About the Ballarat Synagogue


The Ballarat Synagogue is closely connected with the history and growth of Ballarat. Gold was found in Ballarat in 1851 and lured young men of the Jewish faith from around the world to “golden Ballarat”.

The new citizens involved themselves in the business, professional and public life of the young town. Many became prominent and esteemed citizens in civic affairs serving as councillors and mayors of Ballarat East and the City of Ballarat, and played a prominent role in moulding the history of Australia.

The present synagogue, the oldest on the mainland of Australia, is undoubtedly the most historic, and one of the most precious buildings associated with Australian Jewry.

In 1853, the first High Holy day services were conducted in the large dining room of the Clarendon Hotel, Lydiard Street South, Ballarat.

In 1854 came the “Affair of Eureka” and Charles Dyte, a leading member of the community and later MLA for Ballarat, took a prominent part with Peter Lalor in obtaining justice for the miners.

The first synagogue in Ballarat was consecrated on 12 November 1855 on a site in Barkly Street, just down the hill from where the Synagogue is today.

The Ballarat Hebrew Congregation (BHC) was established in 1856. The foundation stone of the current Synagogue building was laid by Dyte on 25 January 1861 (when he was president of the Ballarat Hebrew Congregation) and the Ballarat Synagogue was consecrated on 17 March 1861.


Over time the Synagogue has been a hive of activity. It served as a place of worship for Jewish soldiers in both world wars and has continued to hold services throughout the decades. Similarly, over time, significant maintenance projects have been undertaken to preserve this magnificent building, which was heritage listed by the National Trust in 1975 as a historic building of significance that must be conserved for future generations. The last restoration works were undertaken in 2011 for the celebration of the Synagogue’s 150th anniversary.

While the Ballarat Synagogue’s listing by the National Trust of Australia gives us no monetary help, it recognises the importance of this sacred edifice and the part played by pioneers of the congregation in Ballarat’s history.


Part of the rich history of the Ballarat Hebrew Congregation is the story of its many officer bearers, particularly Rabbi Zalel Mandelbaum (left, with his wife, Freda) in the early to mid-20th century.

Read more about Rabbi Mandelbaum in this address given by Rabbi Raymond Apple to the Australian Jewish Historical Society in November 2015. This was published on OzTorah.

Formula for Survival book

Book cover: Formula for Survival: The Saga of the Ballarat Hebrew Congregation by Newman Rosenthal

If you would like to buy the book Formula for Survival: The Saga of the Ballarat Hebrew Congregation by Newman Rosenthal, please contact us to make an order.