Jewish community honoured at bench-naming

Broken Hill’s Jewish community was honoured on the weekend at a bench-naming ceremony at the synagogue on Wolfram St. The event attracted some 60 people from across the country from as far as Perth to commemorate the city’s Jewish history and recognise and remember the preservers of the synagogue from 1989/90 and the reverends that prayed there, going right back to the 1890s.

“It’s always emotional and meaningful to come back to Broken Hill. It was exciting, it was full of great meaning, and quite a bit of emotion. There are three ‘Rs’ about these benches; it’s a place to relax, to reflect and to remember,” Professor Leon Mann – an ex-local who donated money in 2018 for the benches themselves – told us.

A foundation stone was laid in 1910 for a synagogue that would operate for some 50 years until its closure in 1962 amid a declining Jewish population in the Silver City from a once vibrant community that dated back to the 1880s. In 1991, it was converted to the Synagogue of the Outback Museum and is owned and operated the Broken Hill Historical Society.

“Today, I could feel the history was a lot deeper,” Historical Society Coordinator, Margaret Price, said.

“The people were thinking much clearer and the most amazing thing was the Broken Hill community singers singing the Hebrew songs. I think it touched everybody’s hearts and I’m just so happy and so fulfilled.”

Minister for Local Government, Ron Hoenig, a Jewish man himself, was invited along, telling us it was a significant and emotional event and he pointed to the work of the Historical Society to maintain the building and its meaning.

“It’s been a rather remarkable thing for the Historical Society to maintain and effectively commemorate a Jewish community which has been such an important part of Jewish history here in Broken Hill, in the middle of the country, in this remote place, a non-Jewish community preserves the history and heritage of the Jews of Broken Hill. It is most remarkable thing I’ve ever seen or heard of.”

Visitors also engaged in Shabbat services on Friday and Saturday, and a consecration at the cemetery on Sunday as part of the weekend’s events.

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