Jewish Deaths in Sydney and Newcastle pre 1820

Rebecca DAVIDSON, Convict, Lady Penrhyn 1788 died 12 February 1805 Sydney, buried as Rebecca PRICE 13 February 1805 Old Sydney Burial Ground. He short death notice appeared in the Sydney Gazette 17 February 1805 as “wife of Thomas Pryor”.

SAMUELS, Joseph. Sent for execution Sept 1803
Joseph Samuels had pleaded guilty to breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Mary Breeze, at Sydney, on the 25 Aug 1803, and stealing there from a writing desk, in which were contained 50 Dollars, 3 guineas, 2 Pieces of Gold Coin and sundry articles etc., etc. he most The day sent for the execution is the solemn day of the Jewish year – Yom Kippur (Day of Attonement). It is the first record of Hebrew prayers being chanted in public in Australia. Constable Joseph Luker was assassinated, whilst trying to recover the desk. Joseph Samuels who arrived in NSW as a convict aboard the Canada in 1801, drowned Newcastle 1 Apr 1806, while escaping with seven others.

Mann, David Dickenson. The present picture of New South Wales 1811, J. Booth, London 1811. pp. 7 – 8

In the month of September, Joseph Samuels, who had been convicted of a burglary, was three times suspended: the rope first broke, in a very singular manner, in the middle, and the suffering criminal fell prostrate on the ground; on the second attempt, the cord unrove at the fastening, and he again came to the ground; a third trial was attended with no better success, for at the moment when he was launched off, the cord again snapped in twain. Thomas Smyth, esq. the provost-marshal, taking compassion on his protracted sufferings, stayed the further progress of the execution, and rode immediately to the governor, to whom he feelingly represented these extraordinary circumstances, and his excellency was pleased to extend his majesty’s mercy. Samuels was afterwards transported to another settlement, in consequence of his continuance in his dishonest career, and has subsequently lost his life on the coast, in making an attempt to escape from the colony.

Sydney Gazette, 2 October 1803

At half past nine on Monday morning (26 Sept 1803), the New South Wales Corps got under Arms, and proceeded to the place of execution, to which Joseph Samuels and James Hardwicke were brought, in pursuance of the sentence passed upon them on the preceeding Friday.Both prisoners conducted themselves with becoming decency; and when the Reverend Mr. Marsden had performed the duties of his function, and quitted Hardwicke, he turned to Samuels (who being a Jew, was prepared by a person of his own profession) and questioning him on the subject of the murder of Luker, he solemnly declared, that during the interval of his confinement in the cell with Isaac Simmonds, nicknamed Hikey Bull, they in the Hebrew tongue exchanged an oath, by which they bound themselves in secrecy and silence in whatever they might then disclose. ….. Read full article

MARKS, Solomon. Buried 17 Oct 1817 Old Sydney Burial Ground

Report of the Committee of the York Street (Sydney) Synagogue, 1845, reprinted by Australian Jewish Historical Society, 1944, p.7.

… it appears that in 1817 there were 20 Hebrews in the Colony, but little versed in the faith of their ancestors; however they formed themselves into a Society and raised a subscription for the internment of their dead, and in that year the first Hebrew funeral took place, the body was buried in the General Burial Ground in George St, near the Police Office.

Fowles, Joseph. Sydney in 1848, J Fowles, Sydney, 1848, pp. 64 – 65

The records of the early period of the Hebrew religion in this Colony, are not very authentic, but from enquiries made, it appears that in 1817, there were about twenty Hebrews in the Colony, and those little versed in the faith of their ancestors: notwithstanding this they formed themselves into a Society, and raised a subscription for the interment of their dead. At this period the first Hebrew funeral took place. From 1817 to 1820 the Society continue in operation, meeting occasionally to regulate financial affairs. In 1820, a person named Joel Joseph died, and on the application of Mr. A. Levi to the Rev. Dr. Cowper, the right-hand corner of the Christian Burial Ground was allotted to the Hebrews for the interment of their dead.

From the year 1820 to 1828 the Society became extinct, and no attempt was made to revive it except when a death occurred, which did not happen above five times during that period. The worldly condition of the Hebrews in the Colony improved considerably in 1827 and 1828, in consequence of the great influx of respectable merchants during that period, and this with other circumstances had raised the Hebrews in the estimation of their fellow colonists.

Australian Jewish Historical Society: The more recent histories have called the 1817 gathering a Chevra Kadisha but the earlier ones called it a burial society. They arrange all the needs between death and burial.

Cite this article as: Cathy Dunn, 'Jewish Deaths in Sydney and Newcastle pre 1820', Australian History Research,, accessed [insert current date]
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