History of the Jews in Ireland

History of the Jews in 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 has generally been well-accepted into Irish life.

Early history

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". [" [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T100004/text001.html The Annals of Inisfallen] ", author unknown, translated by Seán Mac Airt 1951] 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 July 28 1232 by King Henry III to Peter de Rivall 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), the Irish Jews had doubtless to go as well.

A permanent settlement of Jews was established, however, in the late fifteenth century. Following their expulsion from Portugal in 1496, some Jews settled on Ireland's south coast. One of them, William Annyas, was elected as mayor of Youghal, County Cork, in 1555. Ireland's first synagogue was founded in 1660 near Dublin Castle, and the first Jewish cemetery was founded in the early eighteenth century in the Fairview district of Dublin.

18th and 19th century

In 1746 a bill was introduced in the Irish House of Commons "for naturalising persons professing the Jewish religion in Ireland". This had been the first reference to Jews in the house of commons at 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; 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".

Many Irish starved during the Great Hunger.Many Jews helped and organized and gave generously towards Famine relief. A Dublin newspaper, commenting in 1850, pointed out that Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his family had,Ireland's Jews were cityfolk, business people, professionals, merchants -- people who bought their food instead of growing it.

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 August 1 1876 before he took office. [ [http://homepage.tinet.ie/~researchers/sketchped/1.html Lewis Wormser Harris] Morten Salthe 1998. Retrieved 5 September 2006.]

Twentieth century

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.

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, England 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.

Limerick Pogrom

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.

Father Creagh was moved by his superiors initially to Belfast and then to an island in the Pacific Ocean. 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"”. ["Shalom Ireland: a Social History of Jews in Modern Ireland" by Ray Rivlin, ISBN 0-7171-3634-5, published by Gill & MacMillan] 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 Search of Ireland's Heroes" Carmel McCaffrey]


Membership of the ACA or Blueshirts was open to those who professed the Christian faith, as such it could be argued that it excluded non-Christians. Gerald Goldberg, who was born in Cork and later served as a Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor of Cork, related an incident on the RTÉ documentary "A Corkman, an Irishman and a Jew". When he was a student at UCC he rose to speak at a debate, the auditor silenced him, as he was a "foreigner" and only "Irishmen" were permitted to speak. He left, and although he wished to forget the incident, other students led by the son of the late Sinn Féin Lord Mayor, Tomás Mac Curtain, insisted that he return. The hall was filled with Mac Curtain supporters from the student membership of the IRA. The auditor was silenced and Gerald Goldberg made his speech. The Blueshirt Movement disintegrated after the extreme views of its leader became an embarrassment to more moderate members.

There was some domestic anti-Jewish sentiment during World War II as well, most notably expressed in a notorious speech to the Dáil in 1943, when independent T.D. Oliver J. Flanagan advocated "routing the Jews out of the country". [ [http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0091/D.0091.194307090010.html Dáil Éireann - Volume 91 - 9 July, 1943] — antisemitic speech to the Dáil by Oliver J. Flanagan]

Irish Government

The Irish Constitution of 1937 specifically gives constitutional protection to Jews. This was considered to be a necessary component to the constitution by De Valera because of the treatment of Jews elsewhere in Europe at the time. ["In Search of Ireland's Heroes" Carmel McCaffrey] 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. ["Wherever Green is Worn", Tim Pat Coogan, 2002, ISBN 0-09-995850-3 page 77 & 86]

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 Jews of Ireland to be among those marked for killing in the Shoah.

Northern Ireland

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.cite web |last=Lynagh |first=Catherine |title=Kindertransport to Millisle |work= |publisher=Culture Northern Ireland |date=2005-11-25 |url=http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/article.aspx?co=14&ca=0&to=0&sca=0&articleID=1673&navID=0 |accessdate=2007-10-05 ]

World War II and aftermath

The state was nominally 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. [cite journal |last=Leeson |first=David |title=Irish Volunteers in the Second World War |publisher=Four Courts Press |date=2002 |id=ISBN 1851825231 ]

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 Justice Minister Michael McDowell as being "antipathetic, hostile and unfeeling". [ [http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2003-4/ireland.htm Republic of Ireland] — Stephen Roth Institute] 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:

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. [Keogh, Dermot, "Jews in Twentieth-Century Ireland: Refugees, Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust" pp. 209–210. The plan to bring over Catholic German children was known as Operation Shamrock.] The Department of Justice explained in 1948 that:

However, de Valera over-ruled 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 bought to Clonyn Castle in County Meath by a London Jewish charity. [ [http://www.axt.org.uk/antisem/archive/archive2/ireland/ireland.htm Ireland ] ] 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. [The Jews of Ireland by Robert Tracy, published in the Summer 1999 edition of "Judaism"]


Dr. Bethal Solomons played rugby union for Wesley College and for Ireland earning 10 caps from 1907-1910. [ [http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2007/02/18/story21052.asp "Why the Jews came to Ireland, and left" Sunday Business Post, February 18, 2007 - REVIEWED BY EMMANUEL KEHOE] ] [ [http://www.irishrugby.ie/227_7678.php?player=24404&includeref=dynamic Irish Rugby Union website - Player History Bethal Solomons] ]

"Dublin Maccabi" was a Soccer team in the Kimmage/Terenure/Rathgar ares, 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 winnning the Division 3, Ennis Shield.


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). [ [http://beyond2020.cso.ie/Census/TableViewer/tableView.aspx?ReportId=19670 Census of the Republic of Ireland.] ]

Prominent Irish Jews

*Maurice Freeman, Mayor of Johannesburg 1934. (Born 1875 Died 1951)
*William Annyas, mayor of Youghal.
*Leopold Bloom, fictional protagonist of "Ulysses".
*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).
*Michelle Citron, feminist film, video and multimedia producer, scholar and author.
*Daniel Day-Lewis (dual Irish and British citizen), actor.
*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.
*Max Eager (son of George Eager), first Chief Rabbi of Ireland.
*Sir Otto Jaffe, Lord Mayor of Belfast (1899 and 1904).
*Immanuel Jakobovits, Chief Rabbi of Ireland between 1949 and 1958, later British Chief Rabbi.
*Louis Lentin, director (documentary films, television, theatre).
*David Marcus, author, editor, broadcaster and lifelong supporter of Irish-language fiction.
*Yaakov Pearlman, Ireland's Chief Rabbi.
*Alan Shatter, Fine Gael TD and former party spokesperson for justice.
*Bethal Solomons(1885-1965) Medical Doctor, Master of the Rothunda, Irish Rugby International
*Mervyn Taylor, former Labour Party T.D. and Irish Minister for Equality & Law Reform.
*Gustav Wilhelm Wolff, founder of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders.
*Max Nurok, Israeli Consul-General to Australia, subsequently Israel's first Ambassador to Australia. [http://www.jcpa.org/phas/phas-049-miller.htm]
*Mike Shallcross, prominent paralegal at D.C. law firm

People of Irish-Jewish extraction

* Chris Cornell, American singer, born to a Irish-American father and Jewish American mother.
* Ben Stiller, American actor, born to a Jewish American father and Irish-American mother (converted to Judaism).
* John McCarthy, American Computer scientist, Turing award laureate and inventor of the Lisp programming language, born to an Irish-American father and Jewish American mother.
* Matthew Broderick, American actor, born to a Jewish American mother and Irish American father.

ee also

*Portobello for an account of Little Jerusalem.
*Chief rabbis of Ireland
*History of the Jews in Northern Ireland


External links

* [http://www.jewishireland.org Official Website of Irish Jewish Community]
* [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411/is_3_48/ai_64507455 The Jews of Ireland] — article in "Judaism" magazine
* [http://homepage.eircom.net/~researchers/ The Jews of Ireland Genealogy Page]
* [http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=169&letter=I&search=ireland JewishEncyclopedia.com - Ireland] — 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article
* [http://p-www.iwate-pu.ac.jp/~acro-ito/Joyce_pics2003/Joyce2003oDUB2/imageidx.html Dublin and Joyce]
* [http://kadgoddeu.free.fr/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=63 Shabbat in Ireland]
* [http://www.chabad.org/centers/default_cdo/aid/118401/jewish/Chabad-Lubavitch-of-Ireland.htm Chabad Lubavitch of Ireland]
* [http://www.dinur.org/1.html?rsID=219 The Jewish History Resource Center] Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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