Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Jews of Ireland

From the Jerusalem Post

Irish history is rich, complicated and dramatic. While the Jewish population is not large, never more then 6,000, influential figures, such Chaim Herzog, the sixth president of Israel, were born in Ireland, and have made an impact in international as well as Irish politics.

The earliest reference to a Jewish presence was in 1079, when scholars believe merchants arrived for a short visit. However, the first Irish Jewish politician was William Annyas, elected mayor of Youghal, County Cork in 1555. The tradition continued, albeit a few hundred years later, when Gerald Goldberg became lord mayor of Cork in 1977.

Not to be outdone, Dublin also boasts two Jewish mayors, a father and son, Robert Briscoe, twice lord mayor of Dublin (1956- 1957 and 1961-1962) and his son Ben Briscoe in 1988.

Dublin, home of the writer James Joyce, is charming and a manageable city to navigate. Many locations Joyce writes about in Ulysses, which his famous Jewish character Leopold Bloom frequents, such as the restaurant/bar Davy Byrnes, on Grafton Street, are still open for business and marked with metal plaques.

Trinity College also has a Jewish connection. The Weingreen Museum, donated by Prof. Jack and Bertha Weingreen, who taught Hebrew at the university, consists mainly of pottery and other artifacts from the ancient Near East. The collection encompasses the entire Mediterranean world from North Africa to Mesopotamia and from the ninth millennium BCE to the Crusades and is open to the public by appointment.

Ireland also boasts a Jewish Museum. Once a synagogue, it was established in 1984. It was opened by Chaim Herzog, whose father, Isaac, was the first chief rabbi of Ireland. The ceremony was held in 1985 during his state visit. The museum is filled with photos, paintings and Judaica and it chronicles the last 150 years of Irish Jewish communities and their contributions to the country.

I wandered over to the Dublin Hebrew Congregation. Call it dumb luck or good travel karma, I arrived just as Saturday morning services were ending, and stopped to chat with Stuart Rosenblatt, the preeminent scholar of Irish Jewish genealogy who created an enormous database of more than 42,000 Irish Jews, their family histories and their global connections dating back to 1664.

Click here to read the entire article.

2 comments:

  1. The 3rd Episode of the current season of WDYTA in the UK, featuring Dervla Kirwan, included an interesting substory regarding the Dublin Jewish Community. It included a sequence in the Jewish Museum there.

    Sadly, BBC UK broadcasts are not generally accessible outside of the UK at present. A taster at: http://www.bbcwhodoyouthinkyouaremagazine.com/episode/dervla-kirwan

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  2. Do read more about the Jews of Ireland, read the book: Shalom Ireland: A Social History of Jews in Modern Ireland by Ray Rivlin. It can be purchased at the Dublin Jewish Museum

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