History of Jews in Sydney

The Australian Jewish community had its beginnings with the arrival of the first white settlers in 1788. Only then did Jews constitute more than one per cent of the colonial community and this was because most of the convicts sent out in the First Fleet were selected from the prisons of London.It took until 1821 for the first Jewish free settlers to arrive. By 1828 there were 100 Jews in the colony. Numbers continued to grow and the first synagogue was formally established in 1837. By 1841 there were 1083 free Jewish settlers in the country. The 1841 census shows that New South Wales Jewry accounted for 65.3 % of the Australian Jewish population and 0.57% of the total population.

The Gold Rush of the 1850s attracted a sizable number of Jewish immigrants. Census figures show that between 1851 and 1861 the Jewish community almost tripled to 5486. Many prominent Australian families trace their ancestry to these times. By 1901 the Jewish population exceeded 15,000, the majority from Britain.

Organised Jewish communities began to flourish in provincial towns, as well as in Sydney and Melbourne. The first congregation in Sydney took up home in the first purpose-built synagogue, located on York Street, in 1844. In 1878 The Great Synagogue was consecrated, and its imposing structure remains a historic feature of the city skyline, the building being restored for the Bicentenary in 1988.

The first significant evolution of Sydney Jewry occurred with the arrival of refugees escaping Nazi Europe in 1938-39. Click here for more information. 

A further influx of Holocaust survivors after the war revitalised the community and led to the establishment of a large number of suburban synagogues. Further waves of immigrants from Hungary in the 1950s, Russia, Israel and South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s continued to enrich the community. It today comprises about 27 Orthodox synagogues, three Progressive synagogues and six Jewish schools (Emanuel School, Kesser Torah College, Masada College, Moriah College, Mount Sinai College and Yeshiva College).

Reference: University of Sydney Archive of Judaica

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Sydney’s Jewish community is considered one of the most thriving and dynamic in the diaspora. There are an estimated 50,000 Jews in New South Wales out of an Australian Jewish population of 120,000.

Jews can be found throughout the Greater Sydney area, although approximately two-thirds reside in the eastern suburbs, from Vaucluse, through Randwick, Bondi and Double Bay, to Darlinghurst-East Sydney,  where many of the service organisations are located. Most of the remainder live on the upper north shore, predominantly in the suburbs situated between Chatswood and St Ives. Smaller but active pockets reside in such areas as Maroubra, Coogee, Leichhardt, Newtown and Marrickville.

One of the strengths of the Sydney community is the significant contribution by overseas immigrants, to the extent that over two-thirds of the Sydney Jewish population originates from South Africa, Hungary, the former Soviet Union and Israel.


Resident Ruth Buchbinder has a hug from Masada College Students visiting the home. 


The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is the democratically-elected representative roof-body of the community, representing it to State Government, the media and other agencies and organisations. It can be contacted 24 hours a day on (02) 9360 1600.


The JCA exists to connect our community with the services it needs and our organisations with the people who need them.  Fundraising for 22 member-organisations, JCA works with the community for the community - today, tomorrow, forever. Friend us on FACEBOOK. 

Executive council of australian Jewry (ecaj)

The ECAJ is the official representative organisation and spokes body of the Australian Jewish community. All Boards of Deputies and equivalents are constituent bodies and major national organisations are affiliated.

Zionist Council nsw

The Zionist Council of NSW aims to promote Zionism through education and communal functions such as Yom Ha'atzmaut, guest speakers and Yom Yerushalayim.


The Sydney Jewish community maintain a close-knit culture through its religious and educational organisations.  Most synagogues are to be found in the eastern suburbs or on the north shore and lower north shore. The community also extends to other parts of Sydney including the Illawarra, the Blue Mountains and Newcastle to name a few. For more information please look at OUR COMMUNITY tab.

Caring for our community

The community has a range of organisations assisting with community care and aged care. Ranging from social services, to people with a disability, key organisations in this sector include:

Access Ezer  
B'nai B'rith Retirement Villages Ltd  
COA Sydney Incorporated 
Jewish Aid Australia
JewishCare (NSW)
JewishCare Foundation Trust / JewishCare Mental Health Foundation
Jewish House    
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Sir Moses Montefiore Home Hunters Hill Hal Goldstein Campus                                               
Day Centre Hunters Hill Club Monte
Sir Moses Montefiore Home Randwick
Sir Moses Montefiore Home Woollahra  
The Burger Centre - A partnership between JewishCare and Sir Moses Montefiore Home
Wolper Jewish Hospital 


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Their are six Jewish day schools in Sydney. Each cater to different groups and levels of religious identification. The Jewish schools include:


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jst_ktc_logo  1 Masada  jst_moriah  jst_mount_sinai  jst_yeshiva 

In areas that hold a significant Jewish presence, students at public schools are offered Jewish education through BJE, the Board of Jewish Education. It offers Jewish scripture lessons at key public schools.

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Most synagogues offer religious classes, and the NSW Board of Progressive Jewish Education offers a supplementary education in schools for Progressive students 




Maccabi NSW has a long history dating back as far as 1925 in NSW when the Sydney and Melbourne Jewish Communities organised a cricket match between the two states. Since then Maccabi has existed in various formats - originally as J.A.S.A (the Jewish Amateur Sports Association) which eventually renamed itself as Maccabi NSW to become part of the world wide movement.

Today Maccabi NSW boasts 20 organised sporting clubs in Sydney, the largest member based group in the Jewish community, and a head office at White City with a CEO, Youth Officer and other staff. Membership varies from year to year with approximately 2,500-3,000 members each year. 

Maccabi NSW assists clubs when needed financially or by other means, runs Carnivals for interstate visitors every 4 years and also holds various events each year such as Award Dinners  & Mega Camps each school holiday.

Maccabi's commitment is to "connect our Jewish Community through Sport". 


Engaging with each other  

Young mothers are offered the opportunity to meet like-minded parents through Shalom Baby, while Mum For Mum, a project of the National Council of Jewish Women, is an outreach project in which volunteers provide hands-on support to new mothers across the wider Sydney community.

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Shalom Baby connects parents and children (0-3 years) the the Sydney Jewish community, offering friendship, support and activities. Shalom PREGGY, Shalom BABY and Shalom TOTS - we connect you along your journey of parenthood...www.shalombaby.com.au for more. 

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The PJ Library ("pj" for pyjamas) program offers the gift of free, high quality Jewish books and music each month to children ages 6 months through to 6 years across NSW and the ACT. PJ Library books celebrate important aspects of Jewish culture, values and traditions, and become cherished bedtime stories. PJ Library is a gift from your Jewish community (The JCA & The Shalom Institute) in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. To sign up for PJ Library visit www.pjlibrary.org.au. 

js_NCJW Mum for Mum club_Logo (hi res)  is a National NCJWA's program which offers a home based, confidential, free of charge program for mothers of newborns or infants and pregnant women. To learn more about how you can help a mother of a newborn or infant visit their website.

js_1jewishcare JewishCare offers a variety of programs and services for seniors. Called Community Club Network these programs are designed for seniors to meet with their friends and participate in a range of activities. Currently there are 11 Friendship Clubs located within the Sydney metropolitan area. Many clubs operate in conjunction with local synagogues and other community organisations. For more information visit their website http://jewishcare.com.au/cms/community-club-network

Our connection to Israel

Sydney’s Jewish community has a strong connection to Israel, A range of organisations fundraise and advocate for Israel. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and Zionist Council of NSW are integrally involved in education about Israel. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies runs a Talking About Israel program, and together with the Zionist Council and Shalom Institute runs The Advocacy Program. 

Key organisations include:

Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce 
Australian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem 
Australian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Australian Friends of Tel Aviv University 
Friends of Bar Ilan University (NSW Division)
Hadassah Australia
New Israel Fund Australia Foundation
The Joint Australian (Part of the Joint Distribution Committee)
United Israel Appeal NSW
Zionist Council NSW
Zionist Federation Australia


Sydney is home to a number of youth movements - Betar, Bnei Akiva, Habonim Dror, Hineni and Netzer.. A synopsis follows: 

Betar is a Zionist youth movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky and traditionally linked to Israel’s Likud party. The largest Australian Betar branch can be found in Sydney, although there are vibrant branches in other capital cities.

Bnei Akiva is a religious Zionist youth movement which promotes the ideology of Torah ve'avodah – Torah study. Bnei Avika is the largest Zionist youth movement in the world and one of the largest in Australia.

Habonim Dror is a socialist–Zionist youth movement whose main ideology is the concept of tikkun olam (‘repairing the world’). 

Hineni is the youngest of Australia’s Zionist youth movements and the only one to exist exclusively in Australia. It defines itself as a Modern Orthodox, politically active and pluralist Zionist youth movement.

Netzer falls within the Progressive umbrella (‘Netzer’ is an acronym in Hebrew for Reform Zionist Youth), and, like Habonim Dror, its ideology centres around the principle of tikkun olam.

More information can be found at: Zionist Council NSW

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Young adults have a number of opportunities to participate in Sydney’s vibrant Jewish landscape. The Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) offers social and political events around the country, runs programs in Israel and around the world and provides Jewish students with useful educational resources on campus. Network, based within The Shalom Institute, offers young adults an opportunity to connect socially through a broad range of events and social forums. Events include cooking classes, evening drinks, wine and art appreciation, music, and film evenings.

AUJS Jewish leaders attend a training retreat

EAT KOSHER / Buy kosher

There are numerous kosher delis and eateries in Sydney. For a comprehensive list of everything kosher visit the Kashrut Authority website where an online  Kosher consumer directory can be found. 


Sydney has its own Jewish Newspaper, the Australian Jewish News, and on-line media source, J-Wire.