Since the pioneer days of
settlement by Europeans in the early 19th century,
New Zealand has had communities of Jews in the
A substantial number came during the days
of the gold rush and were mostly found in the South
Island’s West Coast.
Russian and polish Jews arrived
in 1890 to escape the oppressive leadership of the
Then, just before World War II, approximately a
thousand Jewish refugees migrated to New Zealand
from Central Europe.
In Wellington, approximately 500 came. Succeeding small
instances of settlement were connected with the 1956
Hungarian uprising and the efforts of the Hebrew Immigration
Assistance Society (HIAS) to transport Jews into the country
from what had once been the Soviet Union.
Very recently there have arrivals in small groups from South
Africa, most of which made there home in Auckland. In recent
times, a large group of Israelis have also migrated here.
The biggest concentration of the Jewish population is in
Auckland, New Zealand.
This city’s population of over a
million and is the largest city in New Zealand.
population of New Zealand is just over four million. lthough it is hard to come up with a good estimate,
it is believed that there are a significant number
of Jews all over New Zealand who are not associated
with any congregation and are not participants in
Jewish organized activities. There has been a large
number of integration, unavoidable in a small
community that has been displaced.
The first reformist New Zealand Jewish Congregation
was founded in Auckland in 1956. Fro decades, at the
heart of the Jewish Community was a very traditional
It was a very secular community, and a large number had long
given up on the observance of strict orthodox practices.
The community had furthermore lost several members, some
because of inter-marriage, and others because of disillusion
with the absence of ritual change which had become
increasingly irrelevant with the passage of time. Change or
conversion would not even be entertained by the Rabbis.
On top of everything else, the orthodox congregation
had become caught up in an extremely public case in
court involving its attempt to dismiss its Rabbi at
This was the situation when the president of
Auckland made a decision to test the awareness by
calling a public meeting to be tackled by John Levi,
a young student born in Melbourne in his final year
before his ordination as a Rabbi.
He, in his turn, got in touch with Karo Emanuel, who, with the help
of David, his son, and Susanne, his daughter-in-law,
went into the business of arranging the meeting.
The meeting was a disaster. First, the orthodox community
attacked the club for approving the use of the Clubrooms, so
the event was held in the Savage Club. The media were
mesmerized. Judaism was currently a matter of interest
because of the controversy concerning the attempted ousting
of the orthodox Rabbi, so there was a large amount of
hullabaloo regarding the new congregation, which actually
worked in their favor since there were no funds for