A Shul comes back to life

May 1, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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A synagogue closed down in 1898 will be used for a Shabbat service next week.

The Maitland synagogue building

Double Bay Chabad’s Rabbi Yanky Berger is organising a bus tour to the NSW Hunter Valley where the Maitland will come back to life as a shule for a day.

He told J-Wire: “On a holiday with my family we drove to the former Maitland Synagogue situated in the heart of West Maitland which is currently being used as a medical and health centre. It is an exquisitely designed structure currently painted in a pale Blue with a large Star of David embedded into the outside foyer tiles.

We met Joseph, the owner of the building’s son who told us about the building and current usage. It was quite moving to be in the presence of a Shule which was closed in 1879. On the way back we were saying ‘imagine we can somehow get the shule back and celebrate a full Shabbos within its structure’.

After we arrived back in Sydney, I made contact with Joseph and his sister Zoe who manages the building. We proposed that our community be granted the opportunity to occupy the former Synagogue for a weekend. Zoe spoke to her mother who most graciously consented.

Chabad Double Bay is now inviting the wider community to join us on a journey of the past. On 10/11 May we will celebrate a high energy Shabbos in the Maitland Synagogue. We will reawaken the echoes of the past we will sing, we will dance we will party and be uplifted.”

For at least the first half of the 150 years’ history of Maitland, the Jewish community provided a strong contribution to the development of the district. As the number of Jewish settlers increased it was decided to build a Synagogue, and land was purchased in Church Street.

The foundation stone was laid by Lewis W. Levy on 24 February 1879, when Morris Benjamin was president of the congregation. The building was constructed in 1879 by James Pritchard to meet the needs of the then substantial Jewish community.

The synagogue was consecrated on 7 September 1879 by the Rev. A. B. Davis of the Great Synagogue, together with the Rev. S. A. Goldstein, Maitland’s Minister. However, during the 1890s depression, the Jewish community declined in numbers to the point when in 1898, the Synagogue was finally closed.




3 Responses to “A Shul comes back to life”
  1. Barbara Sullivan says:

    Hi. I attended Fort Street Girls High with Miriam Deston.1955-1959. I’d like to get in touch with her. Regards. Barbara Sullivan (nee Hynes)

  2. Nico Bester says:

    For me as a Catholic, the presence of a synagogue in any town shows three things.
    Firstly, it reminds me that Judaism is the mother of my faith; secondly, a synagogue shows the presence of a coherent faith community with a history of three millennia, which is alive an well within this social context. Finally, a synagogue represents the abundant and prayerful wisdom of Judaism within the town.
    All these are good things. They should be treasured. They are jewels.

  3. Miriam Judith Briggs (nee Deston) says:

    Wow how absolutely fabulous! It truly is a magnificent thing to accomplish!
    OK – now how about we do the same for the Shule of Ballarat???
    Where my Grandfather-Leon Goran was the Rabbi for a while.
    My mother used to tell me how she & her sisters used to clean the silver before Pesach!
    And when the Shule closed, a Jewish family called Stones” looked after the Shule & all the silver decorations gleaned from the silver mines from that area.
    Among the miners there were very many Jewish people & for a time it was a bisstling Shule with many attendees! It also is part of Australian Jewish History!!
    How about someone doing something to bring it back to life… so we could partake in a Shabbat there to bring it back to life???!!!

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