Synagogue History

1883 Organised Jewish life in Newtown started in about 1883 in the form of a minyan held at the home of Abram and Naomi Solomon at 6 Georgina Street, around 50 meters from the current site of the Synagogue. The minyan then moved to the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. Selig of Alice Street, Newtown. As the numbers of those attending grew, the congregation rented rooms at the Oddfellows Hall in Wilson Street. The first Minister to hold a position at the Synagogue was Reverend Isaac Morris, who had recently arrived from Cardiff.

1904 The name for the Synagogue was decided. Mikveh Yisroel means “the Hope of Israel” or possibly “the Bath of Israel” referring to the talmudic idea – that the bath that cleanses Israel is their Father in Heaven.

1912 Land was purchased in L’Avenue, now known as Georgina Street.

1917 Reverend A. T. Chodowski was appointed, who, as well as conducting Services worked to provide child education and kosher meat to the community.

1918 A ceremony of laying the foundation stones for the synagogue was held in June.

1919 At 3pm on the afternnon of Sunday 7th September, the new Synagogue was overflowing with a broad representation of Sydney’s Jewish community.

1921-1936 Rabbi Lenzer oversaw strong growth of the congregation and inspired Synagogue membership and participation.

1936-1955 Reverend I. Rabinovitch then took over until his death in 1955.

1957-1969 Reverend B. Skolnick

1973-1993 Reverend S. Piaster

1993-1997 Rabbi Y. Wernick was commited to community leadership.

1997-2001 Rabbi D. Friedman

2001-2004 Rabbi Levi Selwyn and Rebbitzen Naomi successfully expanded the spiritual depth of the Jewish community in Sydney through education programs, which included classes on everything from Kabbalah to Talmudic Law, and the deep, internal significance of the Talmudic stories; through community outreach in arenas that varied from hospital rooms to the street corners where one could share the mitzvah of learning to put on Teffilin, and a kosher vegetarian falafel stand at the Newtown Fair Day; and through magical holiday programs, each sporting a unique theme, such as the famous Seventies Disco Purim Party, complete with strobe lights and a mural painted just for the occasion, to the Purim Puppet Show that was the centerpiece one year of the children’s Purim program.

2004-2005 Acting Rabbi Mottel Gestetner fullfilled a vitial roll of keeping the services and community dinners going while the board searched for a full time rabbi. Mottel is continuing his university studies and we wish him our best. He is, and always will be, considered a part of the Newtown Community.

2005 – 2010 Rabbi and Rebbetzen Rosenthal have come to Newtown. Their enthusiasam and excitment was welcomed here and they have already become an integral part of our small and unique community.

2011 – 2012 Period of Visting Rabbis and lay service.  Our thanks to Rabbi Jeffery Cohen, Shmuel Maryasin,Rabbi Shudnow, Rabbi Cohen, Rabbi Friedman, and special thanks to Jacov Smeke Levy for filling the gap when he could.

2012 – present Rabbi Eli and Rebbetzin Shani Cohen …

Five generations of Jews have participated in the life of this congregation. Australia has few Jewish communal buildings, which carry the heritage, history and architectural merit that the Newtown Synagogue pocesses. Continuity of Jewish life is an ideal that motivates those who work and participate in the life of the Synagogue.