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Official recognition of the part New York Jews played in Ireland’s national disaster finally came in 2010, when the then President of Ireland Mary Mc Aleese visited Shearith Israel synagogue in New York’s Lower East Side, formally thanking the congregation for its generosity 153 years before.Ireland’s Jewish community began to grow in the late 1800s.By 1901, there were an estimated 3,771 Jews in Ireland, and by 1904 there were approximately 4,800.Most of these immigrants lived in Dublin, giving Ireland its first-ever ethnically diverse neighborhoods.Perhaps the most famous Irish Jew is fictional: Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, and the son of a fictional Jewish immigrant to Dublin.Bloom was based on Joyce’s real-life Jewish friend and student Aron Ettore Schmitz.The earliest Jewish visitors to Ireland were Medieval merchants: “Five Jews came from over the sea with gifts to Tairdelbach (the King of Munster), and were then sent back again over the sea,” records The Annals of Innisfallen, a chronicle of Irish history started in the 12 Century by monks in Ireland’s Innisfallen Abbey.Historians speculate the Jewish visitors most likely came from the French area of Normandy, which then had a thriving Jewish community.
Amid the horrific suffering, some of Ireland’s greatest relief came from Jews around the world.
These early Sephardi arrivals settled in Ireland’s scenic south coast, and quickly integrated into Irish society.
A Sephardi Jew, William Annyas, was even elected Mayor of Youghal, in County Cork, in 1555.
The 12 Century Calendar of Documents Related to Ireland records a Jewish doctor named Joseph living near Dublin in 1171, and by 1232, there seems to have been a well-established Jewish community in Ireland.
King Henry III issued a grant that year, naming a man named Peter de Rivall the new position 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 Medieval community was short-lived.
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In 1871, there were 258 recorded Jewish residents in Ireland; by 1881 that figure had nearly doubled.