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Organized Jewish life in Australia began in 1828, when Jews in Sydney formed a congregation. At that time, the Jewish population numbered 300. As the colonization and settlement of Australia continued, Jewish settlement proceeded apace, and soon there were organized congregations in the principal cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and Perth in western Australia. Most of the early Jewish immigrants came directly from England. Jewish immigration to Australia was spurred by the activities of the Montefiore, Levi, and Lazarus families, influential British Jews active in the economic development of the British dominion. Later, Australia was a haven for refugees fleeing Nazi tyranny, absorbing more Jewish immigrants in proportion to its pre-1938 Jewish population than any country except Israel. Since then, Australia has seen several influxes of Jews, such as from Egypt, following the political crisis in 1956 (see Israel), and from Iraq, in 1969. The next large immigrant group, Jewish people from the former Soviet Union, began arriving in the 1990s. Melbourne alone has a population of approximately 25,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union. Today, there are about 100,000 Jews in Australia, most of whom live in six major cities, with 50,000 in Sydney and 45,000 Melbourne. Organized in 1944, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry represents the entire Jewish community, serving as its mouthpiece on civil rights, welfare, and community status. Recent years have seen a reawakening of religious life, as well as increased interest in Jewish education. The Zionist movement is active and well organized, with close links among the various Zionist councils and local education boards of the Jewish schools. A number of Jews have played an active part in Australian life, including Sir Isaac Isaacs, the first Australian-born Governor General, and Sir John Monash, who commanded the Australian Expeditionary Force in World War I. Three Jewish weeklies in English and two in Yiddish are published in Australia, in addition to numerous monthlies and organizational publications.

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