From Chains to Honours

From Chains to Honours

The First 200 Years of an Australian Jewish Family (2021)

By: Michael Cohen

When brothers Judah and Joseph Solomon arrived in Hobart Town as chained convicts in February 1820, it is unlikely either one imagined that their families would become established in this strange land so far from home. They had been transported for committing a serious crime, but through hard work and intelligence, they overcame the stain of conviction to become prosperous and respected merchants. In due course, their children migrated as free settlers.

Over many years, and utilising work done by other family historians, Michael Cohen OAM has worked to produce this two-hundred-year chronicle of his family. As the populations of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania grew with the continuous arrival of free settlers, Jews amongst them, Jewish communities formed and organised the provision of communal services, Michael’s forbears were in the forefront of this development, beginning with Judah Solomon. In 1930, when Michael was born, the local Jewish community was in serious decline, although Michael’s family were still communal leaders. The Australian Jewish community was saved from an ignominious end by the arrival in the 1950s and 1960s of Holocaust survivors who have totally revitalised the community and attracted further migration. Michael’s own family reflects this change and is already working to record the next two hundred years.