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Saturday, August 11, 2012

History of the Jews in Ireland

 Preface: I am not Jewish, but this blog is about the history of Ireland

The history of the Jews in Ireland extends back nearly a thousand years. Although the Jewish community has always been small in numbers (1,930 in the Republic of Ireland according to the 2006 census), it is well established and has generally been well-accepted into Irish life.

The earliest reference to the Jews in Ireland was in the year 1079. The Annals of Inisfallen record "Five Jews came from over sea with gifts to Toirdelbach [king of Munster], and they were sent back again over sea". They were probably merchants from Normandy. Toirdelbach was the grandson of Brian Boru, a previous High King of Ireland.

No further reference is found until nearly a century later in the reign of Henry II of England. That monarch, fearful lest an independent kingdom should be established in Ireland, prohibited a proposed expedition there. Strongbow, however, went in defiance of the king's orders and, as a result, his estates were confiscated. In his venture Strongbow seems to have been assisted financially by a Jew; for under the date of 1170 the following record occurs: "Josce Jew of Gloucester owes 100 shillings for an amerciament for the moneys which he lent to those who against the king's prohibition went over to Ireland".

By 1232, there was probably a Jewish community in Ireland, as a grant of 28 July 1232 by King Henry III to Peter de Rivel gives him the office of Treasurer and Chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, the king's ports and coast, and also "the custody of the King's Judaism in Ireland". This grant contains the additional instruction that "all Jews in Ireland shall be intentive and respondent to Peter as their keeper in all things touching the king". The Jews of this period probably resided in or near Dublin. In the Dublin White Book of 1241, there is a grant of land containing various prohibitions against its sale or disposition by the grantee. Part of the prohibition reads "vel in Judaismo ponere". The last mention of Jews in the "Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland" appears about 1286. 

When the expulsion from England took place (1290), Jews living in the Pale of English Settlement may have had to leave English jurisdiction, but there is no evidence for this; and it would certainly have not been difficult for Jews to remain in Ireland in defiance of the 1290 Edict, simply by moving beyond the area of English settlement (the Pale) into the native Gaelic areas that England did not control. As the next paragraph elicits, Jews were certainly living in Ireland long before Oliver Cromwell revoked the English Edict of Expulsion nearly 400 years later, in the mid-seventeenth century.

A permanent settlement of Jews was definitely established, however, in the late fifteenth century. Following their expulsion from Portugal in 1496, some of these Marrano Jews settled on Ireland's south coast. One of them, William Annyas, was elected as mayor of Youghal, County Cork, in 1555, there was also Francis Annyas (Ãnes) a three time Mayor of Youghal in 1569, 1576 and 1581.

Ireland's first synagogue was founded in 1660 near Dublin Castle, and Ballybough Cemetery the first Jewish cemetery was founded in the early eighteenth century in the Fairview district of Dublin, where there was a small Jewish colony.

 n December 1714, the Irish philosopher John Toland issued a pamphlet entitled Reasons for Naturalizing the Jews in Great Britain and Ireland. In 1746 a bill was introduced in the Irish House of Commons "for naturalising persons professing the Jewish religion in Ireland". This was the first reference to Jews in the House of Commons up to this time. Another was introduced in the following year, agreed to without amendment and presented to the Lord Lieutenant to be transmitted to England but it never received the royal assent. These Irish bills, however, had one very important result; namely, the formation of the Committee of Diligence, which was organized by British Jews at this time to watch the progress of the measure. This ultimately led to the organisation of the Board of Deputies, an important body which has continued in existence to the present time. Jews were expressly excepted from the benefit of the Irish Naturalisation Act of 1783. The exceptions in the Naturalisation Act of 1783 were abolished in 1846. The Irish Marriage Act of 1844 expressly made provision for marriages according to Jewish rites.

Daniel O'Connell is best known for the campaign for Catholic Emancipation; but he also supported similar efforts for Jews. In 1846, at his insistence, the British law "De Judaismo", which prescribed a special dress for Jews, was repealed. O’Connell said: "Ireland has claims on your ancient race, it is the only country that I know of unsullied by any one act of persecution of the Jews".

During the Great Famine (1845–1852), in which approximately 1 million Irish people died, many Jews helped to organize and gave generously towards Famine relief. A Dublin newspaper, commenting in 1850, pointed out that Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his family had,

...contributed during the Irish famine of 1847 ... a sum far beyond the joint contributions of the Devonshires, and Herefords, Lansdownes, Fitzwilliams and Herberts, who annually drew so many times that amount from their Irish estates.

Since Ireland's Jews were city folk, businessmen, professionals and merchants, they bought their food instead of growing it and were thus not badly affected by the famine themselves.

In 1874, Lewis Wormser Harris was elected to Dublin Corporation as Alderman for South Dock Ward. Two years later he was elected as Lord Mayor of Dublin, but died 1 August 1876 before he took office.

There was an increase in Jewish immigration to Ireland during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1871, the Jewish population of Ireland was 258; by 1881, it had risen to 453. Most of the immigration up to this time had come from England or Germany. In the wake of the Russian pogroms there was increased immigration, mostly from Eastern Europe (in particular Lithuania). By 1901, there were an estimated 3,771 Jews in Ireland, over half of them (2,200) residing in Dublin; and by 1904, the total Jewish population had reached an estimated 4,800. New synagogues and schools were established to cater for the immigrants, many of whom established shops and other businesses. Many of the following generation became prominent in business, academic, political and sporting circles.

The Jewish population of Ireland reached around 5,500 in the late 1940s, but has since (2008) declined to around 2,000, mainly through emigration to larger Jewish communities such as those in the United States, Britain, and Israel. The Republic of Ireland currently has four synagogues: three in Dublin, one in Cork. There is a further synagogue in Belfast in Northern Ireland.

The boycott in Limerick in the first decade of the twentieth century is known as the Limerick Pogrom, and caused many Jews to leave the city. It was instigated by an influential intolerant Catholic priest, Fr. John Creagh of the Redemptorist Order. A teenager, John Raleigh, was arrested by the British and briefly imprisoned for attacking the Jews' rebbe, but returned home to a welcoming throng. Limerick's Jews fled. Many went to Cork, where trans-Atlantic passenger ships docked at Cobh. They intended to travel to America. The people of Cork welcomed them into their homes. Church halls were opened to feed and house the refugees. As a result many remained. Gerald Goldberg, a son of this migration, became Lord Mayor of Cork.

The boycott was condemned by many in Ireland, among them the influential Standish O'Grady in his paper All Ireland Review, depicting Jews and Irish as "brothers in a common struggle". The Land Leaguer Michael Davitt (author of The True Story of Anti-Semitic Persecutions in Russia), in the Freeman's Journal, attacked those who had participated in the riots and visited homes of Jewish victims in Limerick. His friend, Corkman William O'Brien MP, leader of the United Irish League and editor of the Irish People, had a Jewish wife, Sophie Raffalovic.

Father Creagh was moved by his superiors initially to Belfast and then to an island in the Pacific Ocean. In 1914 he was promoted by the Pope to be Vicar Apostolic of Kimberley, Western Australia, a position he held until 1922. He died in Wellington, New Zealand in 1947. Joe Briscoe, son of Robert Briscoe, the Dublin Jewish politician, describes the Limerick episode as “an aberration in an otherwise almost perfect history of Ireland and its treatment of the Jews”.

Many Irish Jews supported the Irish Republican Army and the First Dail during the Irish War of Independence. Michael Noyk, was a Lithuanian born solicitor who became famous for defending captured Irish Republican prisoners such as Sean MacEoin. Robert Briscoe was a prominent member of the IRA during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. He was sent by Michael Collins to Germany in 1920 to be the chief agent for procuring arms for the IRA. Briscoe proved to be highly successful at this mission and arms arrived into Ireland in spite of the British blockade.

In an effort to provide minority communities with political representation in parliament (as was the case with minority Christian denominations) Ellen Cuffe (Countess of Desart), a member of the Jewish community, was appointed for a twelve year term by William T. Cosgrave to the Irish Senate in 1922. She sat as an independent member until her death in 1933. She was also an advocate for the Irish language and served as President of the Gaelic League.

The original Irish Constitution of 1937 specifically gave constitutional protection to Jews. This was considered to be a necessary component to the constitution by Éamon de Valera because of the treatment of Jews elsewhere in Europe at the time. The Blueshirts were suppressed by the government. In Rome, T.J. Kiernan, the Irish Minister to the Vatican, and his wife, Delia Murphy (a noted traditional ballad singer), worked with the Irish priest Hugh O'Flaherty to save many Jews and escaped prisoners of war. Jews conducted religious services in the church of San Clemente of the ‘Collegium Hiberniae Dominicanae’, which had Irish diplomatic protection.

The reference to the Jewish Congregations in the Irish Constitution was removed in 1973 with the Fifth Amendment. The same amendment removed the 'special position' of the Catholic Church, as well as references to the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, and the Religious Society of Friends.

Two Irish Jews, Esther Steinberg and her infant son, are known to have been killed during the Holocaust, which otherwise did not substantially directly affect the Jews actually living in Ireland. The Wannsee Conference listed the 4,000 Jews of Ireland to be among those marked for killing in the Holocaust.

A committee organised the Kindertransport. About ten thousand unaccompanied children aged between three and seventeen from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, were permitted entry into the United Kingdom without visas. Some of these children were sent to Northern Ireland. Many of them were looked after by foster parents but others went to the Millisle Refugee Farm (Magill's Farm, on the Woburn Road) which took refugees from May 1938 until its closure in 1948.

The Irish State was officially neutral during World War II, known within the Republic of Ireland as "The Emergency" although it is estimated that about 100,000 men from Ireland took part on the side of the Allies, while a handful may have taken the part of their opponents.

There was some domestic anti-Jewish sentiment during World War II, most notably expressed in a notorious speech to the Dáil in 1943, when newly-elected independent TD Oliver J. Flanagan advocated "routing the Jews out of the country". On the other hand Henning Thomsen, the German chargé d'affaires officially complained of press commentaries. In February 1939, he protested against the Bishop of Galway who had issued a pastoral letter, along similar lines, accusing Germany of"violence, lying, murder and the condemning of other races and peoples".

There was some official indifference from the political establishment to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust during and after the war. This indifference would later be described by Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Michael McDowell as being "antipathetic, hostile and unfeeling". Dr. Mervyn O'Driscoll of University College Cork reported on the unofficial and official barriers that prevented Jews from finding refuge in Ireland although the barriers have been down ever since:

Although overt anti-Semitism was not typical, the southern Irish were indifferent to the Nazi persecution of the Jews and those fleeing the third Reich....A successful applicant in 1938 was typically wealthy, middle-aged or elderly, single from Austria, Roman Catholic and desiring to retire in peace to Ireland and not engage in employment. Only a few Viennese bankers and industrialists met the strict criterion of being Catholic, although possibly of Jewish descent, capable of supporting themselves comfortably without involvement in the economic life of the country.

Post-war, Jewish groups had great difficulty in getting refugee status for Jewish children, whilst at the same time, a plan to bring over four hundred Catholic Children from the Rhineland encountered no difficulties. The Department of Justice explained in 1948 that:

It has always been the policy of the Minister for Justice to restrict the admission of Jewish aliens, for the reason that any substantial increase in our Jewish population might give rise to an anti-Semitic problem.

However, de Valera overruled the Department of Justice and the one hundred and fifty refugee Jewish children were brought to Ireland in 1948. Earlier, in 1946, one hundred Jewish children from Poland were brought to Clonyn Castle in County Meath by Solomon Schonfeld. In 2000 many of the Cloyne Castle children returned for a reunion. In 1952 he again had to overrule the Department of Justice to admit five Orthodox families who were fleeing the Communists. In 1966, the Dublin Jewish community arranged the planting and dedication of the Éamon de Valera Forest in Israel, near Nazareth, in recognition of his consistent support for Ireland's Jews.

In 2006 Tesco, a British supermarket chain, had to apologise for selling the discredited anti Jewish book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its stores in Britain and Ireland. Sheikh Dr Shaheed Satardien, head of the Muslim Council of Ireland, said this was effectively "polluting the minds of impressionable young Islamic people with hate and anger towards the Jewish community".

William Cosgrave, while President of the Executive Council of the Free State government, notably turned down a plea for asylum in Ireland for Leon Trotsky while in exile. The request was made by the trade union leader William X. O'Brien in 1930. Cosgrave told O'Brien
Told him [O'Brien] "I could see no reason why Trotsky should be considered by us. Russian bonds had been practically confiscated. He said there was to be consideration of them. I said it was not by Trotsky, whose policy was the reverse. I asked his nationality. Reply Jew. They were against religion (he said that was modified). I said not by Trotsky. He said he had hoped there would be an asylum here as in England for all. I agreed that under normal conditions, which we had not here, that would be allright. But we had no touch with this man or his Government, nor did they interest themselves in us in his 'day'."
Dr. Bethal Solomons played rugby union for Wesley College and for Ireland earning 10 caps from 1907-1910.

The Lithuanian born Louis Bookman (1890–1943) who moved to Ireland as a child, played soccer at international level for Ireland (winning the Home International Championship in 1914), as well as playing at club level for Shelbourne and Belfast Celtic, he also played cricket for Railway Union Cricket Club, the Leinster Cricket Club and for the Irish National Cricket Team.

Louis Collins Jacobson played cricket for Ireland opening the innings on 12 occasions, and also at club level in Dublin as the opening bat for Clontarf C.C. and earlier, for Carlisle Cricket Club in Kimmage which was made up of members of the Dublin Jewish community.

Dublin Maccabi was a Soccer team in the Kimmage/Terenure/Rathgar areas, they played in the Dublin Amateur Leagues, only players who were Jewish played for them, Maccabi played their games in the KCR grounds which opened in the 1950s, they disbanded in 1995 due to dwindling numbers and disputes over fees, and many of their players joined the Parkvale F.C. For a time Dublin Jewish Chess Club played in the Leinster leagues in 1936 winning the Division 3, Ennis Shield. There was also a Dublin Jewish Boxing Club, on the south side of the city. It was based for its whole existence of many years, in the basement of the Adelaide Road Synagogue, which was the largest synagogue in the country. Many fine boxers were produced, amongst whom were Sydney Curland, Freddie Rosenfield, Gerry Kostick, Frank and Henry Isaacson, and Zerrick Woolfson. Woolfson also played cricket for Carlisle C.C. for several years, and, in 1949 for Dublin University, when he bowled a hat-trick in his first match. As reported in the newspapers, he dismissed J.V.Luce, Mick Dargan and Gerry Quinn with 3 successive balls. They were all very competent, current international players. He also played first division table-tennis for Anglesea T.T.C. as the #3 player, joining Willie Heron and Ernie Sterne, both international players, on the 1st team.

According to the census of 2006, there are 1,930 Jews in the Republic of Ireland. (1,581 in 1991 and 1,790 in 2002).

 Prominent Jewish Irelanders
  • Lenny Abrahamson Irish Film Director
  • Leonard Abrahamson (1920s-1961), Gaelic scholar, who switched to medicine and became a professor, was born in Russia, grew up in Newry where he attended the local Christian Brothers school and lodged with the Nurock family in Dublin while studying at Trinity College, Dublin.
  • William Annyas (Ãnes), Mayor of Youghal (1555) a Marrano merchant.
  • Francis Annyas (Ãnes), Mayor of Youghal in 1569, 1576 and 1581, Youghal garrison commander and a spy for Francis Drake.
  • Justice Henry Barron, Irish Supreme Court judge 1997-2003.
  • Leopold Bloom, fictional protagonist of Ulysses.
  • Louis Bookman (1890–1943), Irish international soccer and cricket player.
  • Michael Noyk Irish Republican and solicitor during the Irish War of Independence.
  • Robert Briscoe, member of the Irish Republican Army during the Anglo-Irish War and twice Lord Mayor of Dublin (1956 and 1961).
  • Ben Briscoe (son of Robert Briscoe), former Fianna Fáil T.D. and Lord Mayor of Dublin (1988).
  • Joe Briscoe (son of Robert Briscoe), member of the Jewish Representative Council (predating Israeli Embassy) and Commandant in the Irish Army
  • Michelle Citron, feminist film, video and multimedia producer, scholar and author.
  • Max Eager (son of George Eager), first Chief Rabbi of Ireland.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, actor.
  • Maurice Freeman (1875–1951), Mayor of Johannesburg 1934/35.
  • Gerald Goldberg, Lord Mayor of Cork in 1977.
  • Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1919 to 1937, later of Palestine and Israel.
  • Chaim Herzog, sixth President of Israel and British World War II veteran. During and after his service in the British Army, he was also known as "Vivian Herzog" ("Vivian" being the English equivalent of the Hebrew name "Chaim".)
  • Sir Otto Jaffe, Lord Mayor of Belfast (1899 and 1904).
  • Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of Ireland between 1949 and 1958, later British Chief Rabbi.
  • Harry Kernoff, Painter (1900–1974)
  • Louis Lentin, director (documentary films, television, theatre).
  • Ronit Lentin Head of Sociology, the director of the MPhil in Race, Ethnicity, Conflict, Department of Sociology and founder member of the Trinity Immigration Initiative, Trinity College, Dublin.
  • June Levine, feminist, journalist and writer.
  • Maurice Levitas (1917–2001) (born Dublin) was an anti-fascist who took part in the Battle of Cable Street and fought in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. He is the father of Ruth Levitas.
  • David Marcus (1924–2009), author, editor, broadcaster and lifelong supporter of Irish-language fiction.
  • David Marcus, author and professor of Bible and ancient languages at The Jewish Theological Seminary.
  • Max Nurock, Israeli Consul-General to Australia, subsequently Israel's first Ambassador to Australia.
  • Yaakov Pearlman, Ireland's Chief Rabbi.
  • Alan Shatter, Fine Gael TD for Dublin South and currently Minister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence.
  • Bethal Solomons (1885–1965), medical Doctor, Master of the Rotunda, Irish Rugby International.
  • Estella Solomons (1882–1968), landscape and portrait artist and member of Cumann na mBan.
  • Stella Steyn (1907–1987), Dublin-born artist.
  • Mervyn Taylor, former Labour Party T.D. and Minister for Equality and Law Reform.
  • Abraham Weeks (or Abraham Wix) was the first person killed during 1916 Easter Rising A Jewish comrade who joined on Easter Monday and died in action He joined the Irish Citizen Army and assigned to the GPO.
  • Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, founder of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders, MP for East Belfast for 18 years.
  • District Judge Hubert Wine, family court judge and prominent member of Dublin's Jewish community


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