Shabbat service marks outback synagogue’s origins


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — The first Shabbat service in 50 years was held at a synagogue in Australia’s outback.

More than 200 Jews, mainly from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide, converged on Broken Hill Synagogue on the weekend of Nov. 28 to mark the centenary since the laying of the foundation stone in 1910.

The mining town, dubbed "the silver city" and "the capital of the outback," is more than 620 miles west of Sydney near the border with South Australia.

Congregants, most of whom had ties to the town, said the prayer for the State of Israel, the Israel Defense Forces and the Commonwealth of Australia. On Nov. 28, a public celebration began with a traditional smoking ceremony led by a local Aboriginal leader and ended with the blowing of the shofar.

When the synagogue was built, about 150 Jews lived in the mining town. The number peaked at approximately 250 in the 1920s and 1930s.

Following World War II, Australian Jews moved to major cities. The synagogue closed in 1962 but was restored recently by the local historical society.

The last Jew of Broken Hill died in 2005 and was buried in the Jewish section of the community’s cemetery.

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