Jewish people have been part of life in Dublin, Ireland since the first Jews were recorded to enter the land in 1079. Sure, it took nearly 600 for the first synagogue to be established, and it would take hundreds of years more for the presence of the Jewish people to number in the thousands, but by the 19th century, Jewish people were a small but important part of life in Dublin.
The story of the history of Jews in Dublin is told in the Irish Jewish Museum. The museum opened its doors in 1985 in a former synagogue, which remains intact. It covers 150 years of history and Jewish life in Ireland
The museum, while on the small side, does contain artifacts and genealogical records. While located in Dublin, it also includes information and artifacts about Jewish history in other Irish cities.
One exhibit that many visitors find interesting is the fully stocked kitchen. This kosher kitchen appears exactly as it would have in any kosher home fifty or sixty years ago. For some it brings back memories of their mother’s or grandmother’s kitchen.
While there was, at one time, a thriving Jewish community, there is today, by some estimates, less than 1,000 Jews in the country. Some say that it is unlikely any Jewish community will remain for much longer. That is just one more reason why the museum is so important. It is also why now is a good time to visit Dublin if you intend to partake in any religious services while in the country.
While the country’s Jewish population is small, those who remain do what they can in order to preserve the Jewish traditions. For example, there are so few Jewish people in a city called Cork that on high holy days, Jews from Dublin come to help them mark the days.
It seems that as long as there is a Jewish population – no matter how small – the Jewish life will continue in Ireland. There are even a handful of Jewish bakeries and restaurants to be found within Dublin. A grocery store in the city caters to those who keep kosher at home.
The small population remains active in politics, charity and the community and works with other city leaders and citizens to be sure that the needs of all are met. Even though the Jewish members of society in Dublin are so greatly outnumbered, they still manage to be elected to political office which shows, perhaps, a lower level of anti-Semitism than in some other parts of the world.
That is not to say there is no such activity. In fact, the Irish Jewish museum was vandalized in 1995 at which time it was spray painted with anti-Semitic slogans. Still, overall, the atmosphere is one of acceptance and tolerance.
While many factors, such as assimilation, emigration and aging, have contributed to the decline of the Jewish population in Ireland the Jewish community that remains is committed to preserving their way of life for as long as possible.
When you visit the Irish Jewish Museum, you see not only the history of the Jews in the area, but also what may be an era that is rapidly coming to an end.