• Gabbai

Celebrating 175 years

This column by Wellington Jewish Community Centre’s Rabbi Yitzchak Mizrahi was originally written for the special edition of Centre News marking the 175th anniversary of our congregation’s first services in 1843.

This month we celebrate 175 years of the Beth El congregation which is an integral part of the Wellington Jewish Community Centre.

It is inspiring to think that so early in the settlement of Wellington, a decade before the New Zealand Parliament held its first session, Jewish settlers established the infrastructure necessary for meaningful Jewish life to flourish in this land. Although a formal synagogue would not be built for another quarter century, services were first held in January of 1843, and the first reading of the Torah was Parshat Bo, which this congregation will read together for the 175th time on Shabbat, 20 January 2018.

From those early days of horse drawn carts and kerosene lamp posts, until our modern age of windfarms and public WiFi, the Jewish community in Wellington has been a permanent establishment, a sentry watching the city develop and progress. Members of the Jewish community participated in every aspect of Wellington’s growth. The first generations oversaw the reclamation from the sea of the downtown area and the quays. Jewish settlers were involved in commerce, trades, building, sport, travel, administration – they contributed to all areas of life in this city. The community outgrew its first building and built a larger synagogue early in the 20th century. The synagogue made way for the motorway in the second half of the 20th century, moving to its current location on Webb Street to enable greater flow of traffic through what has become the main arteries connecting Wellington to the north along the coast to the Manawatu and over the hill into the Wairarapa.

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