The first reference to Jews in Ireland comes from the Annals
of Inishfallen in 1077, which records that in a visit to the
High King at Limerick "five Jews came over the sea ..... and
they were sent back again". It is believed that they were merchants
from Rouen in France.
Apart from a small number who came to Ireland in the 12th and
13th centuries, the next Jews to arrive came from the Iberian
Peninsula, following the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions at
the end of the 15th and beginning of the 16th centuries. There
are references to Sephardic Jews living in Ireland, in records
dating back to the late 1600s. Cork and Dublin had cemeteries
in the early 1700s and a community existed in Dublin from the
1660s. The Belfast community was formed in 1864.
The rise of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century brought an influx of Jews to Ireland.
They formed small communities in Derry, Lurgan, Limerick, Cork
and Waterford, and greatly expanded the existing community in
Dublin. The newcomers settled mostly in the Camden Street and
Portobello areas where The Irish Jewish Museum is located today.
The whole area was affectionately known as "Little Jerusalem"
and the main Jewish shopping area was in Lower Clanbrassil Street,
where in fact most of the shops were Jewish owned.
The expansion of Dublin city from 1946 onwards resulted in the
movement of the Jewish population to the outer suburbs, causing
a sharp decline of the Jewish population of the Dolphins Barn
and South Circular Road areas. Consequently many of the existing
prayer rooms and small Synagogues closed. The Walworth Road
Synagogue, founded in 1917, was saved from destruction, renovated
and restored. The building now is the Irish Jewish Museum, which
was opened by Irish-born President Chaim Herzog of Israel in
June 1985, during his State visit to Ireland. The Jewish population
of Ireland numbered less than 2,000 persons in 1995.
The largest collection of Irish Jewish family records is maintained by Stuart Rosenblatt, whose website is www.irishjewishroots.com.
You can find out more about the Irish Jewish community at www.jewishireland.org.