Jewish lives in New Zealand
The immense impact Jewish people have had in New Zealand has been encapsulated in a new book.
Jewish Lives in New Zealand, Random House, is co-edited by Dr Leonard Bell of the University of Auckland Art History Department, and Dr Diana Morrow, a professional historian.
Jewish Lives in New Zealand is a compelling look at the disproportionately profound impact Jewish people have had in New Zealand since the 1840s, when just 20 citizens were registered as being Jewish. Today, the total number is probably more than 20,000.
The roll call for New Zealanders of Jewish decent is impressive - John Barnett, Vincent Ward, Marti Friedlander, Sir Peter Gluckman, Dove-Myer Robinson, John Goldwater, Frank Hofmann, and, stretching right back into New Zealand’s history, eminent founding families such as the Myers, Nathans, Fishers, Paykels and Hallensteins. They are people who have given — and continue to give — so much to New Zealand society, across many fields of endeavour: politics, business, academia, journalism, medicine, science, arts and culture.
“Reading through the book, it’s hard not to be taken by the fact that Jews collectively have generally punched well above their weight and have been high achievers in whatever activity they’re involved in,” says Dr Bell.
“The links and connections that emerge of the multiple involvements of people with Jewish descent both individually and cumulatively, cutting across the generations, is really intriguing, especially in music and the visual arts ― in ways that may not be immediately obvious.
“Something that runs deep through Jewish history is the primary emphasis placed on education and high culture ― regarded as prime values of being human. Jews believe that scholarship, learning and the arts are just as important as any other aspect of life. They are not things that are elitist or to be enjoyed exclusively by the affluent.
“ Above all,” Bell continues, “we get a sense from the book that, by and large, Jewish culture here is one of religious, ideological and cultural tolerance, and that it is this that enabled both the early immigrants and the future generations to be embraced by, and flourish in, this ‘New World’ in the South Pacific.”
Made possible with the warm support from Gerrard and Marti Friedlander and the Friedlander Trust, Jewish Lives in New Zealand slots another important piece into the jigsaw of our history.
Find out more about Dr Leonard Bell
Find out more about the Department of Art History