The History of the Jews in New Zealand
Chapter VII — The First Jewish Immigrants
The First Jewish Immigrants
The outcome of the investigation of the Select Committee of the House of Lords was a masterpiece of evasion. It resolved: "That it appears to this Committee, that the Extension of the Colonial Possessions of the Crown is a Question of public Policy which belongs to the Decision of Her Majesty's Government; but that it appears to this Committee, that Support, in whatever Way it may be deemed most expedient to afford it, of the Exertions which have already beneficially effected the rapid Advancement of the religious and social Conditions of the Aborigines of New Zealand, affords the best present Hopes of then-future Progress in Civilization."
Both the ministerial chief of the Colonial Office, Lord Glenelg, and the permanent head of the Department, as ardent officials of the Church Missionary Society, fiercely opposed annexation. As deeply religious men, they passionately believed in the protection of the aborigines and in the principle of granting self-government to colonists. The inhabitants of the Bay of Islands could not be designated as the type into whose hands government could be placed. When the New Zealand Association, in June, 1838, succeeded, through the efforts of its eleven directors in Parliament, in having passed by seventy-four votes to thirty-three the first reading of a Bill for founding a British Colony in New Zealand, the opposition mustered its formidable forces and threw the Bill out on the second reading by a majority of 60.
Within a short space of time the opposition reluctantly changed its mind completely. An increasing white population around the Bay of Islands and in the Cook Strait area, together with the formation of a vigilance committee at Kororareka, influenced the missionaries to accept the idea of British annexation. Both the Rev. Samuel Marsden and his colleague, the Rev. Henry Williams, realized that such a step would be in the best interests of the natives. At Kororareka, the vigilance committee had tarred an offender and "feathered" him with raupo flowers. It used an old sea-chest as a prison house.
Further fears of French colonization also forced the hands of the British Government. Bishop Pompallier, a French Roman Catholic, had arrived at the Bay of Islands, and the English missionaries suspected him of having page 48 designs upon the country. In addition a French whaler had bought Banks Peninsula from the natives for 1000 francs. As a result, a colonization company, in which King Louis Philippe had shares, had been formed and a vessel named the Comte de Paris was about to leave France with emigrants for Akaroa.
Whilst the British Government dallied, Edward Gibbon Wakefield exerted himself. He connived at a plan for fulfilling his colonization scheme whether the Government agreed to it or not. Watering down his original plan of establishing a company with a capital of £400,000, he created the New Zealand Land Company (afterwards known as the New Zealand Company) as a joint-stock association with a capital of £100,000 in £25 shares. A number of Jews bought stock. Seeking moneyed and influential men from all sections of the community, Wakefield induced Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid to invest in the Company and to become a director.
Goldsmid had won renown in the English Jewish communities and beyond. Besides being a partner in the firm of Mocatta and Goldsmid, bullion brokers to the Bank of England and the East India Company, he made himself familiar with the leading questions of political science. His early speculations on the Stock Exchange were unfortunate. On one occasion he lost £16,000 in a single transaction, but by subsequently contenting himself as a jobber and financier, he ultimately amassed a fortune. He was one of the founders of the London Docks and one of the chief agents in the establishment of University College, London, purchasing the site of the university at his own risk. He received the reward of a baronetcy, thus becoming the first Jewish baronet in England. The main effort of his life was made in the cause of Jewish emancipation, he being the first English Jew to take up the question. Soon after the removal of civil disabilities from the Roman Catholics in 1829, he enlisted the advocacy of leading Whig statesmen and induced Robert Grant to introduce into the House of Commons a similar measure for the Jews. Taking little heed of his ordinary business, he devoted himself almost exclusively to the advancement of this cause. He also interested himself in the alleviation of the poverty-stricken Jews of London and advocated their emigration to other parts of the British Empire. Probably, he had this in mind when he accepted the directorship in the New Zealand Company.
David Nathan who, at Kororareka in 1841, married Rosetta Aarons in the first Jewish marriage ceremony held in New Zealand. The Nathan family have ever since held a prominent place in public and mercantile affairs in New Zealand.
Sir Julius Vogel (1835-1899), whose economic genius, organizing powers and daring and vigorous Public Works policy of the 1870's speeded up the development of New Zealand. He was twice Premier, and his name ranks high in the history of the Dominion.
Rabbi Jacob Levi Saphir, on a visit from Melbourne in 1862, disembarked in Dunedin on a Friday. The feast of Purim fell on Saturday and this able scholar, working without pause, wrote the scroll of Esther in time for Purim night service.
Hokitika in 1867, two years after the West Coast gold-rush started. Marks and Fuerst's tobacconist store, right.
The sailing of the Tory brought a definite decision from the Government, which issued a proclamation by which the boundaries of New South Wales were extended to include as much of New Zealand as could be acquired from the Maoris. It appointed Captain Hobson as Lieutenant-Governor with orders to proceed immediately to the Bay of Islands. With little ado, the Company, though aware that the Tory had not arrived in New Zealand and no land had yet been purchased, energetically advertised the attractions offered by the brave new world. It placarded London with inducements to working men to go to New Zealand. It offered land at £1 an acre, and later, for £100, the right to take up 100 acres of country and one acre of town land. Men and women of high position supported the movement. One thousand persons subscribed a total of £ 100,000 and they went, on 29 July, 1839, to the auction rooms in London in order to draw lots of priority to select sections in the town planned in New Zealand, even the location of which the Company did not yet know. Since no stipulation had been made in the advertisement that buyers must emigrate, speculation in lots immediately took place amongst the cream of London society which came to participate in the lottery and to speculate and gamble. The ladies appeared to be the most daring of the speculators. A number of Jews bought sections: Lots 145 and 186 fell to Solomon Jacob Waley, Lot 208 to Abraham Hort, Lot 223 to Samuel Levy Basserman, Lot 299 to A. Joseph, Lot 653 to Joseph Barrow Montefiore and Lot 773 to J. Montefiore.
Six weeks after the sale of lots of unplotted land, the New Zealand Company sent a fleet of ships of about 500 tons each into the unknown. On board, about seven hundred men and women, imbued with courage and enterprise, prepared for the long voyage. Discipline was good. Mechanics and craftsmen, agricultural labourers and domestic servants, who had been granted free passages, had been so carefully selected that the Company inquired into the character not only of the applicants but also of their sponsors. The gentry, some of whom had bought sections by lot, occupied the best cabins under the poop. Three Jews sailed with the fleet, all of them on the barque Oriental of 506 tons which set sail from London on 15 September, 1839. Abraham Hort, jun., a single young man about twenty years of age, occupied an upper cabin, whilst the brothers Benjamin and Solomon Levy, engaged to him as carpenter - an occupation taught to them at the Jewish orphanage called the Jewish Hospital, occupied humbler berths in the emigrants' quarters. Hort's father, Abraham Hort, sen., had won a reputation page 50 as a philanthropist amongst London Jewry. He was an intimate friend of Sir Isaac Lyon Goldsmid. By sending out his son to New Zealand, he hoped not only to expand his own commercial interests, but also, in a practical manner, to assist the poorer Jews of London.
About the same time as the New Zealand Company's fleet sailed from London and Gravesend, William Wakefield on the Tory arrived at Queen Charlotte Sound and, after wandering around Cook Strait on land-purchasing expeditions, took formal possession of Port Nicholson in the name of the Company. He reported that for goods valued at less than £-9000 he had purchased an area larger than Ireland embracing localities where the Company's settlements at Wellington, Nelson and New Plymouth were subsequently established.
Between 22 January and 28 February, 1840, the first four ships of the New Zealand Company arrived at Port Nicholson, the Oriental landing its passengers at Pito-one, later called Britannia by the settlers, on 31 January, 1840. In spite of his youth, Abraham Hort, jun., immediately took a prominent part in the affairs of the new settlement, and the second number of the New Zealand Gazette, published in Britannia on 1 April, 1840, announced that he had been elected to fill the vacancy on the Committee of Colonists through the retirement of Captain Smith. When the settlement moved over to Wellington, he took over the acre section, now mapped and planned and situated in Cambridge Terrace, which his father had bought in London. Of the others who had bought acre plots in London, S. J. Waley had his sections allotted in Ingestre (now Vivian) and Taranaki Streets, S. L. Basserman in Courtenay Place, A. Joseph in Brougham Street, J. B. Montefiore in Tinakori Road and J. Montefiore in Mein Street. Wellington's gusty winds nearly made an end of Hort's New Zealand venture. Keen on rowing, sailing and participating in regattas, he one day sailed a whaleboat close in by the Thorndon beach. A tempestuous blast upset the boat, and only good fortune helped his rescuers drag him ashore safe and sound.