Jewish community profile

Information about the Jewish community in Victoria including where they live and when they arrived, languages spoken, English language proficiency, religions and significant dates.

These profiles are of Victorian communities, using the best available data we have from the 2021 Australian Census.

The Census defines ancestry as the cultural or ethnic group you most identify with.

We acknowledge that the profiles are not definitive. There are limitations and challenges in assigning ancestry or ethnicity to a specific ‘community’, especially as defined by geographical borders.


The Jewish community in Victoria is an established one. There have been different waves of migration of Jewish people to Victoria.

Jewish people arrived in Victoria from many countries, including Eastern Europe, Russia, Poland, South Africa, and China. The first Jewish people arrived in Victoria from the early days of the First Fleet in 1788. These Jewish people were mainly from Great Britain and Central Europe. By the 1850s, Jewish people established synagogues in central Melbourne, East Melbourne, and the gold–producing country towns of Bendigo, Ballarat, and Geelong.

Following WWII and the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of six million European Jews, a new wave of Jews settled in Victoria as refugees. Many of these were Eastern European Jews who were Holocaust survivors and spoke Yiddish.

Shortly after, a number of Jews were expelled from the Middle East, and arrived in Australia. They spoke many languages including English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic. Later in the 1960s, a community of Jews from India arrived as well. Together, these Jews formed the Sephardi communities in Melbourne and Sydney.

From the 1970s onward, many Jewish people arrived from South Africa and Rhodesia. The late 1980s and 1990s saw Jewish people migrate from the former Soviet Union.

From 1991 onwards, there has been a steady arrival of Jewish people to Victoria. Since 2011, many Jewish people arrived in Victoria from Israel, the United States and South Africa. Victoria is still home to the largest Jewish community in Australia. Most of the Jewish population live in Melbourne’s south–eastern suburbs.

Jewish community

The Jewish community in Victoria is the largest in Australia, with the majority of Jewish people living in Melbourne. There are 46,645 people living in Victoria who identify with Jewish ancestry.

The gender breakdown for the Jewish community is:

  • male: 22,380 (47.9%)
  • female: 24,268 (52%).

Most of the Jewish population is older to middle–aged, with the largest cohort aged over 70 (18.4%).

Insights for communication and engagement

The following are some key insights from the data when communicating and engaging with the Jewish community:

  • The Jewish community is a well-established one.
  • The community is linguistically diverse, with some newly arrived people speaking French, Spanish, Russian and Hebrew.
  • The community has very high levels of English language proficiency and may therefore understand information or resources in English.
  • Write in plain language. Use plain words, short sentences, headings, lists and other design elements to make information clear.
  • In-language print and radio channels can help reach older Jewish people.
  • Social media and digital media can help reach younger Jewish people.
  • For place–based activities, most of the community lives in the south–eastern suburbs.
  • Some Orthodox Jewish people do not access electronic or print media, so they may need to be reached through community schools or synagogues.

For more insights about communicating with multicultural audiences read the:

Better practice guide for multicultural communications
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Better practice guide for multicultural communications - accessible version
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Many people in the Jewish community live in Melbourne’s south–eastern suburbs.

The City of Glen Eira is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Victoria with 25,585 people. The City of Stonnington is next with 4,523 people.

The following 10 local government areas have the largest Jewish communities.

Local government areaPopulation
Glen Eira25,585
Port Phillip3,408


Many different languages are spoken in the Jewish community because Jewish people come from all over the world. Many elderly Jews from Germany, Poland, Austria, and Eastern Europe (Ashkenazic Jews) may speak Yiddish. Yiddish is derived from Hebrew, Aramaic, German and Slavic languages.

The traditional language of prayer for Jewish people is Hebrew.

The top languages spoken by the Jewish community in Victoria are:

  • English (34,694)
  • Hebrew (4,672)
  • Russian (3,966)
  • Yiddish (1,169)
  • Spanish (272)
  • French (269).

English language proficiency

The Jewish community in Victoria has very high levels of English language proficiency:

  • 22.6% of the population say they speak English ‘very well’ or ‘well’.
  • 2.5% of the population say they speak English ‘not well’ or ‘not at all’.
  • 74.4% of the population speaks English only.


Judaism is based on three pillars: the Torah (study), ritual/worship (prayer), and acts of loving kindness (action). The Jewish people believe in a single God, the creator of all that exists.

Jewish people worship in a synagogue or temple. Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews worship in a synagogue, while Liberal and Progressive Jews worship in a temple.

Jews are considered adults and personally responsible for following the Jewish laws at 13 for boys (Bar Mitzvah) and 12 for girls (Bat Mitzvah).

Years of arrival

There have been three main points of arrival for the Jewish community in Victoria. Most of the population arrived from 1991–2000 (9.2%), 1981–2000 (8%), and 2001–2010 (7.8%)

Year of arrivalNumber of arrivalsPercentage


Naming conventions depend on the cultural identity of the Jewish person. For example, it is important to use titles when addressing an older person from a German or Polish background.

Most Jewish people use their given names followed by their family name or surname. Many Jewish people are given a Hebrew name at birth, for example, David ben (son of) Abraham or Sarah bat (daughter of) Abraham.

Jewish clerics are addressed with the title Rabbi followed by their family name.

Significant dates

The Jewish community celebrates various cultural and religious holidays. The Jewish calendar is based on the 12 lunar months. However, Jewish holidays follow the Jewish lunisolar calendar.

The following are some key dates of significance:

  • Pesach (Passover) – March/April
  • Lag BaOmer – May
  • Shavuot – May/June
  • Tisha B’Av (a day of mourning) – July/August
  • Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) – September/October
  • Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) – September/October
  • Sukkoth (Tabernacles) – September/October
  • Chanukah/Hanukkah (The Festival of Lights) – November/December.

Sources of information

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021 Census Country of birth QuickStats
  • Markus A., Munz T., Graham G., Gruzman E. (2020). Estimating the Australian Jewish population at the 2016 Census.
  • Encyclopedia of Melbourne (School of Historical Studies at the University of Melbourne, in association with the University of Melbourne's eScholarship Research Centre).