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Levy, Abraham Joseph (1798–1867)

by Colin Choat

Abraham Joseph Levy, generally known as "A. J." Levy, was born in London in 1798. He arrived in Sydney, from London, as a free settler about 1830. It is possible that Levy came to Australia at the behest of his brother, Abraham Luck ("Bloody Luck") Levy, who arrived in New South Wales in 1815, as a convict on the Marquis of Wellington. Upon the death of "Bloody Luck" Levy in 1858, the children of A. J. Levy shared in a legacy of £100.

Levy began life in Sydney as a tailor, as a partner in the firm of Dunn and Levy. However, by the end of June 1833 the partnership had been dissolved and Levy carried on as a sole trader.

On 13 November 1833, Levy married Catherine (Kate) Phillips. Kate was born in London in 1806 and arrived in Sydney in 1833, on the Palambam. Theirs was the fifth Jewish wedding in Sydney. Catherine was the sister of Solomon Phillips, part-time minister and reader of the synagogue services in the Bridge Street Synagogue which was set up in rented premises in 1837. Solomon Phillips was the grandfather of Emanuel Phillips Fox, a prominent Australian artist.

Catherine and Solomon Phillips were children of Rosetta Phillips who died in Sydney in 1844. On her death Rosetta was buried at the Devonshire Street Cemetery. Her remains and tombstone were later relocated to the Old Jewish Section of Rookwood Cemetery and her tombstone records one of the earliest death dates in the section.

In 1838 Levy was the licensee of the Weatherboard Inn near Penrith, after which he ran the Red Cross public house in George Streeet, Sydney. In 1842 he was at the Garrick’s Head Hotel in Pitt Street, Sydney, and in 1858 he was at Solomon’s Temple at the corner of Clarence and Erskine Streets, Sydney. He remained there until 1863 when he moved to the Wynyard Hotel, which he ran until the time of his death.

Fifteen years after the opening of the York Street Synagogue, a breakaway synagogue was established in Macquarie Street in 1859, as a result of disagreement with some of the religious practices at the York Street Synagogue. Some of the staunchest members of the York Street Synagogue, including A. J. Levy, Lewis Lipman, Solomon Phillips, and Samuel Cohen were responsible for the creation of the new synagogue and, when a provisional Board of Management was elected, Levy was a member along with his future son-in-law, Lewis Lipman, who was appointed Honorary secretary. Solomon Phillips was engaged as the first minister.

Amongst the gifts made by members to mark the formal opening of the synagogue, A. J. Levy gave four Lulabim. Levy had been part of the establishment of the York Street Synagogue and was now part of the establishment of the Macquarie Street Synagogue.

On 23 July 1867, after a protracted illness, Levy died, aged 69 years. He was a respected member of the community in which he had lived for 37 years.

Levy’s wife, Catherine (Kate), nee Phillips, died on 16th October 1887 aged 81 years. She had lived 56 years in the colony. Abraham Joseph Levy and Catherine Levy had 7 children together.

Original Publication

  • People Australia, 2013

Citation details

Colin Choat, 'Levy, Abraham Joseph (1798–1867)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/levy-abraham-joseph-13958/text31654, accessed 20 May 2019.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012