Introduction / History
Because of the uniqueness of their history and culture, Jewish people have a strong sense of identity. The Australian Jewish community is the largest in the Pacific region. In its earliest days as a British territory, Australia used convict-laborers. Jews were among the first convicts deported from the United Kingdom to Australia in the late 1700s. By the 1800s, there was an established Jewish community overwhelmingly made up of free settlers. Jews arrived in several successive waves of immigration, primarily from Britain and Eastern Europe. The gold rushes of the 1800s were one source of attraction for Jewish immigrants to Australia.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Both prior to and after World War II, thousands of Jews from Germany and Eastern Europe found sanctuary in Australia. The nation admitted tens of thousands of Holocaust survivors. Over half of Australia's Jewish population lives in Melbourne.
Because the Jewish community is extremely diverse, many Jews are bilingual. English, Yiddish, German, Polish, Ivrit (modern Hebrew), and Hungarian are important languages.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Occupationally, Australia's Jews are concentrated heavily in the clothing and manufacturing sectors of the economy. Most are either self-employed or are employers running their own businesses. Medicine, law and engineering are also important occupations.
Several phenomena characterize the Australian Jewish community and distinguish it from most other English-speaking Jewish communities. These include a high rate of enrollment in Jewish day schools (Most of all primary school pupils and over half of all high school pupils) and a low rate of intermarriage with non-Jews. Melbourne has the largest Jewish day school in the world. There are several Jewish newspapers and periodicals available. Each week, Australia's ethnic radio stations feature several hours of programming of Jewish interest in English, Hebrew and Yiddish. In the major cities, there are butchers, bakers and restaurants that prepare kosher (traditional, acceptable) foods.
The Australian Jewish community maintains several Jewish museums, including two devoted to the commemoration of the Holocaust. Melbourne has a Jewish theater where plays are often in the Yiddish language.
Several important issues face the Jewish community in Australia. One is the tension between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox sections of the community. At times this tension develops into open hostility. Anti-Semitism (discrimination against Jews) is not a serious problem in Australia's multi-cultural society, but the government closely monitors various hate-groups.
For religious Jews, God is the Supreme Being, the Creator of the universe, and the ultimate judge of human affairs. Beyond this, the religious beliefs of the Jewish communities vary greatly. Orthodox Jews generally follow the traditional religious beliefs and practices found in the Jewish literature that interprets Scripture regarding ethical, religious, civil, and criminal matters.
What Are Their Needs?
Reform Jews do not believe that the Jewish Law is divinely revealed. They are not restricted to kosher foods. They neither wear the skullcap (yarmulke) when praying nor use Hebrew in prayer. All religious Jews believe in the coming of a Messianic Age, but only the Orthodox Jews look for a personal Messiah.
In Australia, there are dozens of synagogues affiliated with all major religious movements within Judaism, from Reform to ultra-Orthodox. Most of Australia's Jews are Orthodox and many are liberal, with a tendency for the liberal Jews to be from central European backgrounds. Few are non religious.
Jewish people have a wonderful understanding of their connection with the Abrahamic Covenant. However, they also have a history of rejecting Jesus Christ as Messiah, the one who has fulfilled that covenant. They tend to view Christianity as the religion of their oppressors rather than the fulfillment of what God promised all of humanity through Abraham centuries ago.
Pray for the Lord to give the Jewish people in Australia hearts that will want to please him. May they look to the Lord for guidance and truth, and not be satisfied with cultural traditions.
Pray for Jewish people in Australia to begin a movement to Jesus Christ, finding ways to exalt him while honoring their culture.
Pray for the Lord to move among Jewish leaders in Australia to open the doors to Christ's ambassadors.
Scripture Prayers for the Jewish, English-speaking in Australia.