Great Synagogue - Sydney

The Great Synagogue – Sydney

The Great Synagogue is a large synagogue in Sydney. It was built in 1878 and designed by architect Thomas Rowe who also designed Sydney Hospital and Newington College. It is one of the best examples of neo-Byzantine architecture in Australia.It is located in Elizabeth Street opposite Hyde Park and extends back to Castlereagh Street.

The Great Synagogue was designed by architect Thomas Rowe (who was Cornish not Jewish), and consecrated in 1878. It combines elements of Byzantine style and Gothic characteristics.[3] This grand building is often described as the “cathedral synagogue” of Australia

The Sydney Jewish community, which dated to the earliest days of the colony, met in rented spaces before building its first synagogue, designed in Egyptian style by James Hume in 1844.[4] It was the first Egyptian Revival building in Australia.[5]

The present synagogue has the traditional feature of an elevated ladies’ gallery. When first erected, the bimah was central, as is traditional. However, to increase seating capacity the bimah was moved forward to the western wall in 1906.

Over the years, extensive additions and alterations have been made to the other facilities appurtenant to this building, including the construction of a succah, excavation and construction of a large reception area below the synagogue itself, construction of the Rabbi Falk Memorial Library, installation of electricity in the chandeliers, and installation of a “shabbat” elevator.

A useful overview of the synagogue’s history is provided by the recent book edited by Rabbi Raymond Apple [6]

The building is listed on the Register of the National Estate.