Victoria/New South Wales, Australia

posted 6 Nov 2018, 09:25 by Charles Greene
Where in the world is Rabbi Eli?
Victoria/New South Wales, Australia

The first Jews who immigrated to Australia, like most "settlers" of the time, came here in chains. In 1788, there were at least 14 of them on the transport bringing those sentenced to penal labour to Botany Bay (Sydney). By 1840, an estimated Jewish population of nearly 1,000 was a sizable part of about 16,000 convicts sentenced to live and work in Australia for crimes ranging from petty theft to cheating at cricket.

Many of them chose to stay in Australia as free settlers after their sentences were served. Some achieved rather high position - such as John Harris (found guilty of stealing 8 spoons) who became New South Wales' first policeman; Esther Abrahams (stealing lace, valued at 50 shillings) who married the Lieutenant-Governor thus becoming the unofficial "First Lady"; Isaac Nichols, appointed the first postmaster of NSW, and more.

Then, of course, there is the story of Ikey Solomon, a career criminal from London who achieved notoriety as a fence and pawnbroker and largely served as the prototype for Fagin in Oliver Twist. In 1827, he escaped from Newgate prison before they had a chance to ship him to Australia and reached America. The authorities arrested his wife Ann. She was found guilty of receiving stolen goods and shipped to Australia, accompanied by their four children. Ikey joined her in Tasmania by boat from Rio. Though recognized in Hobart, he broke no Tasmanian laws and could not be arrested without a warrant from London, which took 12 months to arrive. Solomon was chained and sent to England, sentenced there, and sent in chains back to Tasmania (who says they did not know how to manage public funds in those days?).

Ikey and Ann's eldest son John became a prominent member of the Australian society as a successful entrepreneur.
 

This portrait, and much more, can be viewed in the very pleasant Jewish Museum of Melbourne. 
 
 
The museum exhibits both items belonging, or related to, distinguished members of the Australian Jewish community, or just typical of the local Jewish life; take, for instance, this chanukkiah made of the material most readily available to the Australian children: eucalyptus gumnuts.
 
   
While the majority of the Jews here lead urban lives in the two biggest cities, Melbourne and Sydney, Jewish presence can be sensed even far in the Australian bush. 
 

One of these kangaroos looks explicitly Jewish. The one on the left, perhaps?

Shabbat Shalom,
RE
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