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British dominion comprising two large and many small islands in the Pacific Ocean southeast of Australia. New Zealand has about 5,200 Jews in a total population of 4 million.

A few adventurous Jews settled in New Zealand a few years before British rule was established in 1840. The first group arrived with the first transports of immigrants from England. In 1843, they founded the dominion’s first Jewish community at Wellington. A second community was established at Auckland in 1859 and a third at Dunedin in 1862.

The New Zealand Jewish community remained one of the smallest in the world until the discovery of gold in the Otago district in 1861 increased the settlement more than tenfold. While there were 65 Jews in the country in 1851, 1,247 arrived in 1867 alone. Later growth of the community was restricted by the dominion’s severe immigration policies.

The early settlers braved the backland wilds to trade with the aborigines. Others went into dairy and sheep farming or sought to exploit the gold fields. At present, however, close to 90% earn their living in commerce and industry, 9% in the professions, and 2% in agriculture.

Both Auckland and Wellington house two synagogues, while Dunedin and Christchurch each have one. The community is prosperous and has made considerable contributions to Israel.

From the beginning Jews played an important role in New Zealand’s political and cultural life. Sir Julius Vogel served as prime minister from 1873 to 1876, then as New Zealand’s general agent in London. Sir Michael Myers served as Chief Justice. Jews have filled a number of cabinet and administrative posts in government and have served in the Legislative Council.

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