The Anonymous Irish Rabbi

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JTA has reported that a “leading rabbi in Ireland” has criticized the Irish Film and Television Academy for an award it intends to give Mel Gibson.

“We find it very puzzling,” said the rabbi, who wished to remain anonymous. “He has made blatant anti-Semitic remarks, and you’d think they’d give him a miss this year.”

While the rabbi may have a point about Mr. Gibson, the attempt to remain anonymous seems a little silly.

I spent a summer in Dublin back in 1999, and I came to love and respect the tiny Jewish community there. I arrived soon after the Adelaide Road synagogue — a historic shul (founded in 1892), where Israel’s sixth president Chaim Herzog had his bar mitzvah — closed its doors.

That community, which had been located near the city center, merged with a synagogue about 20 minutes away and was the only remaining Orthodox congregation in Dublin. The rabbi of the shul was the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, but people joked, he was also known as The Only Rabbi of Ireland.

This wasn’t precisely true. There was one other: the rabbi of the Progressive congregation in Dublin. But back in 1999, there wasn’t even Chabad in Ireland, and Cork, which had once had the second most populous Jewish community in Ireland, didn’t have a congregation that met on a regular basis. (At its peak, Ireland had about 5,000 Jews, now it has between 1,000 and 2,000.)

I’ve heard that Chabad has since come to Dublin, but still, it’s hard to imagine that there are more than a handful of rabbis in all of Ireland (and there may well be fewer), and so while I’m always happy to have the opportunity to write about Ireland, the anti-Mel rabbi’s attempt to remain anonymous strikes me as particularly odd.

Posted on February 11, 2008

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