Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Dublin's Jewish Museum

Magazine article The Spectator

Notes On. Dublin's Jewish Museum

Article excerpt

I love small museums, and the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin is a little gem, located in the neighbourhood once known as 'Little Jerusalem', a centre of Jewish life around the South Circular Road. The museum itself is a converted terraced house at 3 Walworth Road, within walking distance of the streets so evocative of Leopold Bloom's Dublin.

It is crammed with impressive artefacts from Jewish life in Ireland -- Torah scrolls, a menorah in the shape of a harp -- but also with small details and modest memorials of Irish Jewish life, which is now so sadly in decline. (There are estimated to be hardly 1,000 Jews in Ireland today, and many of them are older people whose offspring have gone elsewhere.) It is touching to see the enthusiastic theatre programmes from the Dublin Jewish Dramatic Society, which produced many plays between the 1900s and the 1960s. Likewise the mementos from Capel Street, once the centre of Jewish trading life in Dublin, and the cramped kosher kitchen, exactly as it was, in the 1900s -- Bloom's time -- where, we are reminded, the mother of the household would have spent so much time.

There are the mournful reminders of anti-Semitic feelings: Sinn Fein labour leaflets from the 1930s with their exhortations of 'No Jews' aimed at Irish employers, and adverts which announce 'Irish tailors employed only'. And here's a telling little document: the original of a glowing reference, written on 5 September 1933, from an official at the German consulate in Dublin, one 'D. von Dehn', testifying that Mrs Mina Simons (née Wilkow) had been employed in a secretarial capacity since 1924, and 'unceasingly has done her best to execute duties in the most satisfactory manner'. …

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