PhotoExhibit 15

Ballarat Hebrew Congregation

In the 1850s Jews came to Australia in response to the gold rush where they acted as shopkeepers and traders on the goldfields. A number of synagogues were established in rural, coastlal areas, but when the goldfields declined, the Jewish populations also disappeared and moved to the cities. The Ballarat Hebrew Congregation was established at the Clarendon Hotel on Kol Nidre, October 11, 1853, consecrating its first shul in 1959. The first president of the congregation was Henry Harris, a hotel keeper. The leading figure of the community was Charles (Ikey) Dyte, who later became Mayor of Ballarat and a member of the Victorian State Parliament (1864-1871).

In its hey day, the congregation numbered 350, and was considered more orthodox that any of Melbourne's congregations. The decline began when gold started to run out in the early 1900s. Again, the high proportion of Ballarat Jews who volunteered for World War I service and the many subsequent casualities also devastated the community. Resulting unemployment saw many families move to Melbourne. Ballarat remains Australia's oldest mainland synagogue in continuous operation. Families such as the Stones and Abrahams have been responsibile for the congregation's viability. About one hundred tourists visit it in a year. The congregation has about one hundred members, many of whom live in Melbourne, but have family connections in Ballarat.


The present Ballarat Synagogue dates to 1861, and was consecrated by Rev David Isaacs.


Mr E.C. Abraham outside the synagogue, January 31st, 1984. His grandfather was a founding member.