A group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, consisting of two large islands (North Island and South Island), a small island known as Stewart Island, and numerous islets along the coast. Europeans did not settle there in appreciable numbers until after 1830, and for two or three decades thereafter there were but few Jews among them. It was not until the seventh decade of the nineteenth century, when gold was discovered in the Otago district, that Jews were drawn to New Zealand in considerable numbers. During the persecutions in Russia in 1891, the Parliament of New Zealand sent a memorial to the Russian emperor, Alexander III., praying for an abatement of the restrictions imposed upon his Jewish subjects. The New Zealand colonists, however, were seized by the same fear that disquieted that section of the English public and led to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration. In 1893 news was received that five hundred destitute Russian Jews were being sent to New Zealand by the Jewish authorities in London. Protests were at once raised all over the colony. Resolutions from trades andlabor councils were forwarded to the premier of the colony, who telegraphed to the agent-general in London instructing him to assist in preventing Russian Jews from being sent to the colony. An angry correspondence passed between the premier and a prominent Jewish resident, and the feeling of disquiet was only calmed by an assurance from Dr. Adler, chief rabbi of London, to the effect that the London authorities had never contemplated such a wholesale transportation.
The Jews in New Zealand have never aggregated much more than sixteen hundred individuals; but in spite of this fact they have assisted in shaping the country's policy. In this respect the most notable was Sir Julius Vogel, who at various times held the portfolios of colonial treasurer, commissioner for stamps and customs, and postmaster-general. He served as premier from 1874 to 1876, and held the office of agent-general in London from 1876 to 1881. He is best remembered for his vigorous policy of public works, by which the North Island was opened up. To him also are due the establishment of the San Francisco and New Zealand mail service, the completion of the London and New Zealand cable, the system of government life-insurance, and the creation of the Public Trust Offices. Three other Jews have served in political life: Hallinstein sat in the House of Representatives; Samuel Edward Shrimski (1830-1902) was four times elected to that chamber and sat for seventeen years as a life member of the Upper House; C. Louisson, who is at present (1904) the only Jew in Parliament, was appointed to the Upper House in 1901.In Municipal Life.
Jews have been very active in municipal life, and as mayors and councilors their names are recorded in many cities. The history of Auckland especially is identified with the name of a Jew. Before it became a municipality A. P. Phillips was chairman of the city board; he was its first mayor, and held that office altogether for thirty-three years. Besides holding the appointment of justice of the peace and resident magistrate, he was a member of the provincial council and of the education board. He established a free library, obtained many endowments for the city, and was one of the founders of the Municipal Association of New Zealand. Henry Isaacs also was at one time mayor of Auckland. On four occasions C. Louisson was elected to the mayoral chair of Christchurch. He was a member of the first Charitable Aid and Hospital Board of New Zealand, a deputy inspector of the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum, and one of the New Zealand commissioners to the Melbourne Exhibition. Other towns have had Jewish mayors in the persons of Louis Ehrenfeld, Moss Jonas, and E. Shrimski.In Commerce.
Jews have given a decided impetus to the commercial enterprise of New Zealand. The chambers of commerce have had many Jews as presidents, notably D. E. Theomim. The New Zealand Shipping Company was founded by the brothers Edward and Henry Isaacs. The first chairman of the Manawatu Railway Company was Joseph Nathan, who established the Wellington Harbor Board. When delegates were sent to England to represent New Zealand at the meetings of the British Chamber of Commerce two out of the five members were Jews—Joseph Nathan and Arthur Myers.In Journalism and the Army.
Jews have done some enterprising work in the field of journalism in New Zealand. Vogel acquired a half proprietorship of the "Otago Witness." He started, and for many years edited, the first daily newspaper of New Zealand, "The Daily Times"; he admitted as part owner of his paper B. L. Farjeon, the novelist and playwright. Mark Cohen is president of the New Zealand Institute of Journalists and has for a considerable period edited the "Dunedin Star." "The New Zealand Referee" is managed by Phineas Selig, and another Jew, Marcus Marks, is head of the "Hansard" staff. New Zealand Jews have always shown a patriotic interest in questions of defense. During the Maori war many Jews were found in the British ranks. C. Louisson was the first to follow the volunteer movement on the West Coast. In 1894 David Ziman offered to pay half the cost of building a battle-ship to be presented by New Zealand to the British government, the colony to pay the other half. When trouble broke out in Samoa between the British bluejackets and the natives, three Auckland companies offered their services to the imperial government, two of the three captains being Jews. In the South-African war the New Zealand contingents included a number of Jews. As educators, too, Jews have gained some distinction. Several have sat on the various education boards; E. Shrimski founded the Waitaki School; Louis Cohen is a member of the senate, and Phineas Levy a law examiner, of the New Zealand University. The only woman in New Zealand who has passed, up to the present, the examinations qualifying for the practise of law is a Jewess, Ethel Benjamin.Congregational Life.
Congregations have been formed in most of the principal cities. In Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington, and Christchurch congregations have existed for many years. In each of these cities there exists the same Jewish communal life as obtains in other British congregations. Each has its Hebrew and religious classes, its charitable institutions and social societies. Services are held on Sabbaths, holy days, and on all special occasions. The oldest congregation is that of Auckland, which was founded in 1859. Rev. S. A. Goldstein has been the minister for twenty-two years and was preceded by the Rev. Mr. Elkin. The synagogue is a handsome structure and stands on an elevated site presented by the government. The Dunedin congregation dates from 1861, in which year the first service was held on the premises of Hyam S. Nathan, who acted as its first president. The present synagogue, which replaced an older one, was built in 1881, since which time the community has had five rabbis; the Rev. B. Lichtenstein held office from 1875 till his death in 1892, and the present minister is the Rev. B. Chodowsky. The community enjoys the distinction of having founded the first ḥebra ḳaddisha in the British empire. In Wellington the first service was held in the house of Joseph Nathan, to whoseefforts the community is largely indebted for its present synagogue, erected in 1870. The Rev. H. Van Stavern has been minister there for nearly thirty years; he is a member of the Wellington licensing bench. The Christchurch congregation, which has been served for more than thirty years by the Rev. I. Zachariah, has had a checkered career and has maintained a corporate existence with difficulty, owing to the paucity of Jewish residents. Synagogues have been built also in Hokitika and Timaru, but at the present time no corporate congregations are attached to them. The official census for 1901 placed the Jewish population of New Zealand at 1,611; the total population is 772,719.