From shopping at Erlich's kosher butcher shop on Clanbrassil Street, in the heart of Dublins "Little Jerusalem," to worshipping at Adelaide Road, the nations oldest synagogue, Ireland's small, yet devout community of Irish Jews has carried on religious customs for hundreds of years.
During the late 19th Century, there was an influx of Eastern European Jews into Ireland. As they escaped from religious persecution during the Tsars' pogroms, the Jewish immigrants setteled in Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Derry and Belfast. Ireland's Jewish communities quickly grew and thrived as Jewish immigrants and their children made many contributions to Irish society. Shalom Ireland tells the untold story of how Irish Jews participated in both the struggle for freedom in Ireland and the effort to create the State of Israel; looks at how World War II and the Holocaust impacted the Irish people; and examines whether anti-Semitism took root in Ireland.
Ben (right), who followed in his footstep and became Lord Mayor in 1988. Ben and his brother, Joe (below), take viewers on a captivating journey through the history of Irish Jewry as they share family stories like how their father, Robert Briscoe joined the cause of Irish
Ireland's Jewish population reached its peak after World War II when there were about 5,500 Jewish people living in Ireland. Just as poor economic conditions resulting in massive emigration has long drained Ireland of her most precious resource -- her people -- the Jewish community has also been hard hit by an exodus of young adults.
As their population dwindles, Irish Jews struggle to find ways to maintain their institutions and pass their heritage on to future generations. Judy Charry and Carl Nelkin (below), a young Jewish couple, are raising their daughter,
"To sum it up in one word, it was like bereavement," says Joe Briscoe. "It was like going to a funeral." The next day a yarmulke-clad congregant packs torahs and prayer books into carton boxes as a work crew dismantles the pews which will be sold at an auction. At the end of the day, the former synagogue is closed forever.
The synagogue closure is a major turning point for Dublin's Jewish community. For many members of the congregation, the loss of Adelaide Road reflects a seemingly hopeless situation -- the end of a way of life. But others believe Ireland's recent robust economic growth offers new hope as young Irish emigrants begin to return home in an unprecedented reversal of historical trends. Among the tears and farewells to this beloved historic institution, a silver lining is found. The synagogue closure was a wake-up call and the catalyst that moved people into action.
Recently, Irish Jews launched an effort to revitalize Dublin's once vibrant Jewish community, and as a result, according to the recent Irish Census, Ireland's Jewish population has increased to nearly 1,800.
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