Saturday, March 24, 2007

Irish Jewish Museum needs mitzvot!

I read an article this morning in my nod to Shabbat (and a certain Shabbat Queen, the woman whose price is greater than rubies, is actually shomer two weeks now off the keys and some of her accustomed partakings-- mazel tov, shayna meidele!) in the March 16, 2007 Forward about the Dublin Jews. Every spring around March 17 it seems there is some journalist regaling us with the same small bit we know from their past.

(I added some of those same small bits to my entry "Jews in Ireland" in "Medieval Ireland: An Encyclopedia" edited by Seán Duffy, Routledge 2005, pages 239-240. My article on Paul Durcan's poem and the real-life Hat Factory in Castlebar-- and the one at Galway in which my grandfather was a dispatcher, the enterprise Les Modes Modernes run by Jewish refugees admitted with some hesitation by the Free State in the late 1930s-- has been sent off to a journal but seems in limbo. I have another article sent off and in an adjoining liminal state, examining the anti-semitic corporatist far-right Áiseiri movement in Hugo Hamilton's memoir "The Speckled People" of his father-- and Seán's affiliation with its leader Gearóid Ó Cuinneagáin in the 1930s and 40s. I hope to write another analysis, on Hugo's "The Harbor Boys" aka in Britain the more appropriate title "The Sailor in the Wardrobe," soon.)

Their present has predictably been more precarious; but recent immigration may help the three synagogues in Dublin that survive. The well-designed site revealed to me today heretofore unknown news that the Cork shul actually meets the first Friday night of the month, so perhaps it too may recover from the sickbed, where so often both Jews and Yiddishkeit are assumed to have been finally-- about-- to be laid to rest or put to death. When in Limerick in June I will be able to visit the tiny Kilmurray cemetery recently restored with its six headstones, and I will lay pebbles on the graves and say a jumbled Kaddish.

Marilyn Zeitlin in her "A Slice of Ireland" entry to the March newspaper's ritual of reminding readers that there are still non-fictional Jews in Dublin and alerting me to the IJM's precarious state can be read at

She notes that three American Jewish philanthrophic organizations rejected the IJM's appeals.
This is shameful, lashon hora, or as they say in Yiddish "a shandah, a scandal for the goyim."
So, if any of you care to join me in contributing what you can to the IJM: find bank transfer information at this site by a kind "friend;" scroll down the page to "Objectives"

(This was also posted after removal of spousal tributes and shameless self- promotion on the Forward site after the Zeitlin article, and in re-edited form also without such promotion although I wish I could have kept it on, given the audience, on the Irish-Studies list. I also sent a short letter to the F. editor with links to the Jewish Ireland site and the bank transfer data.)

(3/25: Follow-up to Aidan's comment: yes, the Belfast Jewish community also exists, but from the news of our local temple's president, our beloved Henry Leventon of Rosa Etta Terrace in Cliftonville's natal embrace, grad of the Inst., bold journeyer at the cusp of manhood from Belfast into the Korean War's draft of all things, it's been long on the decline due to heavy emigration, especially since WWII, to Britain, Canada, US, and for once, Israel. Like IJM, no website that I can find but e-mail: As of 1999 a UJC-UK site lists "99 seatholders" at the Wolfson Centre vs. over 400 in the 1940s. Another one lists the 2004 population at 130 down from its highest number, 1800-plus, at the time when our Henry was leaving Belfast for the great world beyond its shores and terraces.

Sad related link to abandoned and/or vandalized cemetery sites in the Isles, including an obelisk in the City Cemetery on Falls Road in West Belfast, which I will also visit this summer.

As an aside, my search also pulled up Marlena Thompson on Cork's Jewish community:

I'd love a review copy... since I am wanting to do so...of Cormac Ó Gráda's new book on the economic history "Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce," mostly about the heavy Litvak immigration and its impacts on Dublin. Blurb & sample from its opening pages:

(The image: Chaim Herzog was born in the unlikely Ring of Kerry village of Sneem (Irish for "knot") where there is a sculpture garden with one figure commemorating him today. He later became the State of Israel's first president. His father Dr. Isaac was the nascent Irish Free State's chief rabbi.)


aidan said...

Interesting post. There is also a Jewish community in Belfast. At least there was the last time I spent any time in the oul sod. Smaller than Dublin I'm sure.

horst said...

Horst Dickel
Dear Fionnchu
I am a German historian writing about German-speaking refugees to Ireland in the NS period. I am very interested in you saying that you wrote an article on Durcan/Hat factory Castlebar. As a matter of fact I am just writing about that and also about Modes Modernes in Galway. Who was your grandfather in ModMod? I have a list of names working there and it would be great finding out about your grandfather.Also your text on Durcan would be great to read -
perhaps you could try to help me fill these gaps in my research.
Big thanks

Fionnchú said...

Horst, I just came across your post months later! The name is Jim or James Finan. Please get in touch and I can send you the essay I wrote.

henna said...

Hi! I googled into your blog as I tried to find information about the hat factory Les Modes Modernes in Galway.

I bought an old hat recently and now try to figure out how old it is. The factory was established in 1938 but I'm quite uncertain when did it go out of business.

If you know when this happened, I would be really happy to know.

Best regards,
Henna (from Finland)

Fionnchú said...

Henna, I think it closed by the early 1970s. The tower can still be seen behind Bohermore cemetery. Thanks for your interest! JLM

henna said...

Thank you really much! :)