Friday, February 27, 2009

Brisbane Synagogue

I worked in the city for nearly 40 years, and didn't even know that this building existed until just a couple of years ago. The building is situated at the top of Margaret St, just down from George St. I can only assume that I must have passed it many, many times, usually in a car, but evidently didn't notice it enough to understand what it was. The building was erected in 1885 and consecrated as a Jewish synagogue in 1886. The following picture is dated 1906.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #145942)

For those interested in the architectural detail, there is a good deal of information here, at the Queensland Government Cultural Heritage (CHIMS) site. I am pleased that we have managed to retain such an old temple in the CBD, and that it is still active. On the CHIMS site, I learned that the synagogue was substantially renovated around the time of the celebration of the centenary of Jewish life in Brisbane - there were Jews here as far back as the separation from NSW. Here is the synagogue now, surrounded by the type of building that is more typical of the modern Brisbane CBD.
(Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

I am certain that there have been prominent Brisbane citizens who were Jewish, just as there would have been prominent Muslims, Catholics, Protestants and atheists. However, I don't propose to list any because I have a general objection to that kind of labelling. I am far more interested in knowing that the history of the city was enriched by these differing cultural backgrounds, even back in the nineteenth century. For those who might be interested in learning a little more about Jewish life in Queensland, I recommend a browse of this site published by Jewish Queensland.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Coppertop


  1. Thank you tff for letting us in on that little gem. I didn't have a clue that we had a synagogue ws tucked away in the city. How could I not know that? I will seek it out next time I am in the cbd (which could be a while!)

  2. Spouse and I visited the synagogue and loved it. I don't suppose that vaguely Byzantine style is unusual in synagogue architecture around the world, but I bet the turrets, cupolas, arches and columns surprised the good burghers of Brisbane a bit, in 1886 :)

    Compare the Brisbane St building with the Great Synagogue in Sydney which was more gothic, but with Byzantine elements anyhow:

    great stuff

  3. I am trying to find information about a Jewish ancestor, a dentist named Joseph Cohen, who lived in Brisbane around 1907. I wonder if anybody can direct me to where I might find something.

    Diane Philipson


  4. I'm trying to find information and photos of my Jewish ancestors too - particularly my great grandfather Lyons Morwitch and his brother Henry Morwitch. They lived in Brisbane in the late 1800's and Henry had the large store called "Morwitch's Minories" on the corner of Queen Street and Edward Street. The building which extended from next to the Oxford (later Grand Central) Hotel to the Edward Street portion of Tattersall's Club consisted of 26 shops, 35 offices as well as a Grand Cellar. I would be very grateful if anyone can help or has a suggestion where I could look.
    Love this site!
    Thank you.


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