Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Jewish Identity, National Identity, Nationalism, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations
Abstract: This paper will investigate the construction and ongoing renegotiation of Jewish identity in the Irish context from the late nineteenth century to the present day, considering how some of the key elements that have shaped modern Irish identity have impacted on the consciousness of Ireland’s tiny Jewish minority. Jewish immigration to Ireland, which peaked between 1890 and 1905, coincided with the crystallisation of an Irish identity with a strong foundation in the beliefs and values of Roman Catholicism. Consequently, the emerging discourses of Irish nationalism, in particular the struggle for independence and the complex Irish relationship with Britain, have had a major influence on the formation of a specific Irish-Jewish identity. The impact of Irish nationalism, sectarianism and anti-Jewish prejudice in a still-evolving Irish society will be explored in terms of Jewish perception and identity formation on both the individual and the collective levels. After a brief introduction, I will outline my findings on the Jewish relationship with Irish nationalism, before exploring the way in which Irish-Jewish identity has tended to be presented to the wider world. Issues to be considered will include the significance of variations in nuance between different representations of Irish-Jewish identity and belonging; the role of communal narrative in shaping the consciousness of the individual; and the question of why, in the post-modern era, it should be necessary to keep searching for, re-/presenting and justifying the identity of a minority within a minority to the world at large. Throughout, the focus will remain on the need for a fresh approach to the sources and the issues at hand, in order to create a more holistic, objective and inclusive history of the Jewish experience in Ireland.
'Remember, Reflect, Reimagine': Jews and Irish nationalism through the lens of the 1916 centenary commemorations
Abstract: This paper examines popular representations of Jewish attitudes towards Irish nationalism, and the way that these have evolved in the hundred years between the Easter Rising of 1916 and its centenary commemorations in 2016. Although it is now a standard assumption that Jews supported the Irish nationalist movement, including its militant branch, sources from the first half of the twentieth century suggest that the reality was in fact significantly more nuanced and ambivalent. The fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising appears to have marked a turning point for constructions of both Irish and Irish Jewish identity. In 1966, the Irish government viewed the first state-sponsored commemoration of 1916 as an opportunity to foster more unifying and inclusive constructions of “Irishness” with the Easter Rising as a focal point. Around this time, a more positive narrative of Jewish engagement with Irish nationalism also appears to have emerged. In the ensuing fifty years this narrative has been gradually buttressed, expanded upon and embellished, particularly in the run-up to the much anticipated centenary commemorations of 2016. In this article I investigate how the narrative of Jews and Irish nationalism has evolved, and continues to evolve, in response to changing needs and circumstances both within and beyond Ireland’s Jewish community.