Noctambule in Ireland: Day #13 (I counted it this time…): Jew Town Musings
So Jimmy Crowley took us to Shalom Park, which commemorates the presence of the Jewish community in Cork City. Shalom Park sits squarely in the middle of “Jew Town,” a neighborhood of the city where immigrant Jews lived, and could practice their religion and promulgate their culture, safely -- both by dint of spirit and law in Cork. We chatted with a woman, Mary, who told us, with some clear appreciation, of how delightful it was to see “all those lights” every winter on “The Festival of Light” (Channukah).
Turns out that Cork has always been, quite literally, a safe harbor for Jews fleeing persecution: and not only were the Jews tolerated, they were allowed to flourish. Some highlights:
In 1497, Jews were expelled from Portugal; not only were they permitted entry, there were two Jewish mayors in the mid-sixteenth century;
In 1746, a bill was introduced in the Irish House of Commons “for naturalizing persons of the Jewish religion in Ireland”; interestingly, it was presented to the Lord Lieutenant to be transmitted to England but it never received the royal assent;
In 1772, more Sephardic Jews (again, mainly from Portugal) were granted entry;
In the late 1880’s, Cork welcomed a relatively large migration of Lithuanian Jews seeking refuge from the pogroms. While it has been written that their arrival was likely to be have been somewhat inadvertent on both sides (what with Cork rhyming with New York…); they started as peddlers, but their children and grandchildren were granted admission to University College Cork, permitting their entry into the professions. The Mayor of Cork City in 1973: Gerald Goldberg.
But the compassion that was shown to Jews in Cork was not at all confined to Cork. What follows are only a few other examples of the ready – and compared with most places throughout the world -- early integration of Jews not just into the fabric of Irish society, but positions of actual leadership:
Dublin elected its first Lord Mayor in 1874, Louis Wormser Harris (note: the fact that he died one week before taking office was clearly not an expression of a gerrymandered electoral process….); in the next century, Dublin would have three Jewish Lord mayors;
Ellen Cuffe, a member of the Jewish community was appointed for a 12 year term to the Irish Senate for the expressed purpose of granting minority communities with representation.
In fact, Ireland’s concern for Jews extended beyond Ireland: in Rome, T.J. Kiernan, the Irish Minister to the Vatican and his wife, Delia Murphy (at the time, a noted ballad singer), worked with Irish priest Hugh O’Flaherty to save many Jews and escaped prisoners of war.
And Jews for their part reciprocated: they were supporters of the Irish Republican Army and defended captured Irish Republicans. Robert Briscoe (who later became Lord Mayor of Dublin) was a very prominent member of the IRA whom Michael Collins sent to Germany in 1920 to be the chief agent for procuring arms.
I could go on… and it seems I actually did… but there is a quite simple punch line to this admittedly lengthy preamble: that, in contrast to the humanity demonstrated by the Irish people to the Jews over the past 600 years, I am beyond embarrassed and vexed that standard “policy” of the USA dictated that immigrant children be separated from their parents and tossed in cages.
And my embarrassment and vexation is multiplied ten-fold by the knowledge that this “policy” was masterminded by Steven Miller, a 33-year old “senior advisor” to Trump, whose Jewish family immigrated to the United States because of the pogroms. And, upon further reflection, my indignation barely camouflages my terror that this boy’s ascension to political power belies not only his profound lack of compassion, but his simple failure to grok that the Cossacks would have killed him too...