We recently took a few days out of our regular routine and went to Broken Hill. For those who don’t know, Broken Hill is roughly 900 kms north and a little west of Melbourne. It’s an old mining town as evidenced by the name of BHP or Broken Hill Proprietory. The town was established in 1883 when they found silver and lead. The reason behind the name is because the hill was ‘broken’, it had a dip in the middle making it look broken.
There have been Jews in Broken Hill from the 1880s. In 1900 with about 150 Jews a Hebrew congregation was formed. They erected a building in 1910. The population declined during the 1950s and in 1962 they closed the synagogue, transferring all of its scrolls and silverware to a Melbourne synagogue. While it was used as a residence for a time it is now a museum. You can visit the Synagogue of the Outback Museum during their opening hours.
Plans were afoot to hold a dedication ceremony for two benches that had been donated. One bench to be dedicated to the five religious leaders who have ministered to the Broken Hill Hebrew Congregation. One bench to be dedicated to protectors of the Congregation.
We’d heard of these plans and felt it was a good time to go away for a few days. It’s either a full day’s drive or two decent half days. We had the flexibility with our time so we booked a motel room in Sea Lake for the first night, driving on to Broken Hill the following morning. It was a lovely drive. We saw the obligatory sheep, plus a couple of emus and many goats. We’re not sure if the goats were farmed or feral, but the truck we passed on the way back to Melbourne was carrying lots of goats so I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions. We also saw a couple of lizards sunning themselves on the road, no lizards were harmed during our drive.
It was a full weekend. It started on Friday with registration and running into people from Melbourne. Friday night was a Service in the synagogue, followed by a dinner and some lovely music at a local venue. Another Service on Saturday morning (I wasn’t well so I went back to bed after breakfast) followed by lunch in the Salvation Army Citadel. Saturday afternoon was a guided tour of Argent Street, interrupted by a Civic Reception at the Broken Hill City Art Gallery, we were treated to food and drinks but the reception was for Ron Hoenig MP, Member for Heffron. He gave a speech at the Bench Naming Ceremony. After the ceremony was finished we all gathered in front of the Synagogue for a photo, Ron Hoenig was outside the fence being interviewed by a journalist. I don’t know how that went because our raucous crowd were calling for him…loudly. Lunch was again in the Salvation Army Citadel. The afternoon was a guided walk of the Jewish section of the Broken Hill Cemetery, combined with a consecration. Essentially, we had a short Service and read out the headstone of one of the deceased, his granddaughter was one of our number and he’d never had a headstone before. We finished with a visit to the Living Desert State Park.
One of the highlights of the weekend was being given a solo guided tour of the local pre-loved bookshop. I’d missed every chance I’d had to look at it. The manager is a person of many talents and also ran the local singing group, Broken Hill Community Voices. I was trying to apologise for not being able to see her shop when she offered to run me down there. Under the Silver Tree was closed at this time, but she happily drove me the three minutes in her car, opened the shop and gave me a guided tour before closing it and taking me back. I did manage to buy two books during that time. How often do you get a guided tour of a bookshop that’s been opened just for you? I was stoked!!!!