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Subject: Cultural Studies »

Lionel Sharpe on the complexities of Jewish immigration

Lionel Sharpe.

Genealogist Lionel Sharpe details the complexities of Jewish immigration through the White Australia period



Date Added:

06 February 2009


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mov (Quicktime);

File size:

11.4 MB






The first real surge was about 1926 to ’28 - about 700 I should say mostly Polish Jews arrived in Victoria and an organisation was actually set up called, “The Welcome Society,” in 1926, president was a man by the name of Arthur Rose who actually is on my family tree too. And it was largely some of the Yiddish speaking Carlton settlers that took it on hand to try and welcome these people in. I’ve been trying to find some written evidence how the Anglo organisations, The Philanthropic Society, The Benevolent Society, how they engaged.


There is some evidence but it’s a little bit shaky. Rabbi Brodie (sp?) who was a – who went on to become Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, he did make a speech once to say that, we’re facing the greatest sort of welfare crisis in the community. He said this in about 1928 actually and it made headlines in the Jewish news so obviously there was recognition on the part of the early Anglo-German settlers that this was a coming problem.


But it was the Yiddish speaking former arrivals who actually took it in hand, embraced these people, formed organisations, Yiddish theatre and, or the Kavema (sp?) actually was formed a bit earlier back in I think 1913 – and they virtually created a ghetto community in Carlton, which spread out to places like Northcote and Brunswick and places like that, there was a sort of a ripple effect as people were seeking cheaper housing and employment.


... make a preliminary mark, in 1933, there were some sociologists that were predicting the end of the Jewish community, there was a lot of assimilation, a lot of intermarriage, a lot of secular Jews in Carlton who weren’t particularly interested in religion, more interested in left politics actually than in religious affairs. Their children were beginning to marry out and drift away. 1933 the rise of Hitler, the – and the events that led up between 1933 to 1938 to the Anschluss in Austria, started to bring in waves of migration.


And the critical point was the Evian Conference in 1938, where Australia offered to accept 15,000 of which I think 12,000 were to be Jewish and they were to come over a period of three years, in other words, staggered 5000 a year and as we know the war broke out in September 1939, about 6 – 7000 managed to get here on landing permits and the rest of course didn’t get here. So this was the – then of course, 1940, 1939, the outbreak of war and the only trickle of Jewish immigrants come were people who were deported from England, these were people who had escaped Germany and Austria, came via the Kinder (sp?) transport and from Europe into England, they were seen as enemy aliens, the British didn’t know what to do with them, they put them on a ship the S.S Dunera and they were brought to Australia to Hay and so that –


But there was a very small group, many of them went back, some of them joined the Australian Army, quite a number of them settled and there’s been a – that group has continued to sort of stay together and have reunions and that since then. So that was during the war period, there were also a trickle of others that sort of had come via Philippines and America, but a very small number.


End transcript