Plans to list the Goulburn Jewish Cemetery on the State Heritage Register

April 12, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk

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The Heritage Council of NSW called on submissions to consider listing the Goulburn Jewish Cemetery on the State Heritage Register.

Photo of the cottage for caretaker, with a room reserved for Tahara, in 1942

The cemetery is likely to be of state heritage significance as one of only two exclusively Jewish cemeteries in NSW with the other being Maitland Jewish Cemetery.

The Goulburn cemetery is the only one which retains substantial remains of its former caretaker’s cottage which contained a room reserved for Tahara rites, the ritual cleansing and shrouding of the deceased. The well which provided the water for the Tahara cleansing also survives.

At least 30 burials in the cemetery are tangible records of the once-thriving Jewish community of Goulburn, from the pioneering period of the district in the 1840s through to the burial of two German refugees during WWII.

Headstone of Rebecca Moses, (Rivka bat Avraham Aveinu) aka Mary Connolly. The first woman converted to Judaism in Australia, converted by the Dayan of the London Beth Din who visited in 1830 to conduct an aguna gett for the sister in law of a convict. Photo taken in 1942.

In 1830 Aaron Levy, a Dayan (Rabbinic emissary) visited Sydney. While in Sydney he wrote a Ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) for the marriage of John Moses and Mary Connolly aka Rivka bat Avraham Avinu (Rebecca daughter of Abraham our Father) his converted wife.

The Ketubah, which still exists in private hands, is the first inscribed in Australia, for the first Jewish marriage, for the first convertee. It follows the same format in the Aramaic language as Ketubot from two millennia ago. Rebecca Moses is buried in the Goulburn Jewish Cemetery, along with the couple’s two daughters who drowned at Yass in 1844. The girls’ burials initiated the use of this ground as a cemetery.

The burials and the cemetery are associated with families of respected hotel owners, businessmen, industrialists and aldermen of early Goulburn and nearby towns. Research of the burials in the cemetery has revealed family ties to Jews in other towns across NSW and are indicative of the part played by networks of Jews in the establishment and growth of those settlements.

The physical remains of the historic half-acre curtilage, caretaker’s cottage, well and monuments all contribute to the understanding of the continuation of the Jewish faith.

Gary Luke told J-Wire: “I’m the primary trustee of the Goulburn Jewish cemetery. A heritage professional was contracted to prepare the nomination by myself in association with AJHS. I’m also on the cemeteries committee of the National Trust of NSW and was a trustee of the Jewish Cemetery Trust of Rookwood in its last years to 2012.”

Consecration of small headstones for Siegfried Vogel and Hugo Goldgerger, two Holocast refugees who settled in and near Goulburn. Both bied in 1943. Consecration in 1987.

Any members of the community, owners, managers, organisations or other interested parties are invited to make a written submission regarding the proposed listing and significance of the Goulburn Jewish Cemetery. Submissions should be posted or emailed to the Heritage Council of NSW at the following address during the public submission period commencing on 7 April 2021 and closing on 21 April 2021:

Heritage Council of NSW, Locked Bag 5020,  PARRAMATTA NSW 2124


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