The History of the Jews in Ireland

The History of the Jews of the Republic of Ireland

Irish Jewish Museum
Jews have lived in Ireland for centuries. The earliest reference is in the Annals of Innisfallen in the year 1079 which records the arrival of five Jews from over the sea. It is probable that they came as merchants from Rouen in France.

There is little doubt that following the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1496 that some arrived on the South coast. The honour of having the first Jewish Mayor in Ireland goes to the town of Youghal in Co. Cork, where a Mr. William Annyas was elected to that position in 1555. Since then Mr. Robert Briscoe was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1956 and 1961, his son Mr. Ben Briscoe was Lord Mayor in 1988, and Mr. Gerald Goldberg was Lord Mayor of Cork in 1977.

The earliest record of a Synagogue in Ireland dates from 1660 with the establishment of a prayer room in Crane Lane, opposite Dublin Castle. The oldest Jewish cemetery dates from the early 1700’s and is situated near Ballybough Bridge, Clontarf, Dublin 3.

The former Greenville Hall Synagogue

Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, there was some Jewish immigration from Central Europe, but the main influx came between 1880 and 1910 when approx. 2,000 Jews came from Eastern Europe and settled in Belfast, Cork, Derry, Drogheda, Dublin, Limerick, Lurgan, and Waterford. They participated fully in all walks of life, in the professions, trades, and manufacturing. Only a handful of Jews came during the Nazi period and shortly after the end of World War II.

The Jewish population peaked at approx. 5,500 in the late 1940’s. The numbers have now declined to approx. 1,700.

The History of Northern Ireland
By Mr. Harold Ross J.P.

Harold Ross JP with one of the decendents of Sir Otto JaffePrior to the beginning of the 19th century, there is no record of a Jewish settlement in fairly large numbers in Northern Ireland. There was, however, at least 1 Jew in residence in Belfast in the year 1652. His name was Manuel Lightfoot and he was a tailor.
In or about the year 1845, a Mr. Daniel Jaffe, a merchant from Hamburg, visited Belfast for the purpose of establishing contacts for the purchase of linen goods and within the next decade, there was 3 linen houses functioning in Belfast by the name of Jaffe Brothers, George Betzold & Company and Moore & Weinberg. During this time the Dublin Jewish minister was the Rev. Julius Sandheim and he kept a Register of Births. The earliest Belfast entry is that of Meir Levy, to whom a male child was born in 1849.
Annesley Street SynagogueBy the year 1869, the number of Jewish residents in Belfast was 21. In the following year, a Synagogue in Great Victoria Street was built at the expense of Mr. Daniel Jaffe, the founder members being Mr. Jaffe, Mr. Weinberg, Mr. Betzhold, Mr. Boas, Mr. Lippman and Mr. Portheim. The minister who officiated at that Synagogue was the Rev. Dr. Joseph Chotzner, who also conducted Hebrew and religion classes for the Jewish children of Belfast at his home in 71 Great Victoria Street.
The introduction by the Russian Parliament of the “May Laws” in 1882, caused great masses of Russian Jewry to fly from Tsarist oppression. A sprinkling of such fugitives found their way to Belfast. Through Mr. Max Veital formed the Belfast Hebrew Board of Guardians in 1893. The same Mr. Veital, along with a Mr. Cohen, was also instrumental in founding the present Belfast Chevra Kadisha, that is, the Belfast Holy Burial Society. In 1896, a Belfast Hebrew Ladies Foreign Benevolent Society was formed.
A WWII victim with her child.  She later opened a very successful clothes factorySeveral families arrived in Belfast where they were given a safe haven after their travels of pogroms and vicious persecution. With great difficulty, they found the means to rent a small house in the Carlisle Circus, New Lodge Road and Lower Antrim Road area. They were kindly received by the local inhabitants and shortly afterwards established a prayer house in Jackson Street. With an increase in numbers which included children, Regent Street School was established at the rear of the present Clifton Street Orange Hall. A site was acquired in Annesley Street and with a magnificent donation from Sir Otto Jaffe, President of the community and Lord Mayor of Belfast the synagogue was opened in 1904 shortly followed by the building of the Jaffe Public Elementary School at the corner of Cliftonville and Antrim Road in 1907.
The families resident in the area achieved fame over the year in many fields. One of the most renowned figures of the early part of the 20th century was Rabbi Jacob Shachter who served as Rabbi from 1926 until his retirement at the end of 1953. Rabbi Dr. Herzog the local Minister was appointed the first Chief Rabbi of the Irish Free State and of his sons was the President of Israel. Barney Hurwitz the long serving President of the Belfast Hebrew Congregation was appointed a Justice of the Peace and was honoured with the OBE. Louis Hyman also was appointed Justice of Peace. Jackie Morris who lived in Clifton Drive was His Excellency the Israel Ambassador to New Zealand after having been consul in New York. Motel Steinberg was an aspiring professional footballer and Harold Goldblatt was one of the founders of the Ulster Group Theatre. It should be mentioned also the contribution made to the Ulster Theatre by Beatrice Hurwitz who was associated with the early days of the Ulster Group Theatre. In local journalism the names of Judith Rosenfield and her sister Ray were well known for their contributions to the Northern Whig and Belfast Newsletter.
There was the establishment of a National School for Jewish Children in Cliftonville Road in 1907. A children’s hostel was opened in Clifton Park Avenue during the Second World War and all sections of the population in North Belfast united in giving succour to children torn away from their parents and demonstrating the traditional warmth and hospitality which epitomises the whole North Belfast area. A farm was bought in Millisle and children from war torn Europe were given sanctuary there.
Undoubtedly the epicentre of the Jewish settlement in Northern Ireland had been in this area, which at its peak numbered 1400 people approximately. This is now considerably diminished and the time is getting close when a more concise record will need to be made of this fragment of the scattered House of Israel which found full safe haven.

Sites in Ireland
Weingreen Biblical Antiquities Museum
Arts Building, Trinity College, Dublin 2

Statue of Moses
Main Entrance, Four Courts, Dublin 7

Bloomfield House
Bloomfield Ave, Dublin 8
(Formerly the Jewish Day School)

Rabbi Herzog’s Home
Plaque on wall
(First Chief Rabbi of Ireland)
33 Bloomfield Ave, Dublin 8

Clonyn Castle
Delvin, Co. Westmeath
Where over 100 orphaned children from concentration camps had a temptitlery home until 1948.

Cork – Shalom Park
Opened in 1989 in the area formerly known as’Jewstown’.

Cork Trinity Pedestrian Bridge
Opened in 1977 by the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork, Alderman Gerald Goldberg.

Birthplace of Leopold Bloom
Upper Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8
(James Joyce’s famous character in ‘Ulysses’) – May 1886 – 1952

Belfast Botanic Gardens
Memorial fountain surmounted by ornamental weather vane honouring Daniel Joseph Jaffe (1807 – 1876), father of Jewish Lord Mayor of Belfast, Otto Jaffe.

Sneem, Co Kerry
Modern polished steel Israeli sculpture, presented by Irish born President Chaim Herzog in memory of Cearghall O Dalaigh, the fifth President of Ireland.

Cork Cemetery 
The Cork Cemetery contains the graves of Jewish passengers from the Lusitania, torpedoed 7 May 1916, and from planes that came down in the Atlantic.

Holocaust Memorial
Synagogue Grounds
Rathfarnham Road, Dublin 6
Memorial to the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Ballybough Cemetery , Dublin 
Now-closed Ballybough Cemetery is only about one-seventh of an acre in size. It may be visited by prior arrangement with the caretakers, Mr. & Mrs. C. O’Neill. Telephone 353-1-8369756. The cemetery is maintained by the Dublin Jewish Board of Guardians.

Kilmarray, Newcastle, County Limerick
Mainly as a result of the efforts of Jim Kemmy, the derelict tiny Jewish cemetery at Kilmurray, Newcastle, County Limerick was restored as part of a publicly funded civic project. It is now preserved in excellent condition although it contains only six standing headstones.

Limerick Jewish Burial Ground 
The Jewish Burial ground has been restored with assistance from the civic authorities. It can visited at any time. All enquiries to the Limerick Civic Trust, 353-61-313399.

Irish Jewish Museum
in the former Beth Hamedrash Hagodel Synagogue, 3/4 Walworth Road, off Victoria Street, Dublin 8
Telephone 353-1-453 1797
Open: May to Sept: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday 1100 – 1530hrs
Oct. to Apr: Sunday 1030 – 1430hrs.
Other times by appointment, contact Raphael V. Siev 353-1-676 0737

There are six synagogues in Ireland. Four of these are situated in Dublin including one Progressive/Liberal Congregation. There is a synagogue in both Belfast and Cork. All synagogues have regular Services except Cork, which cannot support its very small community. Apart from the progressive/liberal synagogue in Dublin, all others are Orthodox.

Terenure Hebrew Congregation

Phone: 353-1-4923751

Knesset Orach Chayim

Phone: 353-1-2856241

Belfast Synagogue

Phone: 44-2890-777974

Cork Hebrew Congregation

Phone: 353-21-4870413
Fax: 353-21-4876537

Jewish Home of Ireland

Phone: 353-1-4972604

Machzikei Hadass Congregation

Phone: +353-862462777


2 comments on “The History of the Jews in Ireland

  1. […] Source: The History of the Jews in Ireland […]


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