particularise where everyone engaged did so much for the cause, from the ladies who suited it to the honorary seceretary, whose intelligent activity supported it, — may well be congratulated on the happy result attendant upon their undertaking, through which they may realise the pleasing thought that the handsome sum they have been the means of handing to the Treasurer will go far to complete the structure, so that the House of Worship may be worthy of their number, their influence, and the position they now occupy in the colony.
BLANCHE ANNIE DAVIS, President.
BESSIE HOFFNUNG, Treasurer.
JENNY M. COHEN, Hon. Secretary.
Sydney, February 28th, 1876.
SYDNEY HEBREW LADIES' BAZAAR.
Mrs. S. Hoffnung, Honorary Treasurer, In Account with L. Phillips and S. Hoffnung, Assistant Treasurers.
Dr. [Debit. Figures expressed in pounds, shillings and pence.]
– To Materials and Labor, erecting Pavilion 210 19 11
,, Decorations 40 8 4
,, Military Bands 40 10 0
,, Gas Fittings 12 15 0
,, Gas Account 9 8 3
,, Fire Brigade, Watching Pavilion, &c 17 6 0
,, Advertising Account 40 17 0
,, Printing Account 31 18 0
,, Cartage of Timber, &c 12 1 0
,, Removing Pavilion, Labor, &c 15 0 0
,, Sundry Expenses 14 7 0
,, Refunds in Reserve 10 0 0
,, Discrepancies in Account 1 10 8
,, Exchange on Cheques 0 4 0
457 5 2
,, Paid to Treasurers of the New Synagogue Building Fund 4348 16 5
4348 16 5
4806 1 7
Cr. [Credit. Figures expressed in pounds, shillings and pence.]
Per Mrs. S. HOFFNUNG.
14 to 21 –
Receipts at Stall 926 10 8
Sales since close of Bazaar 313 8 8
Donation S. D. Gordon, Esq., New Synagogue . 10 0
1249 19 4
Per Mrs. H. SOLOMON & Mrs. H. MYERS.
14 to 21 –
Receipts on Bazaar Acct 1200 0 0
Sales since close of Bazaar 30 0 5
1230 0 5
Per Mrs. B. LEVI & Mrs. H. HARRIS.
14 to 21 –
Receipts at Stall 306 6 4
Sales since close of Bazaar 286 13 4
592 19 8
Per Mrs. D. L. LEVY & Mrs. A. HORT.
14 to 21 –
Receipts at Stall 508 17 6
Sales since close of Bazaar 59 14 6
568 12 0
Per Mrs. M. LEVEY & Mrs. S. BENJAMIN.
14 to 21 –
Receipts at Stall 302 12 0
302 12 0
Per Mrs. M. NELSON.
14 to 21 –
Receipts at Stall 204 11 0
Sales since close of Bazaar 10 1 0
214 12 0
Per Mrs. ALEXANDER & Mrs. A De LISSA.
14 to 21 –
Receipts at Stall 174 19 10
174 19 10
14 to 21 –
Taken for Admission at Doors 376 5 10
376 5 10
14 to 21 –
Donation Sir Moses Montefiore, London 5 0 0
5 0 0
14 to 21 –
Profit on Sale of Refreshments, Compagnoni & Co. 21 0 6
21 0 6
14 to 21 –
Realised for Timber used in the Erection of Pavilion 70 0 0
70 0 0
4806 1 7