East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation

The East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation (Hebrew: ק"ק מקוה ישראל, romanizedMickva Yisrael), also known as East Melbourne Shule, East Melbourne Synagogue, Melbourne City Synagogue or City of Melbourne Synagogue[3] is a historically significant Jewish congregation in East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The synagogue, consecrated in 1877, is the oldest in Melbourne.

East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation
(East Melbourne Shule / East Melbourne Synagogue / Melbourne City Synagogue / City of Melbourne Synagogue)
Hebrew: ק"ק מקוה ישראל, romanizedMickva Yisrael
AffiliationOrthodox Judaism
LeadershipRabbi Dovid Gutnick
Year consecrated1877 (1877)[1]
Location494-500 Albert Street, East Melbourne, Victoria
Country Australia
East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation is located in Melbourne
East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation
Location in Melbourne
Geographic coordinates37°48′33″S 144°58′27″E / 37.80926°S 144.97415°E / -37.80926; 144.97415
Architect(s)Crouch & Wilson[2]
StyleRenaissance Revival
Groundbreaking20 March 1877
Completed1877; 147 years ago (1877)
Construction cost7,000
Direction of façadeSouth
Capacity470 worshippers
Length22.2 metres (73 ft)
Width12.8 metres (42 ft)
Height (max)9.4 metres (31 ft)
Official name: East Melbourne Synagogue
TypeState heritage (built)
Designated4 November 1991
Reference no.353



The congregation was formed in 1857[4] under the leadership of Reverend Moses Rintel following his leave from the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation.[5] Initially named Mikveh Israel Melbourne Synagogue,[6] it was provided with a government land grant in 1859 on the corner of Little Lonsdale Street and Stephen Street (today Exhibition Street) in Melbourne's City Centre.[5][7] A small synagogue was erected on the site in 1860.[1] The congregation consisted primarily of Rintel's followers, including German[2] and Eastern-European[8] Jews who lived in Melbourne's inner-city suburbs within walking distance of the synagogue.

Seeking new premises, the congregation received government permission to sell its property in 1870. It moved to a new site on Albert Street, East Melbourne, where a new synagogue building was consecrated in 1877.[6] Rintel served the congregation until his death in 1880.[5]

Notable members of the congregation included Sir Isaac Isaacs[9] and Sir John Monash. Monash celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the synagogue and also sang in its choir.[10]

In March 1977 the synagogue's centenary was celebrated with a special service led by Rabbi M. Honig.[11]



Continuously in use since 1877, the East Melbourne Synagogue is the oldest in Melbourne[6] and the largest 19th-century synagogue in Victoria. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register[2] and is classified by the National Trust of Australia[12] due to its historical, social, and architectural significance.[2]

The two-storeyed synagogue was designed by noted Melbourne architects Crouch & Wilson. The internal space is surrounded on three sides by a gallery carried by cast iron columns, each surmounted by an unusual arrangement of an impost block flanked by consoles. The main ceiling is paneled, with a row of large and unusual ventilators marking the location of former suspended gas lights. The original interior, particularly the bimah and Torah ark, remain in an intact state.

The building's facade, constructed in the style of Renaissance Revival, was completed in 1883. It comprises five bays. Tuscan pilasters divide the bays of the lower floor, and Corinthian pilasters divide the upper floor bays. Two dome-like mansard roofs flank the central pediment.[2][12]



Led by Rabbi Dovid Gutnick since November 2007,[13] the congregation has a current membership of around 200 families.[14] It is currently the only synagogue in Melbourne's inner-city area.[7]

In January 2012, the congregation celebrated its 155th anniversary with a double Torah dedication ceremony and fundraising gala dinner attended by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (later Baron Sacks), Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.[15][16]

See also



  1. ^ a b Brodzky, M.; Jacobson, D.; Rintel, M. (1877). Historical Sketch of the Two Melbourne Synagogues ... Together with Sermons Preached. A. & W. Bruce. p. 47. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "East Melbourne Synagogue". Victorian Heritage Database. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  3. ^ "East Melbourne Synagogue". Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  4. ^ "Timeline for Australian Jewish History from 1788". Jewish History Australia. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Rintel, Moses (1823–1880)". Biography - Moses Rintel. Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Rutland, S. D. (2005). The Jews in Australia. Cambridge University Press. pp. 23–24. ISBN 9781139447164. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Melbourne City Synagogue". Only Melbourne. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  8. ^ Jupp, J. (2001). The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins. Cambridge University Press. p. 528. ISBN 9780521807890. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  9. ^ "$500,000 for East Melbourne shule". ajn.timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  10. ^ Serle, Geoffrey. "Monash, Sir John (1865–1931)". Cultural Advice. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 3 May 2021. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  11. ^ "Centenary for a synagogue". The Age. 21 March 1977. p. 12. Retrieved 19 July 2015 – via Google News.
  12. ^ a b "Home". nattrust.com.au. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  13. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 February 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ "Sharing a new shule of thought". The Age. 25 December 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  15. ^ "Historic day for Jewish Australia". The Age. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  16. ^ "Chief Rabbi in Melbourne – the video". J-Wire. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2015.

Further reading

  • Morris C. Davis, History of the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation "Mickva Yisrael", 1857–1977, East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation, 1977 ISBN 0-9596899-0-7, 978-0-9596899-0-7
  • Maurice Brodzky. Dattner Jacobson and Moses Rintel, Historical Sketch of the Two Melbourne Synagogues Together with Sermons Preached, 1877, Kessinger Publishing LLC, 2009 ISBN 1-104-17771-4