Jews of the Emerald Isle

by | Mar 17, 2016 | Jews around the world

Does Your Bubbe Come From Ireland?

By Rabbi Barbara Aiello


Narrator – “Lepra-Cohen”

Prophet Jerimiah

Rebecca – Jane Forstenzer – the Jewish girl from Lisbon – Portuguese Jews – established Ireland’s First Synagogue in 1660 when there were only 350 Jews in all of Ireland

Belfastman Chaim Herzog – Sixth President of Israel

Mary Margaret Molly Maguire – Irish Immigrant

Freda Faigele Blumenstein – Mary Margaret’s first friend

Sara –  A Jewish Irish Lassie – ………– green wig, glasses, bow tie

Narrator – Lepra-Cohen  Top O’ the Morning to Ya! Shalom and Welcome to the Kobernick Players presentation of The True Actual History of the Jews of the Emerald Isle or “Does Your Bubbe Come from Ireland!”

Oh, forgive me. I’m forgettin’ my manners. I didn’t even introduce myself.  Have you heard of dybbiks?  Those little guys that stir up trouble? Well, the dybbiks  – they’re our older cousins… They came first and then came the Irish tricksters… the Lepracauns.  But me, I’m a half and half… I’m your very own “Lepra-Cohen” here to tell you the story of The Jews of the Emerald Isle!  And here he comes now,  one of the first Jews to come our way.

Prophet Jerimiah enters (wearing bathrobe, sandals,  beard and head scarf, carring a walking stick with a harp hidden in his bathrobe)


Oh, Woe is me!  Woe to everyone!  Oy vey! What tsuris! Troubles are coming. Woe to the people!  Woe to the world! Oich! Tsuris is on its way!  Wahhhh!  Weeeeee!  

It is I Jerimiah, known to the Jews as “the weeping prophet.”  (Wahhhhh!)  But what many Jews don’t know is that I, Prophet Jerimiah left Judea and cried and moaned and lamented all the way to IRELAND!

I didn’t travel alone.  I came with my scribe, Simon Baruch and with the beautiful Tay-ah, the daughter of King Zedekiah of Judah. We were a small group but legend has it that the first Jews came to Ireland, TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED years ago.

Why did we go to Ireland? Oy vey ist mir – It was no big news – We Jews were on the run again.  After Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians (thuwee”), the Israelites were running and where did we stop?  I’ll tell you where we stopped.  We Jews stopped running and made a home in Ireland.  

And we brought our legends with us – stories that the Irish liked to listen to with eyes wide with wonder! Later on the Irish took our Jewish stories and made them their own. Like the story of  The Blarney Stone!  

Well, the Blarney Stone didn’t come from Ireland – it ended up in Ireland.  Why? Well, the story goes like this. Back in Torah times our own Jewish hero, Jacob, fell asleep in the desert. He laid his head down on a pillow – not a soft pillow – NO. Jacob laid his head on a stone.  A Stone that I, Prophet Jerimiah, carried with me to Ireland! So if you kiss the Blarney Stone you’re really kissing a piece of Jewish history.

Today the Harp of Tara is the symbol of the country of Ireland. But it didn’t start out that way. No, the Harp of Tara is Jewish! (takes harp out of his robe) It started out as the Harp of David – the very one that I brought with me on my journey. Later on the Irish rulers put the harp on their gold coins – they called it the harp of David!

So, nu, the first Irish money ever made gave honor to the Jews!  And the famous stone kissed by millions of Irishmen has a Jewish history. The harp?  The stone? A bunch of BLARNEY?  Nu, who knows?  


Narrator:  Centuries passed and more Jews came to Ireland –but you’ll never guess from where.

REBECCA  ENTERS (dressed in Spanish style with a basket and mantilla and rolled up newspaper)

Rebecca:  Here we go again! It seems that every time the Jews feel safe in a country, oy vey, something bad happens.  This time it’s the Inquisition. Our families are being forced to give up our Jewish beliefs – so if we want to make Shabbat we have to do it in secret.

But not my family. No! Papa says, “Out!  We’re getting out!” But where will be go.  Papa says, “To a land far away, a land that is near the sea, a land that has sand and water, like we have here in Lisbon.”

Papa, I said, Will we go to Morocco? Or maybe we will go to Italy?  No, Papa says, We are going to Ireland?

IRELAND?  Papa, when did you become a shicker?  Are you mishuggy?  Did you say IRELAND?  

But that’s where we went. We were 350 Jews in all and we came to Ireland. We made the first synagogue that Ireland ever had – a we built the shul across the street from the famous Dublin Castle – and our shul still stands today, almost 400 years after my family built it.

And we brought something else, too. For Shabbos we always ate fish – little skinny fish called smelts.  Well we found some fish off the Irish coast that tasted just like home. So we fried them up, set them out with potatoes and poured a little vinegar over the whole thing. That’s right, we  brought the whole idea to Ireland, then England and Scotland, too. (she takes wrapped newspaper from the basket)

The Portuguese Jews who came to Ireland were hungry for home so we Jews invented Fish and Chips!



! From the sixteen hundreds on the Jews of Ireland made their presence known – beginning in the eighteen hundreds when there were about 2,000 Jews in Ireland to the 1950’s when about 6,000 Jews lived on the Emerald Isle.

And some of them were very famous, too. Like Robert Briscoe, the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin who served the city for 38 years  – but no one was more famous than…. Well, here he comes now

CHAIM HERZOG ENTERS ​(wearing green plaid hat, green bow tie with Irish flag and Israeli flag in his pockets – actor should wear a suit jacket and carried a piece of paper which says “UNITED NATIONS RESOLUTION)

It was 1918  – that was the year I was born. A nice Jewish bubbele born in Belfast, in Northern Ireland.  I was an Irish lad born as the first son of a famous rabbi.

When my dad was appointed Chief Rabbi of Israel, I was just 17 years old, but it was a great adventure to go Eretz Israel. When the Nazis threatened to take over Europe, when they started bombing London, I enlisted in the British army – and found myself at the Normandy landing. After the war I was the one who interrogated Heinrich Himmler.

Then I went home to Palestine and enlisted in the Haganah – the secret military group that later on became the Israel Defense Force. I stayed on and became a general. But Israelis got to know me better, when I got on the radio. I told stories about Israel’s history, about our heroes and our courage as a people – that kept everyone’s spirits up during some really hard times.

From the radio I went to the United Nations where they thought I would sit on my hands while they ripped into Israel calling Zionism a form of racism. I let them talk and then I made my own speech.  I stood up, and with that horrible resolution in my hands, I did something that takes real chutzpah!  I did this this ( He rips up a piece of paper).  I ripped that resolution up right before their eyes.

Back home in Israel my wife was doing her own thing.  While I was away making speeches, my dahling.. my wife Ora was vary busy. She was the one who invented the World Bible Quiz for studentsall over the world. For Israelis she started the Council for a Beautiful Israel.  And my Ora did something  even better… something they still need in Israel today … Ora wrote the first Hebrew book of Manners.  

Ora was doing all this while I was working as the sixth president of Israel – a post I held for ten years.  All this from a boy from Belfast – I’m Israeli President Chaim Herzog!

Narrator:  The Jews of Ireland – from Jeremiah to Portuguese Jews to the Belfast Boy who became the sixth president of Israel. But here in America, did the Jews and the Irish ever get together? Let’s see!

MARY MARGARET MOLLY MAGUIRE ENTERS (She carries a suitcase and stuffed shopping bag, she wears a long skirt, head scarf and shawl  – immigrant look)

Oi yoi yoi – Oi yoi yoi!  What a trip was on that boat. Rocking all the day and all the night through. Goin’ this a- way and thata-away all the way from Dublin to America we came! And wouldn’t you know it! The day we set foot on American soil, what day was it, my lads!  It was St. Paddy’s Day.

New York, Sure it’s a big place so it was the hand o’ God I tell you that we found the Lower East Side! Lads and Lassies everywhere! We knew we were home!

But there was just one problem! Here it is, St. Paddy’s Day and we need to make the special dinner. Bacon and Cabbage is what we eat every year on Saint Patrick’s Day! But the bacon costs an arm and leg.  Oh what to do?  What to do?  (Cries)

There I was, a cryin’ my fool eyes out, when who come a’walking by? A woman, not much more than a girl like mee-self! That’s when I met my Freda…. O Freda, she saved my life — well, not to exaggerate it – It was Freda who saved St. Patrick’s Day. And here she comes now.


FREDA ENTERS  (Dressed  in long skirt and snood type Jewish woman’s hat, carrying a pocketbook)

Well if it isn’t Mary Margaret Molly Maguire, she’s like “meshpucha” to me.

(Freda embraces Mary)  Dahling!, How are you?

I remember when we met. So who could forget it? We met on the day that this poor little Irish girl is looking for bacon! Oich! Bacon?

I’m a Jewish girl. What do I know from bacon? But Mary Margaret Molly Maguire needs it for her St. Patrick’s Day dinner.  But I set her straight.  My Haymie, my Bubbele he’s a kosher butcher – Blumenstein the Butcher, that’s our kosher store. So ask him what to do.

“You don’t vant traife bacon,” Haymie says.  No, Corned Beef, is better and it’s cheaper, too. So we started a tradition, me and my Haymie.  Thanks to the Jewish kosher butchers on the Lower East Side – now all the Irish are eating Corned Beef and Cabbage, on St. Patrick’s Day!

Mary:  So you’ll be stoppin’ by my house?

Freda: Are you inviting me?

Mary: I wouldn’t invite you, Lassie?

Freda: Of course, I’ll come. We’ll drink a glissel of tea, nu?

Mary: Sure enough! Maybe a spot of Ale,  too!


Narrator:  So that’s how it happened. Mary Margaret Molly Maguire and Freda Faigele Blumenstein became the best of friends they shared their family stories and their traditions,too, Traditions that they passed on to their children and grandchildren,

SARA ENTERS ( a Jewish Irish interfaith teenager wearing a green wig, green glasses, Irish hat )

Sara:  Today is St. Patrick’s Day and like a good Jew I’m wearing the green! That’s something I learned from my zayde, my Jewish grandpa. Zayde was married to my Bubbe Bridget whose mother came from Ireland.  My zayde always taught me to honor Bubbe’s Irish traditions – to be respectful of all the parts of our family. That’s when I decided to learn about how the Jews and the Irish got to be friends.

Remember how the history books talked about the potato famine in Ireland?  Where whole families came to America because everyone in Ireland was starving?  It was like totally catastrophic.

Zayde told me how their synagogue in New York took up a collection to help the Irish immigrants who came here with nothing. My zayde said, “Back then we helped the Irish poor because as Jews we are commanded to help everyone who needs it – not just other Jews.”

Years later my Zayde remembers how the Jews were trying to help out Israel when the Jews there were fighting a war. The synagogue was collecting money for Israel and what shows up in the mail one day?  A totally awesome check from the Irish community! There was a letter, too. And the letter said, “We want to help the Jewish people in their homeland because you helped the Irish when we came to our new home!”

That letter had a special signature.  It said, “Best wishes from Bridget O’Malley.”  That’s how my very own Bubbe Bridget met my Zayde. He was all a flutter with that beautiful Irish lass.

They fell in love and got married!  And that’s when Zayde told me about “shenanigans!”  Stop it, Zaye, you’re embarrassing me!

Then Zayde told me that there’s a Hebrew word, “Shidduchkim” that means “arranged marriages.” In Ireland, in the Gaelic language the word became “Shinnuckeem,” which is the word for “shenanigans,” — Shenanigans means “trickery,” and it goes all the way back to Torah times when Isaac was tricked into marrying Leah.  Shenanigans in the Torah Who Knew!


Narrator: So today’s the day for the Wearin’ of the Green and a day to celebrate Irish Jewish traditions that maybe we didn’t know we had!

Oh and there’s one more! Jews and Irish like to eat and lots of good things happen around the family table. In fact, hundreds of years ago, Irish families would gather for a meal – times were hard and food was scarce, but the Irish, like the Jews, made the best of it.

Groups of Irish women would bring different vegetables and meats and cook dinner together in one large pot. They’d serve it to their families who felt fortunate to be together and share whatever they had – and that’s how we got the name “Pot Luck Supper!”


Introduce actors:  

Prophet Jerimiah


Chaim Herzog

Mary Margaret Molly Maguire

Freda Faigele Blumenstein



Everyone takes a bow