The Jewish community of Ireland, though never large, has yielded a bounty of
Dignitaries include Israel’s sixth president Chaim
Herzog; two mayors of Dublin, father and son Robert and Ben Briscoe; and Gerald
Goldberg, a mayor of Cork. Perhaps the best known Irish Jew, however, is
fictional: Leopold Bloom, the protagonist in James Joyce’s masterpiece
Now the country’s Jewish community seeks to display its rich
heritage on a bigger stage.
The Irish Jewish Museum is trying to raise
$13 million for a sixfold expansion of its premises in an old synagogue on
Walworth Road in Dublin.
At a gathering at the Irish consulate in New
York last week, Ben Briscoe pitched the idea to potential donors, according to
an Irish-American website.
“It’s amazing the way the Irish and the Jews
keep coming together in many different aspects,” Debbie Briscoe, the former
mayor’s sister who runs the museum, was quoted by the IrishCentral site as
saying. “The importance of this museum is to preserve what the Jewish community
has in Ireland.”
Jews first arrived on Ireland’s shores in the middle of
the 19th century. At its peak the community numbered around 6,000 people, with
predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in both Dublin and Cork. Ties between the
Catholic majority and the newcomers were generally good, with the exception of
one pogrom in the town of Limerick in 1906. When it became independent, the
country wrote laws defending the rights of religious minorities into its
But like other communities similar in size, emigration and
assimilation have taken a toll.
Nowadays an estimated 1,500 Jews remain,
adding a sense of urgency to attempts to commemorate the Jewish contribution to
“We cannot go forward without your help,” Briscoe was reported
to have told attendees at the fundraising event.