On 7 July 1884 the foundation stone of the Brisbane Synagogue was laid. A competition had been held, and the winning design was that of Italian-born architect Andrea Stombuco whose works did much to beautify Brisbane. A year later a distinguished gathering, with many congregants and interstate visitors, attended the consecration of the finished synagogue. It had cost £6,450 and is in the Byzantine style of architecture. It was opened free of debt.
Jews settled in Queensland in the very first days of the colony and in other parts of Australia. Some were government officials, doctors, scientists, merchants, tradesmen or farmers, and some were convicts. They spread to all parts of this huge State. Though their numbers were, and still are, small, Jewish place names can be found in many locations in Queensland and Jewish names are on gravestones in remote cemeteries.
Apart from those from the British Isles, waves of migrants have come from every European country. The Russian Tsar and Hitler caused many Jews to emigrate from their countries. Others hoped to find their fortunes as in the case of prospectors who came to seek gold. South Africa and the Far East have also been sources of Jewish migration.
In March 1865 a meeting was called to find a temporary place of worship and it was agreed that a room in Bulcock’s Building, Queen Street, be leased for the purpose. At a meeting on 19 March 1865, the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation officially came into being.
This was commemorated exactly 100 years later by the erection of a plaque on the site on the portico of the Commonwealth Bank’s main office.
The congregation also had a burial ground on land that the former Lang Park came to occupy.
In 1913 those who were buried there, and their monuments, were relocated to the Jewish section of the Toowong Cemetery.
The congregation’s archives, beautifully handwritten in the rich language of yesteryear, have been preserved in the Brisbane Synagogue.
In them are described the early struggles, hopes, successes and disappointments of this small congregation. Though its name is the Brisbane Hebrew Congregation, in keeping with tradition, a spiritual name was also chosen – “The Holy Congregation of the Gates of Faith”, and both names are to be seen over the portal of the Brisbane Synagogue, erected 21 years after inauguration.
This is an extract from an article written by B.H.C. Life Member the late Morris Orchert Z.L. The full pdf file is available for download using the link below.
Download pdf file