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Sydney: A Jewish Culture Guide

Jewish Sydney is bustling and healthy, as the Australian city remains a multicultural and open-minded metropolis, where art, culture, and faith can be explored and celebrated.

The initial tiny beginnings of Jewish life in Australia began in 1788, when anywhere from eight to 16 convicts aboard the First Fleet from England were the first Jewish settlers. Though perhaps not the most auspicious pioneers of the Judaic faith and culture, they not only made up the first Jewish presence, but the first European settlers of any background, joining some 1,500 other prisoners.

As waves of settlers continued to Australia, more Jews arrived and soon thereafter small communities sprang up in the two biggest cities, Sydney and Melboure. In the former, Jews worshipped together in houses and shops in the early 19th century, until the first synagogue was built in 1844.

As the colony evolved, and its relationship to the mother country of England became more independent, Europeans, including Jews, continued to settle, though most notably various waves in the 20th century. Jews from around the world, including the former Soviet Union, South Africa, and Israel have made their way to Australia to avoid persecution and take advantage of new opportunities. While the country has a Jewish population of roughly 120,000, its largest city of Sydney to this day boasts around 45,000 Jews.

Check out Jewish culture tips for tourists in Sydney on Shalom Life