Irish broadcaster calls Israel a ‘cancer’

A popular Irish broadcaster and columnist said he is not anti-Semitic, after calling Israel “the cancer in foreign affairs” during a broadcast.

“Israel is the cancer in foreign affairs. It polarizes the Islamic community of the world against the rest of the world,” Vincent Browne said last week on his TV3 channel show, Tonight with Vincent Browne.

“Unless you deal with the problem of Israel and the Palestinians in that part of the world, there's going to be conflict and disharmony. It's a massive injustice — they stole the land from the Arabs,” he continued.

Browne said he would not apologize for the remarks, the Irish Independent reported, saying his criticism was justified, though he agreed his word choice was poor.

“What I resent is the suggestion that because you're critical of Israel, you're automatically anti-Semitic. I don't think that's acceptable,” he told the newspaper.

No complaints have been lodged against the broadcast, a TV3 spokesman told the Independent.

Israel’s deputy ambassador to Ireland Nurit Tinari-Modai told the Jewish Chronicle that the embassy had received calls and e-mails decrying the remarks.

“I would have never believed that the day would come when a presenter on Irish TV station would make racist, anti-Semitic remarks,” Tinari-Modai told the Chronicle.

Joyce fans celebrate Bloomsday in Westwood

More than 100 James Joyce enthusiasts, performance artists and Irish descendants gathered at Westwood’s Hammer Museum on June 16 to celebrate Bloomsday. Taken from the name of Leopold Bloom, the assimilated Jewish protagonist in Joyce’s monumental book, “Ulysses,” the event celebrates the life of the Irish writer and relives the events of the day the tale is set: June 16, 1904.

With plastic cups of Guinness in hand, attendees warmed to the sounds of traditional Irish music played by the Sweet Set as they waited for the festivities to begin.

Stanley Breitbard, organizer for Bloomsday at the Hammer, says the event draws a wide demographic. “We get a very mixed crowd every year,” he said. “Academics, veterans, actors and people of Irish descent.”

A worldwide celebration established in 1954, Breitbard said the appeal of Bloomsday was understandable.

“He was the greatest writer who ever lived, and clearly I’m not the only one who thinks that,” he said.

Phil Hendricks, a Jewish man in his 60s, said it had been 20 years since he last read “Ulysses,” adding that it felt like a completely different book as he read in the Hammer’s courtyard. A sign of a timeless classic. Hendricks also addressed why Joyce would choose to make his protagonist a Jew in a predominantly Catholic country.

“The Irish themselves were outcasts amongst the British, so I think there is a similarity between them and the Jews,” he said. “The juxtaposition between Jews and Irish Catholics are very well known. Bloom was definitely more Jewish than he was Catholic.”

The buoyancy of the late afternoon hushed when attendees were asked to enter the Billy Wilder Theater, where a reading was performed by a host of Irish and American actors, including Jonny O’Callaghan (narrator in “Gangs of New York”) and James Lancaster (“Pirates of the Carribean 2”).

The seventh episode of the book, “Aeolus,”  was chosen to be read in full by nine actors. Introduced by Breitbard, the story unfolded with the Irish accents of O’Callaghan and Lancaster, which eased the process of imagining an early 20th century Dublin. The reading gave beautiful insight into Joyce’s stream-of-consciousness style, taking the listener right into the minds of the characters. A difficult narrative to follow at first, the story was peppered with humorous intervals, provoking laugh-out-loud responses from the standing-room-only audience.

Margot Norris, author and former president of the James Joyce International Foundation, intervened during the readings, providing insights into Joyce’s choices of syntax and literary devices. One of the questions she raised: Why would Joyce reveal Leopold Bloom’s Jewish heritage so far into the book, in the seventh episode?

Actor O’Callaghan told The Journal that it had to do with counteracting the blatant anti-Semitism of that era.

“I think it was revealed so late to get people to like him,” O’Callaghan mused. “You got to know and like the character. Then, when someone states what people are thinking, it lets the readers heal and all their walls go down.”

Richard Levy, 52, said Joyce may have been inspired by friends to make his protagonist Jewish.

“Joyce actually had a lot of friends who were Jewish and I think they had a big influence on him,” he said.

Levy, who lived and worked in Ireland for a year, says “Ulysses” can act as more than a book.

“ ‘Ulysses’ is actually the perfect map of Dublin when you visit,” he said. “It’s amazing how you can catch every street the book is set upon.”

The reading concluded with an excerpt from the episode read by Joyce himself – a 1924 recording made at HMV studios in Paris at the insistence of Joyce’s publisher, Sylvia Beach.

After the event concluded, Breitbard weighed in with his own insights as to why Joyce made his main character a Jew.

“Joyce met Jews in Trieste, Italy, and they were the biggest role models and influences in creating characters for ‘Ulysses,’ ” he said. “I think he made Bloom Jewish to make him different from other Dubliners. He was the nicest character in the book, and a very sympathetic character.”

Police look into anti-Semitic bullying incident in Northern Ireland

Police in Northern Ireland are investigating claims of anti-Semitic bullying of a boy with Asperger syndrome.

Matthew Lough, 14, told the BBC that he had been bullied at his County Antrim school since revealing during a class on the Holocaust that his great-grandmother was Jewish.

He said one boy was suspended after Lough was hit in the head and knocked to the ground. Police told the BBC on Thursday that they are investigating a March 14 assault.

Others, Lough and his mother told the BBC, have attached swastikas to his school bags and have taunted him with anti-Semitic epithets.

His mother, Sharon Lough, credited the school, Carrickfergus College, with taking swift action, but was concerned at the persistence of the anti-Semitism.

“He has been very unsettled at night-time, having nightmares,” she told the broadcaster. “I would never, ever tell my children not to mention their heritage, because they are so proud of it. I would never deny my Jewish heritage, never.”

Flotilla delayed until next week

Activists have delayed a protest flotilla to the Gaza Strip until next week.

The flotilla, comprised of nine boats—including one from the United States—was to set have set sail this week from Greece, with the aim of bringing attention to Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

Activists told media Friday that obstructions by the the Greek government and what the activists allege to be sabotage of two ships, from Ireland and Sweden, mean that the flotilla won’t set sail until July 5 at the earliest.

The ships were to have marked the May 31 2010 raid of a similar flotilla by Israeli commandoes. Nine Turkish activists were killed in the subsequent melee, including a Turkish American.

Israel says the flotilla is illegal and military action to keep it from arriving in Gaza is legitimate. Israel maintains the blockade to keep weapons from flowing into Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas terrorist group, and also as leverage to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit, a kidnapped soldier held by Hamas since 2006.

Human rights groups say the blockade keeps out basic foods and medicines, although the Obama administration says its conditions have eased considerably in the last year.

Two top Democratic U.S. lawmakers visiting Israel said Thursday that the blockade is legal and suggested that Americans on the flotilla may face prosecution upon their return to the United States.

“The people who would run an international legal blockade are subject to the legal ramifications of all countries, including the United States,” Bloomberg news quoted Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) as saying. Ackerman was visiting Israel with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.).

Ackerman and Lowey, both Jewish, are senior members of the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House of Reprersentatives, with influential positions on committees dealing with the Middle East.

An Irish view of Gaza

What is it about Israel that prompts such a widespread departure from common sense, reason and moral reality? As another insane flotilla prepares to butt across the Mediterranean bringing “aid” to the “beleaguered” people of Gaza, in its midst traveling the Irish MV Saoirse, does it never occur to all the hysterical anti-Israeli activists in Ireland that this is like worrying about the steaks being burnt on the barbecue, as a forest fire sweeps toward your back garden?

I took part in a discussion about the Middle East last [month] in the Dalkey Book Festival. It was surreal. Not merely was I the only pro-Israel person in the panel of four, but the chairwoman of the session, Olivia O’Leary, also felt obliged to throw in her three-ha’pence worth.

Israeli settlers on the West Bank were on stolen land, she sniffed. Palestinians in their refugee camps had title deeds to the ancient properties. The United Nations had repeatedly condemned Israel. Brian Keenan, who was held hostage by Arab terrorists for four years, then detailed Israeli human-rights abuses, to loud cheers.

Israel and its sole defender on the panel were then roundly attacked by members of the audience. But what was most striking about the audience’s contributions was the raw emotion: They seemed to loathe Israel.

But how can anyone possibly think that Gaza is the primary center of injustice in the Middle East? According to Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the International Red Cross in Gaza, there is in fact no humanitarian crisis there at all. But, by God, there is one in Syria, where possibly thousands have died in the past month.

However, I notice that none of the Irish do-gooders are sending an aid-ship to Latakia. Why? Is it because they know that the Syrians do not deal with dissenting vessels by lads with truncheons abseiling down from helicopters, but with belt-fed machine guns, right from the start?

What about a humanitarian ship to Libya? Surely no one on the MV Saoirse could possibly maintain that life under Gadhafi qualified it as a civilized state. Not merely did it murder opponents by the bucket-load at home and abroad, it kept the IRA (Irish Republican Army) campaign going for 20 years, and it also — a minor point, this, I know — brought down the Pan Am flight at Lockerbie, Scotland. Yet no Irish boat to Libya. Only the other way round.

And then there’s Iraq. Throughout the decades of Saddam Hussein, whose regime caused the deaths of well over a million people, there wasn’t a breath of liberal protest against him. Gassing the Kurds? Not a whimper. Invading Kuwait? Not one single angry placard-bearing European liberal outside an Iraqi embassy.

Destroying the drainage systems of the Marsh Arabs? Silence. Manipulating the U.N. oil-for-food program so that thousands died? Nothing.

Next, Saudi Arabia, whose revolting practices cannot be called medieval without doing a grave injustice to the Middle Ages. It is led by savages who have studiously turned their backs on knowledge, even as they sip their Krug and their Bollinger in their apartments in Belgravia. They behead and behand, they torture and they mutilate, and they have spent billions on their foul madrasahs teaching young Muslims right across the world to hate us kaffirs. But what demonstrations are there outside Saudi embassies? What flotillas to defend the human rights of the millions of immigrant serfs, who toil without any rights in Saudi homes and in the oil industry?

There isn’t a single Arab country, not one, with the constitutional protection that Israel confers on all its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnicity or sexual orientation. And no, I don’t like the settlements on the West Bank, but really, by any decent measure, it is simply not possible to gaze upon the entire region, reaching from Casablanca to Yemen, and then to point indignantly and say: “Ah yes, Gaza: that’s where the one great injustice lies.”

The last “aid flotilla” to Gaza carried a large number of Islamists who wanted to provoke — and, aided by some quite astounding Israeli stupidity, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Now another convoy is under way, again with an utterly disingenuous plan to bring “assistance” to the “beleaguered Gazans,” some of who, funnily enough, can now cross into Egypt any time they like and buy their explosives and their Kalashnikovs in the local arms bazaar.

And as for human-rights abuses — why, nothing that Israel has done in the 63 years of its existence can possibly compare with the mass murders of Fatah members by Hamas firing squads over the past five years.

The colossal Western intellectual dissonance between evidence and perception on the subject of Israel at this point in history can perhaps only be explained by anthropologists.

This dissonance is perhaps at its most acute in Ireland, where no empirical proof seems capable of changing people’s minds. Israel, just about the only country in the entire region where Arabs are not rising up against their rulers, is also the only country that the Irish chattering classes unite in condemning. Rather pathetic, really.

Kevin Myers is a columnist for the Irish Independent newspaper.  Reprinted with permission of Kevin Myers and the Irish Independent.

A fifth of Irish would bar Israelis from becoming citizens

More than one in five Irish people would bar Israelis from becoming naturalized Irish citizens, according to new research into ethnic and religious attitudes in Ireland.

The book-length study, “Pluralism and Diversity in Ireland,” found that 22.2% of Irish people would exclude Israelis from Irish citizenship, while 11.5% would deny it to all Jews.

Israelis as a group also had one of the lowest favorable ratings among Irish people, ranking 44th out of 51 categories.

“There is a real danger that the public image of ‘Israeli’ can lead to an increase in anti-Semitism,” the book’s author, Jesuit priest and sociologist Father Micheál Mac Gréil, told The Irish Catholic newspaper.

The research found prejudice against Jews was most prevalent among young adults in the 18-25 age group. Only 53.6% of this group would accept a Jewish person in their family, versus 60.7% for Irish people of all ages.

Israelis were considered less acceptable as kin, with only 47.9% of Irish people prepared to admit an Israeli into their family.

The Republic of Ireland’s Jewish population is less than 2,000 out of a total of 4.5 million.

Irish pro-Palestinian group petitions OECD

An Irish activist group has lodged a formal complaint accusing Ireland’s largest company of “complicity” in what it said were violations of international law in Israel.

The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which filed the complaint with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has asked the OECD to investigate building materials firm CRH for providing cement and equipment for the construction of what it calls the “illegal” separation barrier, settlements and checkpoints.

The complaint alleges that CRH, through its 25 percent stake in Israeli company Mashav, which owns the major cement producer Nesher, is directly contributing to the violation of Palestinian human rights.

In response to the accusations, CRH chairman Kieran McGowan told shareholders at the group’s annual general meeting Wednesday that the company was not in breach of international law.

“CRH is very aware of its responsibilities under international law,” he said. “We continue to act responsibly and in the interests of shareholders.
Israel is a very small investment for us.”

Meanwhile, artist Robert Ballagh, who designed the set for the Irish dancing company Riverdance, will not go on tour to Israel with the company, in observance of a cultural boycott in support of the Palestinians.

Ballagh said in an open letter that he will donate any royalties he receives for the Israel performances to a fund to support an Irish boat that is joining a flotilla attempting to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, the Irish Times reported.

Irish activists preparing Gaza-bound flotilla

Several Irish politicians and adventure travel writer Dervla Murphy will join a group of Irish anti-Israel activists on a boat bound for Gaza next month.

The group, which is expected to sail for the Palestinian territory from an undisclosed Mediterranean port on March 30, will be led by two protesters who took part in the Gaza-bound flotilla that was intercepted by Israeli commandos last May, leading to the death of nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.

One of the politicians scheduled to travel on the Irish ship is Aengus O Snodaigh, who in 2009 compared Ireland’s only Jewish parliamentarian to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. O’Snodaigh was prevented from boarding last May’s flotilla.

Murphy, who is writing a book about the Middle East, including her impressions of Israelis and Palestinians, said she contacted the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign because she felt “so strongly about the whole situation in Gaza.”

“I think the flotilla is a good way of drawing international attention to what is going on there,” she told the Irish Times. “I hate publicity of any kind, and this is the last thing I would normally do. It shows how passionately I feel about Gaza.”

Faith ‘n’ begorra, Irish film fest has a Jewish accent

First we had the Israel Film Festival, then the Jewish one, followed by the Polish and Hungarian presentations, and now, begorra, it’s the first Irish film fest, running from Oct. 2-5.

Not to worry, though, there is, as always, a Jewish angle. In this case, it’s two films, “Shalom Ireland” and “Grandpa … Speak Russian to Me,” set for Saturday evening, Oct. 4.

The more interesting of the two is the documentary, “Shalom Ireland,” which serves the dual function of introducing its Jewish community to the Irish and a bit of Irish history to any interested viewer.

“Shalom Ireland” benefits greatly by two lively narrators, the marvelously colorful Joe Morrison, curator, guide and everything else of the Jewish Museum in Dublin, and Joe Briscoe, son of Robert Briscoe, the first (and only) Jewish lord mayor of the Irish capital.

As Briscoe points out early in the film, Jews tend to take on the characteristics of their host country’s inhabitants. By this rule, German Jews are the most arrogant, British Jews the most pompous, American Jews the most boastful and Irish Jews the friendliest — and heaviest drinkers.

Surely the jolliest of the friendly Irish Jews is Morrison, who opened up the Jewish Museum with a medieval key on a holiday to guide my wife and myself through the museum, with its wildly eclectic artifacts, a few years before his lamented death in 2002.

In the film, Morrison gleefully recounts the legend that one of the lost tribes of Israel settled in ancient Ireland, but according to more reliable research, the first Jews arrived about a thousand years ago.

Following their expulsion from Spain, some Sephardic Jews found refuge in the Emerald Isle, but the largest wave of migrants started in the 1850s, consisting mainly of Lithuanian Jews.

Briscoe takes up more recent history, especially the role of his father and other Jews in the Irish fight to win independence from the hated British. Irish Catholics and Jews were natural allies, explains Briscoe, because they shared a common sense of victimization.

The older Briscoe joined the bloody 1916 Easter Rebellion and became a close friend of future Irish president Eamon de Valera, the two men fighting together in the 1922-24 civil war.

At its height during World War II, Ireland’s Jewish population stood at 5,000 but has now dwindled to 1,200, as younger Jews, especially, leave for economic reasons and to find a larger pool of marriage partners.

In 1988, Dublin’s historic Adelaide Street Synagogue shut down, and while some hope for a Jewish renaissance remains, Morrison is more pessimistic.

“In 50 years,” he predicts, “there will be no more Jews in Ireland.”

“Grandpa … Speak to Me in Russian” chronicles Irish Jewish director Louis Lentin’s long search to discover his own roots by retracing his grandfather’s journey from a Lithuanian shtetl to Dublin.

Grandfather Kalman Lentin’s story parallels that of millions of Eastern European Jews who came to the United States at the beginning of the last century.

Indeed, according to the film, many of the emigrants thought they were headed for New York, only to be dropped off when their ship made port in Ireland.

Festival director and Irish native Lisa McLaughlin-Strassman said she picked the two Jewish-themed films on their merit, though it would be “fantastic” if they also attracted some Jewish Angelenos to the fledgling festival.

“It was quite an eye-opener to watch these pictures, because I know very little about the Irish-Jewish experience,” she observed.

McLaughlin-Strassman said she didn’t know how many Irish and Irish Americans live in the area, though there are concentrations in Santa Monica and Orange County.

In total, the four-day festival will screen six feature films, four documentaries and six shorts. Included are the high-definition, restored version of John Ford’s “Iron Horse,” the rarely seen “The Luck of Ginger Coffey” and the Gaelic-language “Kings.”

The Irish Film Festival will be held Oct. 2-5 at the Clarity Theater, 100 N. Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills. The two Jewish-themed films will be shown Oct. 4, starting at 8:30 p.m. For more information, call (310) 933-1439 or visit

Kaddish for Carlin

Everybody keeps asking me whether George Carlin was Jewish.

“I heard he was related to the Karlin-Stoliner rebbe,” a colleague said about the comedian who died this week at the age of 71.

No, not unless the Karlin-Stoliner rebbe’s family was really Irish and Catholic.

“Are you going to do a story on him?” the editor of an East Coast Jewish newspaper e-mailed me.

No, I said, Carlin was not a Jew. When Ben Karlin dies — he’s the guy who created “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” — that’s a story we’ll do. But that’s several decades away.

We assume Carlin was Jewish not just because his surname name is Jew-ish but because his comedy confronted the status quo, the government, the elite, the insiders. He was right up there in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and Howard Stern — the tummler who doesn’t just want the world to laugh, he wants the world to change.

That’s what Carlin’s classic 1971 routine, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” did. Carlin came along and dismantled the idea that a government responsible for Vietnam and Watergate had a right to tell us what was obscene. It was such an obvious and threatening concept, he was arrested at least once after performing it and charged with violating — what else? — obscenity laws.

I was 11 when I first heard that routine, listening to my brother’s copy of Carlin’s “Class Clown” LP in our bedroom. I played it over and over, like a lot of people in my generation. It was liberation comedy, pointing out hypocrisy and greed in our society in a way that even an 11-year-old could understand.

I have been trying to compile a list of performers who’ve been dragged offstage by authorities, persecuted by the government or banned by media conglomerates not because of what they did — drugs, underage girls, etc. — but because of what they had said. By my count, most of these renegades have been Jewish.

It’s not a long list, but there was Bruce, of course, hounded for his content (and, I believe, hounded for his drugs, because of his content). Stern and his fights with the Federal Communications Commission and the Christian right, which in his case may well be one and the same. There’s Joan Rivers, who’s been banned and re-banned by several shows. And then there’s Carlin, part of the same elite club.

(In his book on the comedians of the ’50s and ’60s, “Seriously Funny,” Gerald Nachman tells how the Los Angeles Police Department even found a Yiddish-speaking detective to monitor Bruce’s act. The detective dutifully filed his report: “Suspect also used the word ‘shtup.'”)

Carlin didn’t stop with government. He went after religion; he went after God. What’s more Jewish than that? The ability to take a fresh look — and by fresh, I also mean crude and challenging — at beliefs we have grown comfortable with is another Jewish comic tradition: Ask Woody Allen; ask Bill Maher.

Here’s a favorite, for old times’ sake, from 1997:

Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man — living in the sky — who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of 10 things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these 10 things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you.

He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing and all-wise; somehow just can’t handle money!

Carlin wasn’t Jewish, but as he looked to Bruce, so generations of Jewish comic soothsayers looked to him. He begat — or at least cleared the way — for Richard Belzer, Roseanne Barr, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Stewart and, of course, Ben Karlin.

“Nobody was funnier than George Carlin,” Judd Apatow, director of “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” told the Los Angeles Times. “I spent half my childhood in my room listening to his records, experiencing pure joy. And he was as kind as he was funny.”

When I watched Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” try to steal a nail used in “The Passion of the Christ” to put up his mezuzah, I couldn’t help thinking of Carlin’s incendiary statements hadn’t just cleared the way, but bulldozed the boulevard.

Before stand-up, Jews put their observations in print. The Austrian comic essayist Karl Kraus — a big deal in the fin de siècle — nurtured his rage by reading the morning paper then turning loose his pen. Then came the microphone and a way to share the anger, through humor, with the masses.

Carlin had that Jewish talent — standing at a remove from the larger culture and commenting astutely on it. What he was doing on stage, Mel Brooks was doing on film, Norman Lear on television and Stern on radio.

As Carlin became famous and rich and lionized, he didn’t lose his ability to get angry and funny, to rail against the hypocrites of the left and right, the politicians and clergy and businessmen, the environmentalists and the polluters. “I think it’s the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn,” he said, “and cross it deliberately.”

That’s why it’s not out of line to say a little Kaddish for Carlin.

George Carlin: ‘Religion is bullshit’

Michael Richards — still not Jewish

‘Emerald Isle’ beckons Jews

There is a saying that in Ireland there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet.

On our visit we experienced a tangible expression of this in Kenmare, where perfect strangers went out of their way to help us get our laundry done and then volunteered to drive us back to our hotel when we couldn’t find a taxi.

Encounters with ordinary folks are easy in Ireland, not only because there is no language barrier, but also because so many people have links to America and feel genuinely warm toward us.

Today, however, many of the people one meets in Ireland are not Irish. There are more than 300,000 Poles and countless thousands of other Continentals, many from Eastern Europe, in the country. A large number of these young men and women work in hotels and restaurants; being greeted by a receptionist with a Slavic accent becomes almost commonplace.

The reason for this influx of foreigners is, quite simply, the economic boom the country experienced after joining the European Union and adopting the euro as its currency. In Dublin and larger cities, construction cranes, new highways, industrial parks, as well as modern office and apartment buildings offer proof of Ireland’s standing as the Celtic Tiger.

This newfound prosperity has also had an effect on Ireland’s small Jewish community. For the past 50 years, the community had been shrinking from a high of more than 5,000 members to less than a thousand today. Where Dublin once had more than a dozen synagogues it has but three today, and those in Cork and Limerick are completely gone.

Now, however, the boom has stanched the outflow of Jews and the community is experiencing modest growth with the inflow of skilled computer scientists and construction engineers from Israel, Britain, South Africa and even Canada and the U.S.A.

The majority of these immigrants have young families, which has resulted in an increase in the enrollment at Dublin’s Jewish day school. Rabbi Zalman Lent, a Chabad rabbi from England, together with his wife, Rivki, is responsible for the community’s youth programs, school and summer camp, as well as for teen and young marrieds activities.

The rabbi says there is virtually no anti-Semitism in Dublin, and people have been respectful toward him. The only time he experienced any hostility, he said, was when someone called him “Osama bin Laden,” presumably because of his black beard.

The Terenure Hebrew Congregation, at 32a Rarthfarnham Road, is Ireland’s largest and most prominent synagogue; its spiritual leader, Dr. Yaakov Pearlman, is chief rabbi of Ireland, a position that gives him a degree of official recognition. The synagogue is Ashkenazi Orthodox in the manner of the British United Synagogue, and it holds regular Friday night and Shabbat morning services, as well as daily minyans. The congregation also provides study and communal programs and features a mikvah.

The Dublin Progressive Hebrew Congregation, at 7 Leicester Avenue, is an egalitarian community along the lines of the American Conservative movement. It has a visiting rabbi from England, Rabbi Charles Middlebergh, who conducts services weekly “in season.” According to Max Roitenberg, an immigrant to Ireland from Ottawa, Canada, services are held every Friday evening and most Saturdays and on all holidays. Roitenberg said the congregation has some 200 members, many of who are converts or in mixed marriages. In the absence of the rabbi, services are conducted by lay members.

The third synagogue is a small ultra-Orthodox stiebel, Machzikei Hadass, in the Terenure suburb.

Kosher food is readily available at the SuperValu market on Braemor Road in Churchtown, while kosher bread is available at the The Bretzel Bakery at 1a Lennox St. in Portobello. While Irish meat and dairy products are popular the world over, we were surprised to learn from Rabbi Lent that the preparation of kosher meat is a major industry in Ireland and that much of the kosher meat sold in Europe is imported from there.

Although it is a small institution located in two adjoining row houses in what was once a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, the Irish Jewish Museum is a “must see” for Jewish visitors. Upstairs is the former Walworth Road Synagogue, preserved much as it was during its heyday, complete with plaques honoring major donors. Several showcases with documents and memorabilia from the first half of the 20th century have been added. Possibly the saddest of these is the record of an Irish Jewish woman married to a Lithuanian citizen who became the only Irish citizen to be murdered by the Nazis.

Downstairs, the museum presents an overview of Irish Jewish history and features a plethora of memorabilia, including records and correspondence related to the family of Irish-born Chaim Herzog, who opened the museum in 1985 when he was president of Israel. Raphael Siev, a native Dubliner and retired barrister-at-law, is the museum’s curator and happily shares his memories with visitors. The museum is open Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is free.

Ireland is a country of significant historical and literary interest and exquisite natural beauty. It is truly an “emerald isle,” with a vast variety of wonderful places to stay, ranging from modest bed and breakfasts to magnificent country houses. The economic boom has also resulted in an influx of master chefs and the opening of gourmet restaurants in Dublin, as well as in the major tourist centers of the country.

Even though there are undoubtedly some bargains to be found, it’s important to remember that as long as the U.S. dollar remains weak against the euro, you must be prepared to have the Celtic Tiger bite you in the wallet. But, being Irish, he’ll do it with a smile.

For more information, visit

Better late than never, Theodor Herzl, children reunited in death; Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Isra

Theodor Herzl, Children Reunited in Death
Two of Theodor Herzl’s children were reinterred in Jerusalem after decades of debate. Hans and Pauline Herzl, who died in 1930 and were buried in France, were laid to final rest alongside the Zionist visionary at the cemetery that carries his name in Israel’s capital. Theodor Herzl, who launched the modern Zionist movement and wrote “The Jewish State” a few years before dying in 1904, had expressed the wish to be buried next to his children. But Israeli authorities, after reinterring Herzl himself in 1949, were reluctant to do the same for Hans and Pauline given the controversy over their deaths. Pauline died of a drug overdose in what might have been a suicide, prompting her brother to shoot himself. Hans’ conversion to Christianity shortly before his death further stoked religious opposition to his burial in Israel. But rabbis recently ruled that Hans had disavowed Christianity before dying, and that Pauline’s demise was a result of mental disturbance.
“Having brought in the remains of Pauline and Hans, we are completing the mission and achieving historical closure,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the burial ceremony.
Ex-N.J. Governor McGreevey’s Israeli ‘Lover’ Denounces Book
An Israeli who was James McGreevey’s declared love interest attacked the former New Jersey governor’s memoir. McGreevey, who stepped down in 2004 after declaring he was gay, published a memoir this month titled, “The Confession.” In it, he details an affair he said he had with Golan Cipel, an Israeli whose appointment to serve as homeland security adviser in New Jersey raised eyebrows. But Cipel, who says he is straight and suffered sexual harassment by McGreevey, issued a statement attacking the book as a “pack of lies.”
Cipel said: “I strongly hope that the gay community rejects this obvious and shameless ploy from a man who has engaged in acts of deception, sexual violence and intimidation.”
Latino Jews React to Miami Radio Caricature
Hispanic Jews in Miami formed a group to monitor Spanish-language media for anti-Semitism. The establishment of the Hispanic Jewish Initiative comes after Jews said they were offended by Goldstein, a Jewish character on the top-rated 95.7 FM show, known in English as “The Morning Hijinks,” local media reported. A Web page, until recently linked to the show, depicts a black character, Al Jackson, with the mug shot of a man whose lips balloon from his face. In place of a photo for Goldstein is a Nazi eagle and swastika.
The group, created under the state chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, will monitor and address other concerns of Florida’s Spanish-speaking Jewish population.
Israel Unmoved by Irish Boycott Call
Israel’s education minister downplayed an Irish call for Israeli academics to be boycotted. In an open letter published by the Irish Times newspaper earlier this month, 61 local academics urged their country, as well as the European Union, to impose a moratorium on ties with Israeli educational institutions until Israel “ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.”
The letter also deplored Israel’s “aggression against the people of Lebanon” during the recent war against Hezbollah. Israel’s education minister, Yuli Tamir, said she would meet the Irish ambassador to discuss the boycott call but played down its importance.
“At this time, I don’t see a real danger to Israel’s academic ties, though any boycott is despicable and we have to make sure it is lifted,” she told Army Radio.
Four Men Charged In Norway Synagogue Attack
Norwegian police charged four men in the shooting attack on an Oslo synagogue. The men were initially charged with vandalism Sept. 21, but the charge was upgraded to organizing an act of terrorism, an offense punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Police said one suspect was Norwegian, and the others had different backgrounds. They declined to provide more information about the suspects. However, Norwegian news outlets have reported that one suspect was a 29-year-old Norwegian of Pakistani origin who had been held briefly in Germany in June on suspicion of planning an act of terrorism against the soccer World Cup. No one was hurt in the Sept. 17 incident.
Czechs on Security Alert During High Holidays
The Czech Republic went on high alert for a terrorist attack during the High Holidays. The government announced the alert in the early hours Saturday and said it would continue for some time, with no specifics given. Czech officials noted that the Czech alliance with the United States in its war on terror might have made it a target, but there was also media speculation that an attack was planned to coincide with Rosh Hashanah. A government spokesman reportedly hinted that the alert was connected to the arrest of four men charged with shooting at an Oslo synagogue last weekend. Norwegian authorities have said the men were plotting to blow up U.S. and Israeli embassies in other cities. Thousands of additional police are present in the streets of Prague and are particularly noticeable near Jewish sites, such as synagogues and the Jewish community headquarters.
Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

A Boy and His Golem

"Snow in August" is an offbeat TV movie, part gritty reality and part fantasy, at the center of which is the curious friendship between an Irish Catholic altar boy and a refugee rabbi in post-World War II Brooklyn.

The two-hour production, based on the 1997 best-seller by Pete Hamill, airs Sunday, Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. on Showtime.

The year is 1947 and the main topic of conversation in Brooklyn between Michael Devlin and his parochial school buddies is the batting average of Jackie Robinson, just signed by the Dodgers as the first black player in baseball’s major leagues.

Devlin lives in borderline poverty with his mother, an Irish war bride whose husband — Devlin’s father — was killed in the war.

In the mean streets outside, a gang of Irish toughs terrorizes the neighborhood and kills a Jewish storekeeper, a crime witnessed by Devlin. The Irish code against "squealing" keeps the secret bottled up in the boy.

In an odd encounter, Devlin meets Rabbi Judah Hirsch, a Holocaust survivor and widower from Prague, who hires the boy as a Shabbos goy.

The unlikely friendship between the two ripens, and in some welcome humorous interludes, Devlin tries to teach the rabbi English, especially baseball terminology ("What’s a three-bagger?" asks Hirsch. "A kind of suitcase?")

In return, the rabbi teaches the boy Yiddish and tells him the legend of the golem, who defended the Jews of Prague in the 16th century.

When the gang leader threatens the life of Devlin and his mother, the boy can think of only one protector — he must create his own golem.

Director-screenwriter Richard Friedenberg has drawn sensitive performances from Stephen Rea, a Protestant Irishman, as the dignified and tormented rabbi; Peter Tambakis as a boy carrying a heavy responsibility; and from Lolita Davidovich as his widowed mother.

The Wearing Down of the Green

It is hard to believe that “The Cripple of Inishman” was written only a few years ago by a contemporary Irish playwright, Martin McDonough. The play, which has just opened the Geffen’s new season looks, feels and sounds like something Lennox Robinson or Lady Gregory might have dashed off for the Abbey Theater in the early part of the century. It not only is rooted in rustic, begorah Irish culture but reveals all the makeshift qualities of play-construction that we associate with that earlier, more primitive period.

A downtrodden cripple boy from the Aran Isles, hearing that Robert Flaherty is filming “Man of Aran” in his vicinity, persuades a local boatman to ferry him over to the illustrious director in the hope that a Hollywood breakthrough will rescue him from the unrelieved misery of life in his stultifying hometown. Miraculously, he gets the prized opportunity and pulls up his roots. But in cruel Hollywood, the dream crumbles, and, after a painful sojourn in the harsh new world, he returns to Inishman.

There, he is brutally admonished for having faked the circumstances of his departure and, discovering that he was spurned even by his own parents, decides to weight himself down with cans of peas and throw himself into the brine. A pugnacious local girl with a violent egg fetish and a predilection for fisticuffs takes pity on the cripple and, offering to be his main squeeze, dissuades him from his watery fate. However, it is clear that the cripple is in the final stages of tuberculosis, and so the union will be short-lived. Curtain!

This is a perfect scenario for a silent film starring Clara Bow and Lon Chaney and directed by Eric von Stronheim. Chaplin, skillfully blending pathos, bathos and high farce comedy, could have turned it into a masterpiece. But, as a contemporary stage offering, it gives the term “the Irish troubles” an entirely new connotation.

Without the Irish playwrights, there would be no English theater to speak of. Subtract Sheridan, Wilde, Shaw, O’Casey, Beckett and Behan from the mix, and the pantheon of British theater collapses. The greatest of the Irish playwrights managed to shake the dust of Old Sod from their boots and triumph in John Bull’s Island, but there have been just as many who remained stuck in the mire of Gaelic whimsy.

McDonough writes comedy as if Ireland were a sitcom and its natives, pasteboard characters being sweated over by a staff of TV hacks. It’s not so much that the narrative is threadbare and contrived that gets one’s goat; it’s the fact that a modern Irishman in the midst of one of the most historical developments in the history of that country — the attempted reconciliation of north and south — can find no more pertinent subject matter than a maudlin tale of a pixie-like cripple who finds love with a wild termagant in a Gaelic backwater. What is old-fashioned in “The Cripple of Inishman” is not the period or the setting, but the artistic objectives of the playwright: to amuse with wordplay, to distract with eccentricity and to manipulate our feelings with twists and turns motivated by the crassest kind of sentimentality.

Joe Dowling’s production emphasizes rather than conceals the transparency of the construction and the obviousness of the plot. Instead of “naturalizing” these characters and creating sympathy for their trumped-up dilemmas, he allows them to bound about like archetypal stage Irishmen and women in a travesty of a turn-of-the-century folk comedy.

The tearaway success of this play on Broadway only confirms the long-held suspicion that the mecca is often as gullible as the backward townsfolk of Inishman, and that one can never assume that the alleged capitol of American theater is any more discerning than the regularly disparaged hinterlands of Philadelphia, Seattle, Minneapolis or, for that matter, Los Angeles.

Charles Marowitz is theater critic for The Jewish Journal