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Jewish Parliamentarians

Ever since 1788 when Jews arrived on the first fleet, they integrated and flourished within Australian society. To this day there remains an interesting connection between those Jews who were actively involved within their local community and those who went on to become legislators. Nearly all Jewish legislators, in spite of time, location and the political divide played a significant role within their respective communities and often a foundational role within the Jewish community. They became an indispensable part of Jewish and Australian history and their legacies continue to have an everlasting impact.

Despite numbering less than 1% of the population, Jews have disproportionally contributed to political life at all levels of government for 150 years. The first Jewish legislator was Lionel Samson, a Jewish businessman who was elected to the Parliament of Western Australian in 1849. Lionel Samson & Son, the business which Mr Samson founded, remains Australia’s second oldest continuous family run business.

Since 1849 there have been over 85 Jewish legislators across every state parliament and since federation 23 Jewish legislators have sat in the Commonwealth Parliament with four being elected to the first Parliament. Some Jewish legislators served in both State and Commonwealth Parliaments, just not concurrently.

Notable examples have included: Vaiben Louis Solomon, the only Jewish Premier of South Australia with the electorate of Solomon in the Northern Territory named after him. Sir Isaac Isaacs remained the only person in Australia’s history to be a Minister of the Crown, Chief Justice of the High Court and (the first Australian born) Governor General. The seat of Isaacs in Victoria is named after him. Sydney Einfeld was a prolific Jewish communal leader and politician who served as Deputy Labor Leader in NSW from 1968 to 1973 as well as in Federal Parliament.

Single Page Alpha# Date# State-Federal Title First Name Middle Name Last Name PN Full Name Electorate State Party Term Start Term_yy Term_mm Term_dd Term End Entry1 Entry2 Entry3 Entry4 Entry5 Entry6 Entry7 Term Days Parliamentary Term DOB Birth Place DOD Death Place Political Notes Communal Notes Other Links
wdt_ID Single Page Alpha# Date# State-Federal Title First Name Middle Name Last Name PN Full Name Electorate State Party Term Start Term_yy Term_mm Term_dd Term End Entry1 Entry2 Entry3 Entry4 Entry5 Entry6 Entry7 Term Days Parliamentary Term DOB Birth Place DOD Death Place Political Notes Communal Notes Other Links
1 1 14 State Mr Maurice Alexander MLA ALEXANDER, Mr Maurice MLA Goulburn NSW Independent 13 Jun 1861 1861 6 13 03 Feb 1872 Y 3887 01 Jan 1820 London, England 27 Jan 1874 Goulburn, NSW Board of York Street Synagogue
2 2 154 Federal Senator Mark Victor Arbib ARBIB, Senator Mark Victor NSW NSW Labor 01 Jul 2008 2008 7 1 05 Mar 2012 Y 1343 42nd-43rd 09 Nov 1971 Sydney, NSW 30 Nov -0001
3 3 7 State Mr Morris Asher MLA ASHER, Mr Morris MLA Hume NSW Independent 28 Jun 1859 1859 6 28 10 Nov 1860 Y 501 03 Jun 1818 London, England 29 Oct 1909 Potts Point, NSW
4 4 139 Federal Mr Michael Baume AO MP BAUME, Mr Michael AO MP Macarthur NSW Liberal 13 Dec 1975 1975 12 27 04 Feb 1983 Y 2610 30th-32nd 06 Jul 1930 Sydney, NSW 30 Nov -0001 (2 entries)
5 5 138 Federal Senator the Hon Dr Peter Baume AC BAUME, Senator the Hon Dr Peter AC NSW NSW Liberal 18 May 1974 1974 5 27 28 Jan 1991 Y Y 6099 29th-36th 30 Jan 1935 Sydney, NSW 30 Nov -0001 Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (11/1980-5/1982); Minister for Health (20/4/1982-7/5/1982); Minister for Education (7/5/1982-11/3/1983)
6 6 144 Federal Senator the Hon Michael Baume AO BAUME, Senator the Hon Michael AO NSW NSW Liberal 01 Jul 1985 1985 7 1 09 Sep 1996 Y Y 4088 34th-38th 06 Jul 1930 Sydney, NSW 30 Nov -0001 (2 entries)
7 7 59 State Sir Benjamin Benjamin MLC BENJAMIN, Sir Benjamin MLC Melbourne VIC Independent 01 Oct 1889 1889 10 1 01 Sep 1892 Y 1066 02 Sep 1834 London, England 07 Mar 1905 East Melbourne, VIC Mayor of Melbourne (1887-1889) http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/benjamin-sir-benjamin-2972
8 8 128 Federal The Hon Joseph Max Berinson QC MP BERINSON, The Hon Joseph Max QC MP Perth WA Labor 25 Nov 1969 1969 11 25 11 Nov 1975 Y Y Y Y 2177 27th-29th 07 Jan 1932 Perth, WA 02 Jun 2018 Perth, WA (4 entries) Minister for Environment (14/7/1975 - 11/11/1975) President of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia (2001-2005)
9 9 140 State The Hon Joseph Max Berinson QC MLC BERINSON, The Hon Joseph Max QC MLC North East Metropolitan WA Labor 22 May 1980 1980 5 22 21 May 1983 Y Y Y Y 1094 07 Jan 1932 Perth, WA 02 Jun 2018 Perth, WA (4 entries) Attorney General of WA (1983-1993) President of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia (2001-2005) http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/benjamin-sir-benjamin-2972
10 10 142 State The Hon Joseph Max Berinson QC MLC BERINSON, The Hon Joseph Max QC MLC North Central WA Labor 22 May 1983 1983 5 22 21 May 1989 Y Y Y Y 2191 07 Jan 1932 Perth, WA 02 Jun 2018 Perth, WA (4 entries) Attorney General of WA (1983-1993) President of the Jewish Community Council of Western Australia (2001-2005) http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/benjamin-sir-benjamin-2972
Last updated 21 June 2019
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An interesting observation is that more Jews served as Members of Parliament between 1850 and 1900 than in the proceeding 100 years. They represented mainly rural and regional areas and were mostly politically ‘independent’. Over time, as political parties became established more Jewish legislators identified with centre-right political parties at a state level. However, the opposite was true at a federal level with over half of all legislators affiliated to the Labor Party.

Currently, Josh Fyrdenberg is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and Treasurer making him the first Jewish legislator to hold such office. In the Wentworth by-election of 2018 Kerryn Phelps became the first Jewish female elected to the Commonwealth Parliament. Mike Freedlander, the current member for Macarthur is a descendant from the Jewish convict Abraham Rheuben who founded the Hobart Hebrew Congregation, the oldest Synagogue in Australia. Regrettably, there has only ever been one Jewish female elected to the NSW Parliament and only two from Victoria. There are now more Jews in Federal Parliament than at any other time and former MP Michael Danby being the longest serving with over 20 years in the House.

Jewish legislators have played an integral role both within the running of parliament and in the creating and the shaping of legislation. In 1917, NSW Parliament could not sit on Yom Kippur because both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker were Jewish. This was the only recorded instance in the history of Western Parliaments where this has occurred.

The information provided on Jewish legislators has been compiled by William Nemesh with the assistance of Rebecca Dukes.

2019-10-29T20:47:36+10:00

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