Shule Building up for Sale

October 14, 2012 Agencies
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The building which once housed the world’s southernmost synagogue – described by The Historic Places Trust as being “of outstanding historical significance” – is up for sale.

The Dunedin building

Temple Gallery was originally constructed in 1864 as a synagogue for the Jews of Dunedin, near the southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. At the time it was the first synagogue to be built in New Zealand. It later became a Freemasons temple, but the sanctuary was left largely intact. The extensions built by the freemasons featured stained glass windows with Stars of David and the ark where the Torah scrolls were kept is still visible in the old sanctuary.
Jews first arrived in Dunedin during the gold rush of the mid-19th century. In the 1880s, Dunedin’s 200 or so Jews built a new synagogue with 500 seats. Gold ran out by the early 20th century and today a Progressive temple, called Dunedin Jewish Community, still functions. A rabbi is often sent there by Chabad-Lubavitch.
The Historic Places Trust describes Temple Gallery as “reflecting the life of the Jewish community and the practice of freemasonry” with an “imposing and grand aesthetic significance.
“The structure incorporates the oldest surviving synagogue building in New Zealand and one of only two Victorian synagogues still existing in the country. It speaks to the enigmatic practices of the freemasons, and is a rare physical link between the beliefs of Judaism and masons.
“Solid concrete walls and narrow, high windows reinforce the castle-like qualities of the structure. The former synagogue itself is like entering the throne room, complete with impressive and detailed ornamentation. Aesthetically, the effect is remarkable.”

Former Chabad Rabbi Shmuel Kopel told J-Wire: “There is a local Jewish cemetery with graves dating back to the foundation of the synagogue. The community stopped using the Shule following the construction of a bigger one which has since been demolished.”

The current Jewish community is estimated to be below 300. The demolished replacement shule was designed to hold 600. It was never filled to capacity.

The tenders for the two-storey Victorian masterpiece close on November 7.

Comments

3 Responses to “Shule Building up for Sale”
  1. Joel says:

    One of the Dunedin Community’s most notable and active member was Sir Jullius Vogel, KCMG, 8th Premier of New Zealand in 1866 and a contemporary of Benjamin Disraeli. He was a scientist and graduate of the Universty College School in Hampsted and later studied chemistry and metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines( later the Imperial College, London). In 1861 he founded the Otago Daily Tmes and became its first Editor.

    In addition to the recognition he gained in New Zealand history for his “Great Public Works Sheme,”
    he worked tirelessly for Maori reconciliation and in 1887 introduced the Womens Suffrage Bill to Parliament, which was the forerunner to NZ becoming the first country to give women the vote.

    In the years prior to the beginning of World War ll and during the War years the thriving Dunedin Congregation comprised many refugees from Europe, my late father being one of them, who were obliged to re-qualify in Medicine at New Zealand’s only medical school, Otago University.

  2. Shirlee. says:

    What shame!

    I wonder what will happen to it.? It’s older than the Great Synagogue in Sydney, which was built in 1878

    It’s also the southern most synagogue in the world

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