I would not presume to be an expert on Irish Jewry, but >from my reading about
Jewish people in Dublin, chiefly The Jews of Ireland by Louis Hyman, I would
add a couple of things to the message of Avrama Gingold.
from the earliest times the monks and the priests in Ireland learned Hebrewand their attitude reflected the schizophrenic classification of "the Jews" as
both scholars and usurers.
Among certain political groupings, there has always been an ideological
identification with "the Jews" amongst the Irish. The mythology of the Irish
as the "lost tribe" was a very strong influence for hundreds of years and,
with the growth of nationalism, the Zionist cause and the Irish nationalist
cause became, in the eyes of some, a common cause.
Indeed it has even been noticed that Charles Parnell and Theodor Herzl
strongly resembled each other, both in looks and attitude!
However, >from what I gather, sympathy for the Jews in mundane life was not
particularly widespread. Many of the same prejudices found elsewhere in Europe
were found in Ireland, especially with the financial crisis at the end of the
19th century when landowners mortgaged themselves to the hilt.
Nevertheless, I believe there are a significant amount of families who are of
Jewish descent either through conversion or through marriage. Dr Barnardo's
father was not Italian. He was originally a Hamburg Jew, of Sephardi
extraction, called Bernardi. There is still a furrier's in Dublin called
Ulick O'Connor, fourth Earl of Dessart, married Ellen Odette, eldest daughter
of London banker Henry Bischoffsheim. Her sister Amelia married Sir Maurice
The writer Erskine Childer's family were originally descended >from a 17th
century Jew. Marriages between Jews and non-Jews in the 18th century, as in
other European countries, were not unheard of. Edward Lysaght who wrote "The
Sprig of Shillelagh" and "The Man who led the Van of the Irish Vounteers"
married a Jewish woman, who of course lost her surname.
A Cork Jew was the ancestor of poet Sir Henry Newbolt and another descendant
married Lord Louth.
Catholics and Jews together were excluded >from the freedom of the City of
Dublin >from 1652. Jews were also excluded >from naturalisation, a privilege
only granted to them in 1816.
Parnell - whose American mother like the current Irish president maintained
she was descended >from Spanish Jews - up to a certain extent and for whatever
reason identified the Irish cause with Jewish "nationalism".
Nevertheless not everyone belonged to the circle of Parnell and its outward
looking politics. There was another Irish nationalist faction led by Arthur
Griffith, founder of Sinn Fein, who, for whatever reason, incited anti-Jewish
feeling, leading to anti-Jewish riots.
The Jews were also identified with the English colonizers. It was claimed
Cromwell invited Portugese Jews to come to Ireland to help his colonization
and keep down the Catholics.
Around 1656 James Harrington a courtier to Charles I suggested a resolution
to the Irish and Jewish problems in one stroke by the creation of Ireland as a
National Home for Jews - not something it seems that was taken up.
To return to the Irish Famine, however, the Jews did take on the role of
fundraisers for those affected by the Famine. It was Lionel de Rothschild who
negotiated the Irish Famine Loan in the 1840s, waiving all commission.
In fact the British Association for the relief of extreme distress in the
remote parishes of Ireland and Scotland was jokingly referred to as
'Rothschild, Kinnaird and some dozen other merchant princes meeting every day
and working hard".
Many leading Jews in Britain and America took on the task of fundraising for
Irish aid during the Famine.
Joyce's Ulysses is a careful, ironic dissection of the colonial city of Dublin
as a microcosm of European hostility, encased in a small island, to those
defined as "Jewish". (The protagonist Leopold Bloom's father is a Hungarian
Jew, his mother an Irish Catholic).
Set against a turbulent economic background, Dublin is shown as a microcosm of
the worst prejudices of Europe where even those who know the true history
playact, incite and take on political poses.
A headmaster, the payer of schoolteacher Stephen Dedalus's wages, claims he
himself has always 'paid his way' and never borrowed money.
He runs after the young man to tell him, "Ireland, they say, has the honour of
being the only country which never persecuted the jews. Do you know that? No.
And do you know why?" .... Because she never let them in ... She never let
He treats what he has said as a great joke and the last line of the chapter is
"On his wise shoulders through the checkerwork of leaves the sun flung
spangles, dancing coins."
Dedalus has earlier pointed out to the headmaster that his Jewish financial
conspiracy theories are more criticisms of the nature of the money system
itself and trade, saying "A merchant is one who buys cheap and sells dear, jew
or gentile, is he not?"
But of course we're talking about fiction here, not real life ...
Perhaps someone who is >from Ireland would like to say something?