The most southern Jewish community in the world, New Zealand Jews comprise a small, but vibrant part of the national character, participating in various aspects of public life, including government, popular culture, and athletics.
New Zealand’s response to Jewish refugees seeking to flee Nazi Germany was both indifferent and callous. Strict immigration policies and a general prejudice against “non-British” immigrants, saw various legal and bureaucratic complexities.
European Jews were not classified as “refugees” by the New Zealand government, with their admittance or rejection at the mercy of the discretion of the Minister of Customs and his officials.
Overall, about 1,100 Jewish refugees were able to gain entry in the country, and thousands of others were denied.
The two major centers of New Zealand Jewry are Auckland and Wellington, with smaller communities also residing in Christchurch and other cities.
The New Zealand Jewish Council represents the community, acting as the representative to the government, and working to promote and protect the interests of the community. Its structure is comprised of five regional councils – Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago. They focus on combatting anti-Semitism and supporting Israel, among other things.
Synagogues are considered to be the center of the communities in New Zealand, acting as both places of worship and places of Jewish gathering.