A slice of Jewish life in Wellington, captured in new exhibition

Michael Clements, president of the New Zealand Jewish Archives,  with a book of prayers for the Day of Atonement, ...
LUCY SWINNEN/ STUFF

Michael Clements, president of the New Zealand Jewish Archives, with a book of prayers for the Day of Atonement, printed 1900, Vienna.

Every 10 years or so, Michael Clements decides to gather up all the Jewish memorabilia he has collected from his travels around New Zealand and put it on display.

It is not just the objects themselves that excite the President of New Zealand Jewish Archives, but their history.

Clements describes himself as an "avid collector of Judaica''  who makes sure to stop by every cemetery and museum in any Kiwi town he visits, to find records of early Jewish life.

A Passover dish from Israel, part of the Jewish life in Wellington 1840-2017 exhibition that will be held at the ...
LUCY SWINNEN/ STUFF

A Passover dish from Israel, part of the Jewish life in Wellington 1840-2017 exhibition that will be held at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre.

 "I could probably fill three halls with what we've got." 

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Last year the Wellington Jewish Community had their first torah finished in Wellington. Scribe Azriel Glick writes the ...
RACHEL THOMAS/ STUFF

Last year the Wellington Jewish Community had their first torah finished in Wellington. Scribe Azriel Glick writes the final words for the Martin Chait Torah on parchment.

The  memorabilia includes Hanukkah candelabras, ark curtains, religious books brought in by  Jewish migrants in the 1800s and photos and correspondence from the nascent Jewish community in Wellington.

Just some of what Clements has collected over the years will go on display at the Wellington Jewish Community Centre as part of the Jewish Life in Wellington 1840-2017 on Sunday.  

"Whenever I've gone around New Zealand with my wife, I've visited museums, I've visited the cemeteries and collected things," Clements said.

He photographs all the Jewish gravestones he finds in remote Kiwi towns, to add to the recorded history in the country.

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The exhibition is a chance for people to get a glimpse into the history of Jewish Wellington, and learn about the intricacies of Jewish life, he said.

There are images and documents from Wellington's first Synagogue which opened on The Terrace in 1870  and an early founder of the community, Abraham Hort​.

It  also captures Jewish rituals and festivals, so people can learn about the intricacies of Jewish life.

Two tables will be laid, with a service for the sabbath and a service for passover.

But there will be broader lessons as well, as there is still a lot for people to learn about the small Jewish community in the city, Clements said.

"That's one thing I need to do, is make a note for people about 'what a Jew is'." 

Clements is still on the hunt for more memorabilia.

So far it has been hard to find any records from the Jewish community in Wellington before 1876.

"If anyone has it contact me." 

  • Jewish Life in Wellington 1840 to 2017:  Jewish Community Centre, Webb St, Jul 9 - 16,  10 am until 6 pm. Late nights 11 and 13 until 8 pm. Cost: $3.00  Families $5.00. Contact: nzjewisharchives@ihug.co.nz

 - Stuff

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