Saturday, 20 March 2010
Hort Lawn Cemetery
I have always had a fascination with cemeteries. The famous Zentral Friedhof in Vienna was a favourite outing for me when I lived in Austria. It was filled with the “great and the good” and musically famous. It was the peace of the place, the fabulous trees and birdlife that drew me there, not to mention the prospect of an imagination run riot as I read the names on the memorials. Who were these folk? What were their lives like?
Today, my husband and I went for a long walk, part of which was a stroll through Wellington’s original cemetery (which closed in 1892). There is a section that was consecrated for Jewish burial, and 44 graves and memorials are still there.
To quote from a sign at the entrance to Hort Lawn, the Jewish Cemetery;
“In the 1840s many London Jews were struggling and the younger ones headed overseas to seek opportunities as merchants. In New Zealand they were allowed to establish businesses and buy land. The New Zealand Company settlement scheme offered new prospects, and by 1848 there were 61 Jews in NZ (28 of which were in Wellington). A number of prominent Jewish colonial families are represented here including Nathan, Cohen, Philips, Levy and Levin.”
Two of the Jewish graves are noted in the small leaflet that gives a history of the cemetery
“Lipman Levy d. 1880 – In addition to importing boots, Lipman was one of the earliest members of the Wellington Philosophical Society. He was also involved in Wellington’s gold rush of the 1860s, opening a mine at south Makara. Lipman Street and Levy Street on Mt Victoria mark the site of his large house and garden”
“Benjamin Aaron Selig – When Selig was appointed Reader and Shohet (ritual slaughterer for kosher meat) in 1862, the Jewish community numbered fewer than 50 – not enough for him to make a living, so he took up watchmaking, which soon crowded out his religious duties”
I was saddened at the poor condition of many of the graves, Selig’s looked like it may have opened during an earthquake, it was so badly damaged.
So for your interest, stroll with me through a graveyard, divided in two (the main orbital motorway drives right through it).