Jews initially arrived in Ireland during the reign of William the Conqueror (11th Century), and were not expelled from the Gaelic-controlled areas until Edward I banished the Jews from his kingdom in 1290 with the issuing of the Edict of Expulsion.
Two centuries later, many Jews settled in Ireland following their expulsion from Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition. William Annyas became the first Jewish mayor in Ireland when he was elected Mayor of Youghal in County Cork in 1555. Jews were officially readmitted into the Commonwealth by Oliver Cromwell, and shortly after, the first synagogue in Ireland was founded in 1663 on Crane Lane, opposite Dublin Castle.
By the mid-18th century, the Dublin Jewish community heavily participated in the commercial life of the city, yet the community was undermined by intermarriage, religious conversion, emigration, and the Irish Naturalisation Act of 1783, which excluded Jews. An influx of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 19th century saw the Jewish population steadily rise. James Joyce’s “Ulysses” – published in 1922 – demonstrates the prominence of Irish Jews, focusing on the Irish Jewish character Leopold Bloom and his dual identity as both Irish and Jewish.
Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, Chief Rabbi of Ireland from 1921 to 1936, went on to be the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of British Mandate Palestine and later Israel. Rabbi Herzog’s son, Chaim Herzog, who emigrated to Palestine with his family in 1936, was the sixth President of Israel.
Chaim Herzog, the sixth President of Israel and son of Irish chief rabbi Isaac Herzog (and later Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate of Palestine and Israel), emigrated to Israel from Dublin in 1936. In 1937, the Constitution of the Irish Republic recognized Jews as a minority community with political representation.
Later in the century, Jews played a role in the struggle for Irish independence with the IRA. Robert Briscoe, a member of the Oireachtas (Parliament) and twice Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1956 and from 1961-1962, was a prominent member of the IRA during this period.
Today, the Irish Jewish community is very active in Irish society. Mervyn Taylor served as Minister for Equality and Law Reform during the two governments of 1993-1994 and 1994-1997 and Henry Barron became the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice, serving from 1997 to 2000. More recently, Alan Shatter served as both Minister for Justice and Equality and Minister for Defence from 2011 to 2014.