Call to preserve Broken Hill’s synagogue and mosque
NSW Labor Shadow Arts Minister Walt Secord has called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Arts Minister Don Harwin to provide urgent funding to help preserve the historic Broken Hill Synagogue and Broken Hill Mosque in remote far western NSW.
Mr Secord made the call after a recent visit to the region and as part of his ongoing interest in Jewish and Muslim sites.
The Broken Hill Historical Society which oversees the historic Broken Hill Synagogue says the 107 year-old building needs about $140,000 in repairs due to a recent hailstorm – especially the roof. If the repairs are not undertaken, it would undermine all of the previous restoration work at the shule.
It was purchased by the society in 1990 and was restored. It is located on Wolfram Street in Broken Hill.
Secord reports: “It was once the heart of the Jewish community in Broken Hill, who came to the region as merchants in the silver mining industry. From the 1880s to the 1960s a vibrant and successful Jewish community existed in Broken Hill. Most of who had origins in the Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and Russia. Their descendants now live in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. During the 1920s, it grew to around 250 souls and had a rabbi.”
It is a modest but beautiful synagogue – and the museum has the honour of being the most remote Jewish museums in the world. While the Synagogue closed in 1962 and the scrolls were transferred to Melbourne, the ark, bimah and pews remain in place. It is truly a historic site and shows that Australia once had thriving Jewish communities outside the major capital cities and in far-flung places like Broken Hill.
The synagogue is very well maintained however, it has suffered some hail damage recently.
On the other hand, the Broken Hill Mosque needs significant preservation. It would be a shame to see these two significant historic sites fall into disrepair. It is built using a pressed metal technique used in other buildings in the region.”
In his dual capacity as Shadow Minister for the Arts and as deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel, Mr Secord visited the historic shule and was given a guided tour by Mrs Margaret Price, one of the three editors of the book – Jews of the Outback.
The other editors were Dr Suzanne Rutland and Leon Mann.
Mr Secord also visited the Broken Hill mosque which was first mosque built in NSW. It was set up by Indian subcontinent cameleers who helped open up the desert region. He was given a tour by Mr Bob Shamroze, a descendant of one of the original mosque cameleer founders. It is located at the corner of William and Buck Streets in Broken Hill.
The mosque is constructed of corrugated iron sheets and wood, painted rust red. An avenue of date palm trees lines the entrance of the site. The mosque’s alcove points to Mecca and prayer rugs have been left by worshippers in appreciation. The first mosque in NSW was built in Broken Hill in 1887.
Broken Hill City Council acquired the land which houses the mosque in 1967. It was rededicated by visiting Muslim officials as a place of worship on 26 September 1968, and is still used for worship today.
Mr Secord was in far western NSW as part of his duties as Shadow Health Minister and Shadow Arts Minister. The trip also included visits to Broken Hill, Menindee, Menindee Lakes and Silverton as well as two national parks – Kinchega National Park and Mutawintji National Park.
Mr Secord has written to the Premier and the Arts Minister asking that they provide funding to repair the synagogue and mosque, which are important parts of our State and national history. The State Government is currently providing $600 million to the state’s cultural infrastructure.
Mr Secord wrote to the Premier and the Arts Minister saying: “As part of your deliberations, I would like to see funding extend to cultural infrastructure in rural, regional and remote areas; the Broken Hill synagogue and Broken Hill mosque are two projects worthy of consideration.”
“It would be very disappointing to see these two important historic national sites fall into further disrepair,” Mr Secord added.