1951 Orwell Phillips and David Nathan – basement and auditorium
1981 David Newman – conversion of part of the War Memorial Centre into an Education Centre
The Great Synagogue is the earliest surviving synagogue in Sydney, and is believed by many to be the most beautiful in Australia. Since its consecration in 1878, it has been central to Jewish culture and worship in Sydney, and it is home to a thriving modern congregation.
Architect Thomas Rowe combined Romanesque and Byzantine influences with Gothic detailing for the synagogue, commissioning the leading decorative firms of the High Victorian period from Australia, Britain and the United States to embellish his ‘cathedral’ of golden Pyrmont sandstone. The richly crafted interior is considered to be one of Sydney’s most elaborate of the time, and one of Rowe’s finest works. Ironically, Rowe was Cornish, not Jewish, and was then well known for designing a string of mainly Methodist churches and other public buildings.
In 1906, the traditionally central bimah (podium) was moved to the western wall to increase capacity, which is today around 1200. Other alterations over the years include the electrification of chandeliers, the addition of a Shabbat elevator, and the construction of the Rabbi L A Falk Memorial Library.
The Great Synagogue is listed on the NSW State Heritage Register.
Talks, tours & more
Guides will be on hand to speak about the historical and architectural aspects of The Great Synagogue throughout the day.
You can also join our curator for a special tour of the First 140 years exhibition. Tours will run at 11am and 1pm. Please note that places are limited to 20 people per tour and are given on a first come, first served basis. Access to the exhibition is only possible by joining a tour. There is no wheelchair accessible entry to the exhibition.
Prams will have to be cloaked
Please be aware that no phones are permitted inside The Great Synagogue and visitors will be required to cloak their handbags, mobiles, as well as bulky items (for security). To ensure compliance with Kosher laws, no food or drink will be permitted inside.