Ireland’s small Jewish community dates to the late nineteenth century, when Jews sought to escape persecution in the Russian Empire. While most of the Jewish emigrants ended up in the United States, small numbers went to England and Ireland. In Ireland, groups of Lithuanian Jews settled in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Limerick. For the most part, the Jews were well treated by their neighbors, and many became quite proud of their Irish identity. Jews fought in the 1916 Easter Rising and the 1922-1923 Irish Civil War and Jews have served as Lord Mayors of both Dublin and Cork.
Theodore Lewis took a very different path. After studying theology at a prestigious Jewish institution in Poland, Lewis decided to leave Dublin and come to Newport to become rabbi of Touro Synagogue, a position he would hold for 36 years (1949-1985). During those years, Rabbi Lewis dramatically raised the profile of both the synagogue and Newport’s Jewish community. Lewis was well known for his learning and his sermons were published in two volumes.
SHAI AFSAI lives in Providence. His recent research has focused on the religious traditions of the Beta Yisrael Jewish community from Ethiopia, Judaism in Nigeria, aliyah* to Israel from R.I., Jewish pilgrimage to Ukraine, Benjamin Franklin’s influence on Judaism, and Jews and Irish literature. SEAN O’CALLAGHAN is an Associate Professor of Religious and Theological Studies at Salve Regina University, where he specializes in the teaching of world religions. He is also Graduate Director of the MA and PhD in Humanities. He has a particular interest in Judaism and attends Touro Synagogue frequently. JOHN F. QUINN is Professor of History at Salve Regina University, where he has taught since 1992. He specializes in Irish history and American ethnic and religious history. * The term “aliyah” refers to the immigration of Jews from the worldwide diaspora to Israel.