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Fremantle already had a large population of Jewish people. In August 1887, they had formed a congregation when High Street shopkeeper Benjamin Solomon convened a meeting in a room above his store. Future Fremantle Mayor Lawrence Alexander was elected its president. A year later, their numbers were still increasing and they began raising funds to build a synagogue. In April 1891, they formally constituted the Western Australian Hebrew Congregation and in August they were granted lot 1366, a half-acre behind Scots Church, on which to build a synagogue. Unfortunately, this block intruded into Fremantle Oval—pinching in the north-west corner—after the creation of the oval from the old Barrack Field. In September 1895, trustees Michael Samson and Elias Solomon negotiated a land swap that gained the Hebrew Congregation the block on the corner of Norfolk Street and South Terrace. This included the old pensioner barracks guardhouse, and this structure became the Fremantle synagogue.
It was used rarely, however. When the Jewish man Jacob Lion arrived from London to open an 'eating, boarding and lodging house' in High Street, he was disappointed at what he found. Addressing a meeting at the synagogue in February 1897, Lion deplored the state of the congregation and exhorted them to 'attend their place of worship more regularly' and to 'eat meat killed according to Jewish law, keep their burial ground in repair and attend synagogue on the anniversary of the death of their parents'—comments suggesting that these attributes of Jewish custom were not then commonly being adhered to in Fremantle. In April 1897, Fremantle's Jewish population hosted a visit from Rabbi David Freedman from the larger Perth congregation, and in June, Lion conducted a service to celebrate Queen Victoria's record reign (with 'God Save the Queen' sung in both Hebrew and English). Two years later Lion and his family left the colony after he was fined one shilling by magistrate Robert Fairbairn for selling a packet of cigarettes on a Sunday. Errington 2016: 155-6.

References and Links

See also: Jewish Fremantle, Synagogue.

Errington, Steve 2016, 'Places of worship in Fremantle, 1829 to 1900', Studies in Western Australian History, 31: 145-158.

Strong, Rowan 2012, 'Religious lives in Fremantle', in Paul Arthur Longley & Geoffrey Bolton, Voices from the West End: Stories, People and Events that Shaped Fremantle, WA Museum: 64-85.

Garry Gillard | New: 8 March, 2018 | Now: 18 April, 2022