MEMBERS of an unbroken Jewish family chain of up to seven generations met in Sydney late last month for a four-day extended family party to celebrate 200 years since their common ancestor, Mordecai Solomon, arrived in Sydney Harbour as a young, illiterate British free settler.
The party, organised by cousins Geoff Solomon, John Shrimski and Adrian Paul – all great-great-grandsons of Mordecai – took two years of planning, and the result amazed them all.
“We had about 80 attending from all over Australia, New Zealand and even England, which was a lot more than we’d expected, and we made contact with family members we’d lost touch with, and many we never even knew existed,” Brisbane resident Solomon said.
While mystery still surrounds much of Mordecai’s life due to gaps in records, research by various descendants paints a picture of a man who overcame early obstacles to flourish in colonial-era NSW.
After spending six months in an English prison at age 17 for stealing rabbits a year before being shipped to Australia – supposedly by his father – Mordecai established a farm in what is now Solomons Creek in the Illawarra region.
It seems he arranged for London Jew Elizabeth Haines to come to Australia aboard the all-female bounty ship the David Scott in October 1834, as he met her on her arrival.
They married a year later and had three children, before moving to Sydney by 1840, where they raised five more children.
“We visited Solomons Creek last week – a beautiful spot but very isolated and surrounded by a towering escarpment – so you could only imagine that Elizabeth must have felt like being in another world,” Solomon said.
Mordecai must have done well for himself, because in 1857 he took out a mortgage for 3,000 pounds to purchase a row of terraces at 68-80 Yurong Street East Sydney, which still exist and were visited by the group.
They also visited the graves of Mordecai, Elizabeth and 14 close family members at Rookwood Cemetery, the War Memorial in Hyde Park to pay respect to 25 of Mordecai’s descendants who served in the armed forces, and The Great Synagogue, where Rabbi Benjamin Elton delivered a sermon about the power of giving people a second chance, and dedicated it to Mordecai’s example.
Several of Mordecai’s daughters were involved with the Hebrew Ladies’ Bazaar, which raised funds to help establish the iconic Sydney shule, and George Myers – the husband of Mordecai’s eldest child Sarah – was its first president.
For more information, visit www.chaiholdings.com.au/solomon.htm.