Book of Life Stories

The Impact of Jewish Business on Commercial Life In South Australia

Presented by Allen Bolaffi at the South Australian Multicultural & Ethnic Affairs Commission forum dinner celebrating the Achievements of the Jewish Community in South Australia, 17 June 2001.

The roots of South Australia are firmly entrenched in the history of Jewish settlement in South Australia. Amongst the first settlers in Adelaide were Jews who purchased land from the South Australia Company to settle in a new land. They came with little knowledge of what lay before them, and the first records of their experiences were traumatic to say the least. Religious observance was difficult, but they managed. It took them 12 years, before a proper community religious facility was constructed.

From this humble beginning emerged a community of Jewish businessmen, who strangely had more to do with Sydney than Melbourne. This of course changed with the Gold Rush to Victoria and there was a mad scramble to Melbourne at this time.
However there was strong commercial representation within the city of Adelaide that has continued until today.

You may know that there was an act of parliament called the Adelaide Synagogue Act whereby certain crown land was gifted to the community to recognize their contribution to the development of the state. This act is still on the statute books today.

Our contribution to the State premiership (not of the football variety) was one Vabien Solomon who led our state for a short time in the early 1900\’s. His was no mean feat and he only lasted a short time. This would be unheard of today!!

There were other Solomon family who was a trader in things such as tobacco, linen and other items. The Solomon that you know and love today is the Family of Nathan and Miriam Solomon and their family business was Solomon\’s Carpets, which was an Adelaide institution for over 80 years.

In past years we have seen the contribution to political and civic life with two recent Lord Mayors, in Henry Ninio and Walter Bridgeland. The two gentlemen led their councils in very difficult time in different ways and their contribution was unique. They had their visions for the city and implemented them in their own way.

In the 1960\’s the Lazarovitz family ran a great trucking enterprise called \”Friendly Transport\”. Like most of the magnates around Australia in Transport their business grew exponentially with the development of interstate roads and commerce and at one stage boasted of having the largest number of trucks on the road after Government. At one stage they had the franchise of the car park at the airport, and I recall Les there listening to the parking ticket machines!!

In more recent times we have seen the business successes of Jack and Gus Hines in the meat and steel businesses. From humble beginnings these men created an empire in their respective fields and made a significant contribution to South Australian life. Similarly the Benveniste family that have developed the glass industry in South Australia with their various glass businesses, most recently Chevron Glass Group.

In the retail field there have been many success stories and ones that spring to mind today are the fierce competitors of Shiels Jewelers (Albert Ben Simon) and the Zamel family who between them have about 65% of the Adelaide Jewelers market.

In the 1990s we saw the successes of the current generation of communal leaders in Norman Schueler who started a small metal business which today is one of the largest of its type in the country

The community has been well represented in the professions with such luminaries as David Simmons who chaired the State Bank, and the many specialists in the field of medicine. These have all made a contribution to our society.

I suppose that this is a great trademark of the Australian Jewish Community. Wherever you go around Australia, there are members of the Jewish Community that have made an impact on society, either through the arts, the humanities or the sciences. This is a part of our culture and our heritage and those societies that have encouraged the Jews to prosper have themselves prospered. Australia and particularly South Australia has been very kind to our community and we have similarly repaid this kindness with hard work and dedication. We have certainly made a difference to the South Australian landscape and will continue to do so in the years to come.

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