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s t a r t
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Goldman, Lazarus.

The History of the Jews in New Zealand.


A.H. & A.W. Reed,


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L. M. Goldman.png


author of The History of the

Jews in New Zealand.

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            ith grateful acknowledgement of the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection, Te Pūhikotuhi o Aotearoa, hosted by the library of  Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, we are rolling out The History of the Jews in New Zealand—chapter by chapter, unexpurgated, with accompanying audio. As time goes on, needful or illuminating annotations will be added to the original text.


Published in 1958 by A.H. & A.W. Reed—a once legendary imprint that was fiercely devoted to New Zealand non-fiction and prose; producing, during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, one hundred titles a year—The History of the Jews in New Zealand is an absorbing, a meticulous, and occasionally fascinating volume. While several other landmark books on Aotearoa New Zealand Jewry have since been published, Jews in New Zealand remains the first, and thus far only, thoroughgoing study of its kind. 



The History of the Jews in New Zealand ’s author of was, in fact, Australian (yes, an Aussie, and, by all accounts, an immensely fine one). From the initial pages of his book, Lazarus Morris Goldman reveals himself as a gifted narrator, with a prose style that is lively, lucid, and unencumbered.



A one-time student at Yeshivah Etz Chaim in London, Goldman had immigrated to Melbourne in 1929, taking up, at age 21, the position of headmaster of St. Kilda Hebrew School. Three years later he had transferred to the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation to become assistant minister. He married Sarah Cohen the same year; the couple would have two children, David Goldman and Nina Krauss.


The account of Raymond Apple, Rabbi Emeritus of Sydney’s Great Synagogue, gives a portrait of Goldman as a born educator and gifted communicator, and a character of expansive amity. Wrote Apple, “I … remember him joining in the fun at … the annual Hebrew School picnic, the model Seder, Chanukah party and the rest, spreading human warmth everywhere.” Aside from recounting Goldman’s hospitality, gregariousness, and loyalty, Apple recalls him as being an outstanding guidance counsellor, an always perceptive as well as open-hearted man. With a sentiment and idealism that was shared by a number of Jewish leaders of his generation, Goldman was an early and fervent Zionist activist and fundraiser. Writes Apple, “He was consistently outspoken, even though he knew his forceful candour would not always bring him popularity.”

The biography of L.M. Goldman continues below.


—Raymond Apple


He could not take the line of least resistance when he felt that justice and truth demanded that he speak out. 




        he outbreak of World War II would see a new role for Lazarus Goldman—one for which he would turn out to be uniquely suited. Recommended for the position of Jewish Chaplain to the Australian Imperial Force’s Sixth Division, Goldman took ship for the Middle East in 1940, where he was to remain and serve until 1943. While in Palestine, he received his Semicha or Smicha—rabbinical ordination. Returning to Australia, Goldman was prevailed upon by the Chaplain Colonel, Jacob Danglow to return to active duty, in the theatre of the South-West Pacific. In Apple’s words, Goldman “[ministered to Jewish servicemen of many nations with tremendous energy and zest … His tenacity was unrivalled. No obstacle could stand in the way of his making and keeping up contact with the Jewish servicemen and women. His popularity among the forces was unrivalled and he wore himself out in their service.”


At the conclusion of World War II, Goldman resumed his role with the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, while also taking up the role of Principal of the United Jewish Education Board. Taking advantage of the creation of a Semitic Studies department at Melbourne University, he enrolled for a Master’s degree, eventually producing a thesis that pioneered the study of Australian Jewish history. Prior to beginning work on The History of the Jews in New Zealand, he would publish a monograph, The Jews in Victoria in the 19th Century.


Unsurprisingly, the ambition of Lazarus Goldman was to eventually complete a definitive history of Australian Jewry, and given his lucid and appealing narrative voice, and care for detail, in Jews in New Zealand, it seems a tragedy that his most cherished project went unrealised. Among a number of unpublished manuscripts left by Goldman was a study, written in Hebrew, on Moses Montefiore, the legendary Italian-Jewish British financier, early Zionist, and a one-time Sheriff of London.


Altogether, accounts of Lazarus Goldman emphasise a human being of passion and warmth: a forceful yet deeply benevolent and emotional man. It seems that the venerable Eastern European Jewish notion of eydlkayt would have applied to him: a word that, according to the Yiddish lexicographer Leo Rosten, implies “sweetness of character,” and which is otherwise traditionally understood to emphasise a disposition that is gentle, loyal, and studious—or a usually understated refinement that goes hand in hand with a restless fondness for learning.




        he life of Lazarus Goldman was to end, tragically, at the age of only fifty-two. He had been officiating at the Adelaide Synagogue, in the service for Kol Nidrei, when he’d collapsed and passed away from a heart attack. Apple: “[Goldman] had more than his share of bitter disappointments. He could not take the line of least resistance when he felt that justice and truth demanded that he speak out. He could not stand humbug, nor could he tolerate Jews who gave less than full-throated allegiance to their people in times of crisis … All this embroiled him in communal controversy, and took an inexorable toll on his health.”  | nzja |  

p r e f a c e

Bereft of symbol or illustration, the austere modernist cover (1958) is by DENNIS BEYTAGH (1924-2016). His artwork, a year earlier, for the jacket of the first edition of Janet Frame’s Owls Do Cry is one of Aotearoa’s most distinctive book covers, offering an intriguing contrast of style.

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The composition of Jewish communities in Europe before the Second World War ensured the preservation of historical documents and data of most of the communities concerned. Apart from the fact that in the twentieth century nearly all the continental European communities were financially supported and controlled by the State, which demanded documentation of records, there were also sufficient numbers of Jews interested in their great historical past and concerned with Israel’s future destiny, to make it certain that the deeds of those who strove for Israel’s glory and good name, and the struggles of the Jewish masses, would not go unrecorded. The fortunate and happy position of the Jews in both America and England, where Jews have lived in freedom and upon terms of equality with their neighbours for three centuries, has also inspired numerous writers and research workers to inscribe upon the tablets of history the names of those who have contributed towards the welfare of their country or their people. Both the tercentenary celebrations held to commemorate the coming of the Jews to the United States of America and the tercentenary celebrations held to mark the return of the Jews to England were accompanied by the publication of numerous articles and books describing the part that Jews had taken in the advancement of England and America in the establishment and maintenance of their Jewish communities and activities. Time and numbers had created a Jewish pride in their past and in their lot.

Because of the distance of the Jews in Australia and New Zealand from large Jewish centres abroad, and because both of those countries have not entirely emerged from their pioneering stages, their Jewish communities have not as yet developed a strong historical pride in their endeavours and strivings. It will surely come with time. Their story is worthy of recapitulation. They have many splendid men and women whose efforts for their country and community and whose spirit of modesty and sacrifice should be recounted to the generations to come and should be preserved for them. New Zealand Jewry possesses a remarkable record. Nowhere else in the world have Jews, in proportion to their numbers, taken such a prominent part in local, municipal and public affairs as the Jews have done in New Zealand. Nevertheless, a danger existed that their endeavours would not be written down. The Jewish communities in Australasia are not developing at a speedy rate. Communities have flourished and have disappeared almost without trace. It would be a pity for all these traces to be forgotten. Besides the loss to the general history of Australasia, it would also break a link in the “golden chain” of Jewish history which goes back to the dawn of man.

I have therefore taken it upon myself as a lover of Jewish ideals, and an ardent admirer of Australian and New Zealand colonial life, to make a start in arousing public interest in the beginnings of Jewish endeavour in Australasia, in the strivings of the Jews to maintain their faith and identity and in their contribution towards the progress of these two great countries. My first book, The Jews in Victoria in the Nineteenth Century, has received the support of the public to such an extent that it gave me the necessary encouragement to contemplate the writing of another historical book on British colonial Jewry. I was able to fulfil this dream when awarded the first Sir Robert Waley Cohen Travelling Scholarship. The award was established by the Jewish Memorial Council in memory of the late Sir Robert Waley Cohen, one of the most prominent Jewish lay leaders in Britain in the twentieth century. His genius and leadership gave strength to Jewish institutions in England. The eminence in which the United Synagogue, the office of the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies of British Jews stand today in Britain is in a great measure due to his guidance and brilliance. He gave encouragement to the Anglo-Jewish ministry, and the Jewish Memorial Council, to mark his long and inspiring association with them, has instituted an annual travelling scholarship to be given to a Jewish minister of a congregation in the British Commonwealth who had served in his community for at least five years. The winning of this scholarship enabled me to travel to New Zealand to further my research. The result is presented in the text.

My appreciation is extended to the Jewish Memorial Council for its foresight in establishing a scholarship of such a nature as gives constant encouragement to the Anglo-Jewish ministry; to the Selection Board of the Jewish Memorial Council for choosing to present me with the first award; and to my dear friends David J. Benjamin and Tovia Shahar for their ready expert advice and for their perusal and correction of the manuscript.


Melbourne, June 1957
                  Sivan 5717


© New Zealand Jewish Archives Trust 2023. All rights reserved.


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