No Rabbi, No Standards. "Australian Genesis: Jewish Convicts and Settlers, 1788-1860", by John S. Levi and G.F.J. Bergman. [review]
Jews formed a continuous presence in the Australian colonies from the outset of European settlement. Of the 759 convicts on the First Fleet, thirteen, possibly fourteen, were Jews. Levi asserts that Australia became ‘the only community of European people in which Jews were present from the moment of its establishment’. By 1838, 400 Jewish convicts had been transported, with another 300 arriving over the next fifteen years. The substantial increase in free migration saw the Jewish population reach 1900 late in 1851 and increase almost threefold during the gold rushes. Readers of this book will learn much of the minutiae of individual lives. Not infrequently, the accumulation of detail assumes epic proportions, but Levi is an accomplished stylist and rarely loses the reader’s attention. The publisher’s claim that the book ‘reads like a thriller’ is no overstatement. This handsomely designed edition, incorporating eighteen pages of colour plates and ninety-two text illustrations, creditably serves this labour of love.