British convicts first settled Australia in 1788.  Great Britain’s need for a new penal colony was a direct result of the loss in 1776, of their American colonies to which they had previously shipped their "undesirables."  Among that group of first settlers were eight to fourteen Jews.  The numbers vary in different text.  There was no organized Jewish community in Australia until 1817.  Generally, settlements developed slowly until the discovery of copper in 1842 and gold in 1851.  The Jewish population of Australia grew to 15,000 between 1870-1900 as a result of Russian pogroms.  Jews came from the Russian Pale of Settlement at the same time as they went to America, Canada, England, Palestine, and South Africa.  However, most Jews did not come to Australia until the 1930's.

Motol, third son and child of Dov Berel and Elka Ajzenberg arrived in Australia from Poland on October 12, 1926, preceding the major influx of Jews to that country.  He disembarked at the port of Melbourne from the French ship SS Cephee (which I believe departed from Marseilles, France).  He was 36 years old at the time.  His wife Chana (Kercher) followed 6 months later with their three children Rose, (age 11) Les, (age 5) and Harry (age 2).  I believe that the name of the vessel they arrived on was the Commissar Mel, a French ship also departing the port of Marseilles.

Motol and his family were not from Telechan as I had assumed.  Rose told me in 1994 that she had never been to Telechan and did not know "a thing" about it.  She believes she was born in Pinsk, where her parents were married circa 1914-1915 (in the middle of World War I). They had come to Australia from their home in Luninets[1], a city with a Jewish population of over 2,000 at the time.  It is located only 31 miles from Pinsk and 44 miles from Telechan.  Her brothers, Les and Harry were born in Luninets where "we had a shop that sold fabrics and materials.  Mother always worked in the business."  I believe Luninets is the same town that in 1921, Dov Berel, Elka, Leja, and Mowsza obtained their passports.

In Australia the spelling of the name became Eizenberg.  The Z spelling identifies family members from Australia.  They are the only branch of the family to spell the name that way.  According to his Application for Naturalization, Motol was formerly known as Morduch Icko Ajzenberg.  In his new land he eventually became Morris.  There are even some 1929 documents in which he is known as Max.  His wife Chana became Anna.  The only child with a different name upon arrival was Les, who was previously known as Lazar.

Eldest brother Herschel had left Telekhan for the United States 20 years earlier (in 1906).  Then over a period of 15 years (up to 1921), Herschel ‘brought over’ his three sisters, Sara, Rifke, and Leja, along with his parents, Dov Berel and Elka, and his nephew Moshe.  Motol’s other older brother, Azriel, was dead and his remaining brother, Shmuel Chaim, immigrated to Palestine in 1922.  Therefore when Motol left Telechan for Australia he was the last of Dov Berel and Elka's children to emigrate and the sole member of his immediate family to settle in Australia.  His parents and all his siblings were either in the United States or Palestine.

So why Australia?  I believe that Motol had limited options.  By 1924 the United States, the major destination for European Jews, had slammed the door on new arrivals, particularly Jews from Eastern Europe.  You may recall that the last Ajzenberg immigrants to the United States were Dov Berel, Elka, Leja and Moshe and that they got in just before the flow was cut off.  Palestine was not an attractive alternative for many for reasons described earlier. 

I asked the "Why Australia"? question to Harry and Rose and received the following responses:

Harry (in a letter dated 1992) believes that they most likely chose Australia because other members of their family were living in different countries and they wanted to increase the chances of survival of the family line. 

Rose tells a very different story.  I interviewed her at the Ajzenberg Family Reunion in Framingham, Massachusetts in 1994.  She stated that they tried to go to the United States but that it just did not work.  "We were twice in Warsaw looking for a permit to come to America and we went back.  They always found fault" (with the application). "They didn't want immigrants."  “My father tried for years for America."  Australia as an alternative emerged on an occasion when Motol was having lunch with some people who "had papers" for Australia which was "open" at the time. It had been closed to immigration for 20 years.  Rose viewed it simply as a matter of timing, circumstances, and available alternatives.  She indicated that they knew no one in Australia or that anyone encouraged this decision.  Again circumstances converged to change history for Motol and his family.  At another time they would, in all likelihood, have come to another place.  As an addendum Rose added that they "did not want to go to Chaim in Palestine because he was a communist."

I learned a great deal about the Eizenberg family from an affidavit filed February 16, 1929[2], in support of a Miss Rebecca Plotnitsky’s application for admission to Australia.  Miss Plotnitsky, a 28 year old native and resident of Plotnitza, (38 km E. of Pinsk) Poland is alleged to be the sister-in-law of Max (Morris) Eizenberg and the sister of his wife Chana (whose maiden name was Kercher and who was from a tiny village named Stachov (45 km E. of Pinsk).

The text of the affidavit, quoted below, is a detailed description of the Eizenbergs in Australia to that date.  The document was acquired from the Australian Archives.

"EIZENBERG is a Polish Jew who arrived in this State from Poland per the SS “Cephee" in September 1926. (note different month)His landing capital was £40 and the British Consul at Warsaw granted his visa  He is a married man with 3 children, aged 11, 7 & 5 years...   His wife and family joined him here 6 months after his arrival, and permission for his entry was granted by H&T. Dept. through Mr. S, WYNN.

On arrival EIZENBERG proceeded to the Shepparton District where he obtained employment from Mr. GORR.  When work slackened off, he returned to Melbourne where for a few months he conducted a boarding house at Carlton.  This life however did not suit him and he subsequently received a grant through the Jewish Land Settlement Scheme, and went on to a holding at Berwick, where he now resides. (Rose indicated that Berwick is about 100 miles from Melbourne)  He was granted his holding through the Closer Settlement Board on 26/9/1927. (one year after arrival)  It consists of an area of 12 acres 2 roods, comprising allotment 20, section 44, Parish of Berwick.

The purchase price of the land without improvements other than fencing etc. was £612.10/-, on which a deposit of £22.10/- was paid.

His advances from the Closer Settlement Board were £470, which included £350 for a W.B. house, and £120 for other improvements such as outbuildings etc., farming implements, stock, etc.

A further advance of £160 has just been made available to him by the Board and on this he has paid a deposit of £32.  This advance is to enable him to effect further necessary improvements and to purchase stock etc.

The land is all irrigable and used for poultry raising, and intense culture, vegetable growing etc.

His stock consists of 3 milch cows, 2 horses, 350 young pullets, and about 150 fowls.  At present he is marketing about 40 dozen eggs per week. (Rose told me that they also made cheese).

An Area of 11 acres is at present under cultivation in beans, peas, melons, tomatoes etc., and crops of these are now being marketed.  His produce is transported to the local market by means of the Jewish Scheme of combined bulk transport, on amotor lorry that serves the settlement.

He has a stall in the local Victoria Market, and sells all his supplies direct to the consumer.

Just at present his income is about £15.per week, but he has heavy overhead expenses including wages and payments of installments on his land. Two hands are employed at present, whose wages are £2.10/- per week each, and all found. (Room and Board)

EIZENBERG finds the work on his holding hard, but he appears to be of the calibre of man who will succeed. His wife, with her household duties & the care of the 3 children who all attend the local State school, cannot find much time to attend to such outside work such as looking after poultry etc.  The present application for the introduction of his sister-in-law is therefore to meet this necessity.

Miss PLOTNITSKY will, if admitted, reside on the farm and assist in the manifold duties of the place such as attending to the children & assisting in outside work. She will be given a home and paid a wage of about 25/- to 30/-per week with all found.

She will be without landing money beyond a few pounds.  She has no present knowledge of English.  Photograph is attached for sighting & return.

Documents from the Closer Settlement Board have been produced by EIZENBERG verifying all the statements relating to his holding...             

As the application presents special features I think that it might be suggested to the Department, of Home Affairs that this case might be considered by the Minister along with the recent applications submitted by other settlers in the Berwick[3] District and referred to in your recent report on the Jewish Land Settlement Scheme and the progress of these settler."


From additional documents I received from the Archives I learned that on December 14, 1937 Motol renounced his Polish nationality and took the Oath of Allegiance to "be faithful and bear true allegiances to His Majesty Edward the Eight (the words Edward the Eight were crossed out and a stamp underneath read George the Sixth.)  Along with Chana and their three children they all became naturalized citizens of Australia on January 24, 1938, 11 years after arrival.

[1] Also known as Luniniec, Luninits, Luninitz, Luninyets

[2] In March 1930 a complete ban was enacted on European immigrants and only the wives and children of residents were permitted to settle

[3] Rose said that she attended school in Berwick for 5-6 years, but finished high school in Melbourne