From Australia’s Jewish past: a potpourri of Jewish legends

December 22, 2021 by Features Desk
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Some Jewish immigrants who made their presence felt in Australia.

Linden St. Adelaide

Heinrich Harry ISENSTEIN 

Harry was born on the 2nd March 1875 in the German Jewish community of Odessa, in the Russian Empire.  Isenstein first emigrated to England, and later, to Cape Town South Africa, and from that port, he made his way to arrive at Port Melbourne on 17 October 1912.

He was married in London in 1898, to Jennie, who was from Melbourne, and they produced three children who were born in London and one in South Africa.

Harry was a draper by profession but felt that more opportunity would await him in Australia,  hence their move.  They settled in Adelaide and worked as a draper residing in Linden Street West Hindmarsh which is where he swore the Oath of his Naturalisation on 29 January 1918.


Herrman Rosendorff

Hermann was born in Berlin in 1860, arriving in Australia in 1879.  Following his formal education, having studied music, he was more often known as an accomplished violinist, although a popular singer, and songwriter.   By 1887, he was the first violin in the J B Hickie’s Theatre Orchestra and enjoyed a career of thirty years involvement with His Majesty’s Theatre in Brisbane, formerly known as His Imperial Majesty’s Opera House which opened in 1888 and was the largest theatre in Brisbane.

Hermann is best remembered for conducting J C Williamson productions over a thirty-year span, but also arranged and composed for the piano and violin.

He composed some beautiful works including Frangipani Duet for violin and piano, Ungeduld (an arrangement of Schubert) for piano and violin, Romance et Rondeau fantastique for violin and piano, Old Folks at Home arrangement for violin and piano and Crown of Gold Orchestral overture.

He married Genevra Hartley Hutchinson in 1883 and together they had five daughters and four sons.  One daughter, Fanny Rosendorff also became a composer.

Hermann passed away in Queensland in January 1935.


One of the most prominent city shops of yesteryear was owned by Sol Levy, who was known as the ‘’Tobacconist Extraordinaire’’.  It is understood that Sol arrived in Australia sometime in the late 1880s and started trading at 713 George Street Haymarket Sydney in 1890.  The shop’s life spanned over 100 years.  A barber’s saloon was also part of the premises until the 1900’s.

Sol and his family manufactured hand-rolled cigars using imported tobacco from the early 1890s.  Sol Levy specialised in pipes and cigars, pipe cleaners, Zippo and Dupont lighters and tobacco pouches.  Then came the cigars and a printed guide suggested, among others, that the characteristics of a Romeo y Julieta are “spicy/floral/slightly sweet/creamy” making it suitable for the novice smoker, while the Cohiba is “rich coffee/chocolate/spicy/woody” and definitely for the connoisseur.

By 1892, Sol was awarded first prize for cigar making at the Royal Easter Show.

Sol had no children but adopted his nephew, Ted Levi to manage the shop.  Ted went on to have 10 children, among them Sol Levi, who took over the reins for many years, the last owner being Sol’s daughter.

There was very little change made to the shop, prior to the last 40 years when the shop was finally closed in 2015.  The second-hand display case Ted bought for the shop in 1932 was still there, as were the bottles of bay rum aftershave, razor strops and cut-throat razors from when the store doubled as a barbershop.

Everyone who smoked knew of Sol Levi tobacconist and people would come from interstate and overseas to visit the shop and purchase tobacco, pipes and cigars.

Sol Levi tobacconist was certainly an icon up until the shop closed on 7 November 2015

The Australian Jewish Historical Society is the keeper of archives from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 right up to today. Whether you are searching for an academic resource, an event, a picture or an article, AJHS can help you find that piece of historical material. The AJHS welcomes your contributions to the archives. If you are a descendent of someone of interest with a story to tell, or you have memorabilia which might be of significance for the archives, please make contact via or its Facebook page.


From Australia’s Jewish Past will return in 2022


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