The Australian Jewish Historical Society publishes the "Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society" and maintains libraries and archives in Sydney and Melbourne. Hon Archivist, Sophie Gelski from the Australian Jewish Historical Society shares a diverse range of New Zealand archive material that offer a historical focus on early Jewish life, history, community and thought, reproduced here (click on an image to the left of this page and scroll) with the permission of the Archive.
The Australian Jewish Historical Society was founded in 1938 in Sydney. The first president was Percy J. Marks. At the first business meeting of the Society, the then president of the Royal Australian Historical Society K. R. Cramp expressed the view that the chief object of the Society should be the encouragement of individual research. The collection is focused on the Jewish experience in Australia, which began with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1778, and continued with Jewish involvement in all facets of the subsequent development and evolution of Australia. Other interesting avenues for the visitor to the archive to explore are historical tours, a timeline, references and sources including photographs.
In 1939, the Society published the first issue of the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal (initially known as the Australian Jewish Historical Society, Journal and Proceedings).
In 1949, a Melbourne branch was established, which was informally known as AJHS(Vic). This branch grew and eventually incorporated. There is no national executive, with the Sydney and Melbourne Societies being financially independent. Since 1988, the two Societies have shared the production of the Journal, with the June issues being produced by the NSW Society and the November issues being produced by the Vic Society. Currently, there are two issues of the Journal each year, with occasional Special Publications.
The table of contents of recent issues of the Journal have been placed online at www.ajhs.info/journal. The cumulative index to the Journal, by subject and category, is also available online at www.ajhs.info/journal/index. This cumulative index covers all Journal issues, but not special publications, from 1939 to 2010. In 2007 AJHS (Vic) published a CD which holds in digital form all Journal issues published between 1939 and 1953.
The NSW chapter maintains extensive archives as well as a research library in Mandelbaum House, a College of the University of Sydney. AJHS(Vic) has also collected extensive archives, which were placed on indefinite loan to the State Library of Victoria in 2004. Since 2012 the AJHS (Vic) has shared with the Australian Jewish Genealogical Society of Victoria a library including both books and archival records within the Lamm Jewish Library of Australia.
In addition to the Sydney and Melbourne chapters, there is also a small Canberra-based affiliate and there are members in all states and overseas.
Summaries of all meetings of the AJHS(Vic) held since 2004 are listed with some research material at www.ajhs.info/vic.
From 1977 to 2006, AJHS (Vic) members under the leadership of Beverley Davis transcribed the headstones of over 40,000 Jewish graves in Australia and New Zealand, as well as Jewish War Graves overseas. This collection of burial data, called The BD-BD, was placed online in June 2008.
In 2007, the Society under the leadership of AJHS (Vic) president Dr Howard Freeman made a notable but unsuccessful attempt to retain intact within Australia the so-called Gurewicz Archives.The Gurewicz Archives was collected by Rabbi Joseph Lipman Gurewicz, born in Vilna in 1885. Rabbi Gurewicz arrived in Australia in 1932, becoming the spiritual head of the United Congregations of Carlton. He was an authority in Halachic matters. The Archives consists of files of documents covering all matters related to Judaism and reflecting the variety of issues confronting Melbourne Jewry in the 1930s to 1950s. The New York purchaser removed much of the holocaust material, rabbinic communications to Lithuania, Palestine, material re Dunera, and sold the remainder at auction to the Jewish Museum of Australia in June 2008.
Image header (above): Extract from "The Evening Post", Monday September 23 1929. Announcing the New Jewish Synagogue opening on Wellington Terrace. © Australian Jewish Historical Society Inc