Passover in Dublin

Hi, it’s me. Sorry I’ve been gone for so long. I haven’t posted because I’ve gotten so used to being here, that little things which may have stood out a few months ago, tend to go unnoticed now. Also, because I’m lazy. Sorry about that, I’ll try to be better.

Anyway, with Passover starting Saturday night, it occurred to me that I may want to buy some Matzah for the occasion. I knew it would be difficult considering how few Jews live in Dublin, but I didn’t realize just how hard it would be. Nor did I realize just how few Jews there are in Dublin.

Let me quickly provide a history lesson on Jews in Ireland. According to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, Jews have always been a small sub-sect of the Irish population, but, more interestingly, they have always been accepted–maybe because the Irish were persecuted for their religion too (although that logic doesn’t usually apply in other situations, where persecuted cultures practice racism to try to establish their superiority over someone). In 1846, Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Liberator and a Martin Luther King-like leader for the cause of Irish Independence and Catholic Emancipation during the 19th century, led the way in getting British Parliament to repeal a law that prescribed special dress for Jews. At the time, O’Connell said: “Ireland has claims on your ancient race, it is the only country that I know of unsullied by any one act of persecution of Jews”.

Now that you’re all caught up, back to my story: in the U.S., about two percent of the population is Jewish. Project that upon Ireland’s six million people and thats 120,000 people. I know fewer Jews live in Ireland, but still, I would have expected at least 10,000, or .167%. The actual number? 1930, according to the 2006 census. That’s .032 percent. Wow.

Usually, this kind of thing would not affect me, as I am not a regular temple-goer. But because the market for Kosher food is so small, it would be pointless for supermarkets to carry Matzah this time of year. I was not hopeful for finding Matzah near me, but was pleasantly surprised to see that my gourmet grocery store had a few boxes. I was then equally disappointed to read the “NOT KOSHER FOR PASSOVER” label on the side of the box.

So the hunt was on. Turns out, the Jewish community in Ireland is almost entirely concentrated in Portobello, a part of Dublin nicknamed “Little Jerusalem” that is about 25-30 minutes from me by bus. Supermarkets there have “Kosher Corners” and all the Matzah I could want. After much planning to figure out the best combination of buses to take, I took a ride to Little Jerusalem and saw a part of Dublin I had never before seen. I even met some French Jews living in Dublin who had come for the same reason.

Sometimes, it is easy to forget how homogeneous my current surroundings are. Asians and Eastern Europeans have been emigrating to Ireland for the last 20 years, but the majority of the population is still of Irish descent. I find it interesting that when someone asks for a person’s name here, they don’t listen closely with pen in hand, as they have to do in the U.S. Here, there are only about 20 common first names (just a guess) and the list of common last names isn’t much longer. Must make the job of a substitute teacher calling out roll in a high school classroom easier.

28 days until I leave. Weird.

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