The Irish Jewish Museum
The story of "Hitler's Synagogue"
By Henry Levy
Dr. Derek Enlander, talking about the Irish Jewish Museum. He is an authority on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and is affiliated with Mount Sinai Medical Center. He is standing next to the poster of the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, Robert Briscoe.
Photos: Gloria Starr Kins
Every New Yorker loves to celebrate the diverse culture of our City. On St. Patrick's Day, many of us look for an article of green clothing so that we can feel "Irish pride" whether or not we are Irish. Well, at a reception at the Consulate General of Ireland, there was a great deal of "Jewish pride" exhibited by Irish Americans and Jews from Ireland who are Friends of The Irish Jewish Museum.
This Irish community and the Irish Jewish Museum represent a blending of two cultures over a 250 year period. The Jewish population in Ireland dwindled from a high of 4700 to 1300 today. The first recorded Jewish immigrants came to Ireland around 1660. During the 19th century the largest influx occurred when many Eastern European Jews fled the pogroms. Many of them settled in Dublin.
Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland said, "Ireland is grateful for the important contribution which the Jewish Community has made to Irish life - with Lord Mayors of three principal cities, representatives in the Dail [Irish Parliament] and members of the judiciary, to say nothing of the extensive contribution to the business and cultural life of Ireland. If ever any group of people proved the immeasurable enrichment that comes from embracing diversity, creating space for others and letting their genius flow spontaneously, the Jewish community in Ireland tops the league."
One of the participants remarked that Abba Eban, who was born in South Africa, lived for a time in Belfast. Also, one of Israel's Presidents, Chaim Herzog, whose father was Ireland's Chief Rabbi, originally opened the Irish Jewish Museum on June 20, 1985.
Mr. Ben Briscoe, the former Lord Mayor of Dublin, whose father Robert, was Dublin's first Jewish Lord Mayor, was the host of this fundraising effort by The Friends of the Irish Jewish Museum to ensure that the former two story building in which it was housed, could be increased in space six fold and become a jewel in the crown of Dublin's tourism business.
During the event, plans for the multi-million dollar redevelopment of the museum were presented. Work is expected to begin on the expansion in 2013 and be completed by 2016. Even though the Irish Government is supporting these efforts, the goal is to raise $13 million which will include ongoing maintenance and operation. The museum will also include a Holocaust Memorial Center in connection to the Holocaust Education Trust of Ireland.
Dr. Derek Enlander, a Belfast doctor now practicing and teaching at Mount Sinai Medical Center and School of Medicine, told the story of visiting the museum on his honeymoon and discovering a large placard from 1850 mentioning his mother's family who had emigrated from Russia to Ireland.
One of the amazing stories told was of "Hitler's Synagogue" in Ireland. According to Yvonne Altman O'Connor (of the IJM) "the Synagogue in question is the Greenville Hall Synagogue on the South Circular Road which was damaged in the bombings in 1941. It is called Hitler's Synagogue because it was I believe, the only Synagogue Hitler had to pay reparations for as Ireland was of course neutral in the war and should not have been bombed."
For those wanting more information or who may wish to help the project reach completion, please visit the website www.jewishmuseum.ie or call their New York office at 212-689-3100.