With responsibility for the curation, preservation and storage of an ever-burgeoning collection, the New Zealand Jewish Archives, an incorporated charitable trust, is domiciled Wellington Jewish Community’s Webb Street Centre. The present collection comprises documents, photographs, Judaica, memorabilia, books, pamphlets, newspaper cuttings and other ephemera, oral recordings and video tapes concerning Jewish life in New Zealand.
The task of accumulating materials for a community archive began in 1980, with Maurice Pitt, Paul Hochberg and Cyril Book carrying out the foundational work, followed by a committee of volunteers led by John Schnellenberg. For many years, the work of the Archives was carried out solely by Michael Clements, with a new volunteer committee joining him over the past few years. Before long, the collection had gathered some of the earliest synagogue, and other community, records, held in Aotearoa New Zealand. Over time, as more and more people have become familiar with the work of the Archives, the collection has grown significantly—particularly over the past decade. Two exhibitions of Judaica were conducted by the Archive in its early years: the first, in 1990, marked the centennial of the first Jewish religious service to be held in New Zealand, in Wellington in 1890. A second exhibition in 1993, coincided with the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Wellington Hebrew Congregation. It was in conjunction with this anniversary that the landmark book A Standard for the People, edited by Stephen Levine, was conceived, and subsequently published in 1995.
In 2006, the exhibition Making a Difference was staged in Wellington, celebrating the particular contributions of individual Jewish people to the enrichment of New Zealand society. Subsequently, in 2017, the exhibition Jewish Life in Wellington 1840 - 2017 was held. The archives receives regular inquiries from persons with Jewish ancestry, both locally and overseas, who are often on a genealogical quest, or seeking information about the Jewish community more generally. All in all, what began as a collector’s passion has, over time, evolved into a stand-alone repository of local Jewish history and culture.
Michael Clements MNZM JP (ret.)
Michael Clements, curator, collector and avid chronicler of Jewish history, has, along with his wife Barbara, been active in Wellington's Jewish community over several decades, and is a past president of the Wellington Hebrew Congregation (now the Wellington Jewish Community Centre).
Michael has dedicated the past thirty-five years to gathering and collecting a rich paper archive on all things Jewish in New Zealand, and is able to answer any questions relating to genealogy and New Zealand Jewish family history. In the work of maintaining the archive, Michael is often assisted by volunteers who help him to leverage and develop this significant contribution to New Zealand Jewish history, its people and experience.
As a culture and heritage project complementary to the physical archive, this website is dedicated with love and admiration to Michael and Barbara, in acknowledgement of their stalwart dedication and warmness of heart to the community over many years.