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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

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An island west of Great Britain, forming part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The earliest mention of Jews in Ireland appears toward the end of the eleventh century, although, curiously enough, quite a number of books have been written to identify the Irish with the Lost Ten Tribes.

The first authentic mention of Jews in Ireland is a record, dating from 1079, that "five Jews came over the sea bearing gifts to Fairdelbach [Hua Brian], and were sent back over the sea." No further reference is found until nearly a century later, in the reign of Henry II. of England. That monarch, fearful lest an independent kingdom should be established in Ireland, prohibited a proposed expedition thither. Strongbow, however, went in defiance of the king's orders; and, as a result, his estates were confiscated. In his venture Strongbow seems to have been assisted financially by a Jew; for under date of 1170 the following record occurs: "Josce Jew of Gloucester owes 100 shillings for an amerciament for the moneys which he lent to those who against the king's prohibition went over to Ireland" (Jacobs, "Jews of Angevin England," p. 51).

Jewish names appear in the "Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland," between 1171, when Joseph the Doctor is referred to, down to 1179. It is unlikely, however, that Jews settled in the island in appreciable numbers at that period; for no further record is found concerning them until several years later. An entry dated 1225 shows that Roger Bacon had borrowed considerable sums from English Jews in connection with his mission on the king's service in Ireland.

Branch of the Irish Exchequer.

By that date, however, there was probably a Jewish community in Ireland; for under date of July 28, 1232, appears a grant by King Henry III. to Peter de Rivall, granting him the office of treasurer and chancellor of the Irish Exchequer, the king's ports and coast, and also "the custody of the King's Judaism in Ireland." This grant contains the additional instruction that "all Jews in Ireland shall be intentive and respondent to Peter as their keeper in all things touching the king." The Jews at this period probably resided in or near Dublin. In the Dublin White Book, under date of 1241, appears a grant of land containing various prohibitions against its sale or disposition by the grantee. Part of the prohibition reads" vel in Judaismo ponere." Both this and the preceding reference were common form.

The last mention of Jews in the "Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland" appears about 1286. When the expulsion from England took place (1290), the Irish Jews had doubtless to go as well. At any rate, there is no further mention of them until the period of the Commonwealth, when the resettlement of the Jews in England under Cromwell led to resettlement in Ireland also. From investigations made by Lucien Wolf, it would appear, however, that as early as 1620 one David Sollom, a Jewish merchant, purchased some property in Meath which is still in the possession of his descendants.

Jews are first heard of again in Dublin; and there is reason to believe that they were among the Dissenters who came after Cromwell's conquests. It is even stated that some Portuguese Jews settled in Dublin on Cromwell's invitation, and that theysoon became opulent merchants. They established a synagogue in Crane lane.

Settlement in Dublin.

The Dublin congregation prospered, and seems to have been in existence in the reigns of King William III. and Queen Anne. In a work published in the latter's reign mention is made of a visit to London by a Rabbi Aaron Sophair of Dublin. No record, however, is found of any Jewish settlement outside of Dublin. As late as 1737 Cork seems to have had no Jewish community, though toward the middle of the century mention is made of Jews residing there.

In 1728, or thereabout, Michael Phillips presented the Dublin Jews with a piece of freehold ground at Ballybough Bridge for a cemetery; and about the middle of the eighteenth century the Bevis Marks Congregation of London assisted them financially in erecting a wall round the burial-ground. It should be mentioned that the Dublin congregation at one time proposed to affiliate itself with the Spanish and Portuguese congregation of London. Dublin in 1745 contained about forty Jewish families, comprising about 200 persons. Their synagogue was at Marlborough Green, and their cemetery in the center of the village of Ballybough.

In 1746 a bill was introduced in the Irish House of Commons "for naturalizing persons professing the Jewish religion in Ireland." Another was introduced in the following year, agreed to without amendment, and presented to the lord lieutenant to be transmitted to England; but it never received the royal assent. These Irish bills, however, had one very important result; namely, the formation of the Committee of Diligence, which was organized by British Jews at this time to watch the progress of the measure. This ultimately led to the organization of the Board of Deputies, which important body has continued in existence to the present time.

Jews were expressly excepted from the benefit of the Irish Naturalization Act of 1783.

The Dublin congregation declined steadily toward the end of the eighteenth century; and by the beginning of the nineteenth the synagogue was discontinued, and the borrowed scrolls were returned to the Bevis Marks Congregation. About 1822, however, the congregation was reorganized, and it has prospered ever since. Its meeting-place was for several years at 40 Stafford street; a new synagogue was built in Mary's Abbey in 1835; and the present place of worship is in Adelaide road.

The exceptions in the Naturalization Act of 1783, referred to above, were abolished in 1846. In the same year the obsolete statute "De Judaismo," which prescribed a special dress for Jews, was also formally repealed. The Irish Marriage Act of 1844 expressly made provision for marriages according to Jewish rites.

When the Irish famine was at its height in 1847, the Jews of America took an active interest in relieving the distress; and a notable meeting was organized by the Spanish and Portuguese congregation of New York, at which a fund was raised in aid of the sufferers.

Toward the middle of the nineteenth century several families of German Jews settled in Ireland. Conspicuous among these was the Jaffe family of Belfast, which established the famous linen-house bearing its name.

Jews have repeatedly held office in Ireland. A Benjamin d'Israeli, or Disraeli, a public notary in Dublin from 1788 to 1796, and later a prominent member of the Dublin Stock Exchange, held the office of sheriff for County Carlow in 1810. In all likelihood, however, he was a Jew by origin only.

Ralph Bernal-Osborne, of Jewish extraction, was a prominent land-owner in Ireland, and represented Waterford in Parliament in 1870.

The first professing Israelite, however, to hold office was Lewis Harris, alderman of the city of Dublin. His son, Alfred Wormser Harris, succeeded him as senior alderman, and in 1880 contested the county of Kildare in the Liberal interest. Alfred now (1903) holds commissions of the peace for the city and county of Dublin.

Prominent Irish Jews.

The most prominent position ever held in Ireland by a Jew was that of Lord Mayor of Belfast, held by Sir Otto Jaffe 1899-1900; he also became high sheriff in 1901. At present Sir Otto is justice of the peace for Belfast and also consul at that city for the German government. Maurice E. Solomons, justice of the peace for the city and county of Dublin, is acting consul in that city for the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Among the Jews graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, may be mentioned N. L. Benmohel, the first professing Jew to enter the institution since its foundation by Queen Elizabeth; John D. Rosenthal, LL.D; Barrow Emanuel, J.P.; and Ernest W. Harris, LL.D. The Rev. Alfred Philip Bender, J.P., a native Irish Jew, has been government member of the council of the University of the Cape of Good Hope.

Ireland is the only portion of the British Isles that has a religious census; and, consequently, figures are more nearly correct there than elsewhere. The Jewish population in 1871 was 258. By the census of 1881 it did not exceed 453, mostly of English and German extraction. Since that date, however, it has increased considerably, doubtless owing to Russian immigration. In 1891 it was given as 1,779; in 1901 as 3,771. The bulk of this population resides in Dublin, which contains about 2,200 Jews. Besides the synagogue on Adelaide road, there are five minor congregations, a board of guardians, and a number of charitable and educational institutions.

Belfast has a Jewish population of about 450, and contains several charitable organizations and two synagogues, of one of which Sir Otto Jaffe is president. The Jewish population of Cork is about 400. Limerick, Londonderry, and Waterford have each a synagogue and charitable organizations. Zionist societies also have been established in Ireland.

The Jewish population is distributed in the provinces as follows: Connaught, 4; Leinster, 2,246; Munster, 670; and Ulster, 851.

  • Calendar of Documents Relating to Ireland, edited by H. S. Sweetman, - London, 1875;
  • John D'Alton, History of the City of Dublin, pp. 54-57, Dublin, 1838;
  • Whitehead and Walsh, History of Dublin, pp. 845;
  • Joseph Jacobs, Jews of Angevin England, pp. 51, 255, New York, 1893;
  • O'Conor, Annals of Innisfallen, 2:81;
  • Moses Margollouth, History of the Jews in Great Britain, 1:174, 2:63, London, 1851;
  • James Picciotto, Sketches of Anglo-Jewish History, pp. 77, 114, 115, 121, 168, 225, London, 1875;
  • Bloch's Oesterreichische Wochenschrift, May 9, 1902, p. 319;
  • Lucien Wolf, The Middle Age of Anglo-Jewish History, in Papers of the Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition, p. 76;
  • John Curry, An Historical and Critical Review of the Civil Wars in Ireland, 2:262, London, 1786;
  • The Occident (Phila.), 1847, 5:35-45;
  • Jew. Chron. Jan. 4, Feb. 8, 1901;
  • The Jewish Year Book, London, 1902-03;
  • Dict. Nat. Biog. 4:373, 20:117, New York.
L. Hü.
Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Ireland'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​i/ireland.html. 1901.
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