JTA — Israel’s National Library has accepted 22 volumes of archives from the Irish Jewish Family History Database, which tracks over three centuries of Jewish life in Ireland.
The database, which was compiled by Stuart Rosenblatt, president of the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society, includes everything from burial and birth records, compiled by a Jewish midwife in the late 19th century; police registries of immigrants in the early 20th century; and other sources stretching from the 1700s until the present.
“These volumes are a living history of people who have now no voice,” Rosenblatt said in a press release from the National Library, which held a ceremony celebrating the archives on Monday. “Births, marriages, deaths, census, alien registration, synagogue memberships, home and business addresses, grave details and inscriptions are just a sample in the 22 volumes for families to discover their rich Irish heritage. It is an honor for me to have my personal volumes in the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem.”
The first Jews to settle on the island were a small community of Sephardic migrants fleeing the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, but Ireland saw a larger influx of Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as part of a wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe came to the United Kingdom, which Ireland was at the time a part of.
Today at most 3,000 Jews live in the Republic of Ireland, including both citizens and non-citizens, and the Jewish population of the entire island, including Northern Ireland, has never been more than double that. But that population has included notable figures in Jewish and Israeli history, including Rabbi Isaac Herzog, the grandfather of current Israeli president, also named Isaac Herzog. The elder Herzog served as chief rabbi of the Irish free state, following its independence from Great Britain, and he would become the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel. His son Chaim Herzog also served as president of Israel in the 1980s.
“Needless to say, I feel a strong sense of personal connection and pride as an Israeli Jew with a direct Irish connection and derive special pleasure from the arrival of these volumes to Israel,” President Herzog said according to the NLI, adding that he looked forward to examining the records in the future since he could not attend the ceremony.
The physical volumes now housed in Jerusalem are one of only five copies of the record in the world, with the other four in Dublin.
“This extraordinary resource… will allow scholars, researchers, members of the Irish-Jewish community and their descendants, to deepen their understanding of their ancestry and heritage,” said Raquel Ukeles, the NLI’s head of collections. “This database marks another milestone in our unceasing quest for resources that document the histories and cultures of the Jewish communities throughout the world.”