The Jewish community of Ireland, though never large, has yielded a bounty of important people.

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 Ulysses.

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 constitution.

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 Ireland.

“We cannot go forward without your help,” Briscoe was reported to have told attendees at the fundraising event.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger