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The Mazel of the Irish
March 17, 2013 1:03 PM   Subscribe

"[The Loyal Yiddish Sons of Erin]'s biggest event was the annual Erev St. Patrick's Day Banquet. It was a formal gala at the Americana Hotel, complete with a big band, kosher corned beef and green bagels." American-Irish-Jews still celebrate St. Patrick's Day: “It’s an American-Irish holiday, surely not Jewish. It has nothing to do with Jewish people. But I’m Irish, and I have a feeling for it.”

Today, Ireland's Jewish community is working to preserve and explore its history and future in Ireland.

Although there is a long Jewish history in Ireland, much of the Irish-Jewish diaspora can be traced back to a small population of Lithuanian Jews fleeing forced conscription in the Tzar's army in 1884. By 1904 there were at least 3,000 Jews in Ireland. Throughout March and April, 1904, an anti-semitic priest incited boycotts and targeted violence against Limerick's 170 Jews in what became known as the Limerick Pogrom.
posted by ChuraChura (36 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I stayed pretty close to a synagogue in Dublin. So many Irish Jews have left, either for Israel or America that it's likely there are more Irish Muslims than Jews.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:02 PM on March 17, 2013


Heh. The idea of a bunch of Plastic Paddies Being upset at other people for not being Irish enough is kind of hilarious. St. Patrick's day being a big celebration in America is fun and all, but it has all the authenticity of Lucky Charms.
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Guinness and Lucky Charms, mmmmmmmm.
posted by daveo'h at 2:44 PM on March 17, 2013


a bunch of Plastic Paddies

Seriously?
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 2:45 PM on March 17, 2013


If the Jews never made it to Ireland, we wouldn't have Ulysses. Maybe we should also celebrate erev-Bloomsday.
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 2:46 PM on March 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Er, is there any of that going on here, Artw?
posted by ChuraChura at 2:55 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Henceforth all good deeds done on March 17th shall be known as McMitzvahs!
posted by TedW at 3:00 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


Er, is there any of that going on here, Artw?

Er... apparently not. Insufficient reading has made an idiot of me, and the grumpy asshole I thought I was responding to is in fact talking in the spirit of green beer and fun, making the real asshole me.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe we should also celebrate erev-Bloomsday.

Wouldn't that be Simchat Ulysses?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:10 PM on March 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


Knock knock

Who's there?

Irish Jew.

Irish Jew who?

Irish Jew in the name of the law!
posted by yoink at 3:11 PM on March 17, 2013 [15 favorites]


Groan! (But I favorited it anyway)
posted by TedW at 3:43 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the Goon Show had a version of that (old) joke based on "Irish stew."
posted by yoink at 4:03 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oy Begorrah!
posted by sammyo at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the Venn diagram overlap is "corned beef."
posted by GrammarMoses at 4:39 PM on March 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


I once spent some time in an Irish pub in Tampa after-hours chatting and drinking with the bartender, an Irish national. With his marvelous accent, I found myself enjoying the sound of his voice as we talked of many things. We talked about Tampa and the patrons at his bar and even the influx of African immigrants to Ireland ("the more the merrier!" he said) but when I mentioned that Irish Jews existed, he balked. He said "I certainly hope you're joking" and proceeded to go on a 5 minute anti-semitic rant, the likes of which I have never heard before or since. He even went so far as to suggest that the snakes driven from Ireland by St. Patrick were actually Jews. My friends sat and laughed uncomfortably, but did not join me when I stood up and left. I have not been able to step foot in an Irish pub since and I can't really enjoy St. Patricks Day either. Also, my friends who stayed for the free whiskey despite the rant are no longer my friends.
That is all.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 5:11 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the Venn diagram overlap is "corned beef."

Nope. Thats an American thing. In Ireland no-one eats corned beef and cabbage. Corned beef was only adopted by immigrants because they couldn't get ham. Which is what people generally ate in Ireland traditionally on holidays.
posted by fshgrl at 5:21 PM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have not been able to step foot in an Irish pub since and I can't really enjoy St. Patricks Day either.

Because you met one Irish guy that was anti-Semitic?
posted by spaltavian at 5:25 PM on March 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Irish in America ate corned beef because they bought their meat at Jewish butchers. These were some of the only places early Irish immigrants could buy meat when they first landed here. Since Jewish butchers did not sell ham, they bought what looked closest.
posted by oflinkey at 5:32 PM on March 17, 2013 [9 favorites]


So many Irish Jews have left, either for Israel or America that it's likely there are more Irish Muslims than Jews.

By a factor of about 25 (just shy of 2,000 Jews and 49,000 Muslims, though both those numbers presumably include some people who don't consider themselves Irish).
posted by hoyland at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Irish Jew in the name of the law.

Whale oil beef hooked.
posted by knapah at 5:49 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


oflinkey, that article is great. I love the Gaelic poem they translate:
The 12th century poem Aislinge Meic Con Glinne ... is one of the greatest parodies in the Irish language and pokes fun at the diet of King Cathal mac Finguine, an early Irish King who has a demon of gluttony stuck in his throat.
Wheatlet, son of Milklet,
Son of juicy Bacon,
Is mine own name.
Honeyed Butter-roll
Is the man
That bears my bag.
Haunch of Mutton
Is my dog’s name,
Of lovely leaps.
Lard, my wife,
Sweetly smiles
Across the kale-top.
Cheese-curds, my daughter,
Goes around the spit,
Fair is her fame.
Corned Beef, my son,
Whose mantle shines
Over a big tail.
Also their point about the Irish American creation of the holiday as a celebration of Irish life is well taken. An "authentic" St. Patrick's Day bash really is green beer, corned beef, and maudlin renditions of "Danny Boy," not the observance of yet another saint's day as it traditionally was in Ireland itself!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 5:56 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


oflinkey: "The Irish in America ate corned beef because they bought their meat at Jewish butchers. These were some of the only places early Irish immigrants could buy meat when they first landed here. Since Jewish butchers did not sell ham, they bought what looked closest."

Which is entirely fitting, considering that Saint Patrick's day is an American holiday with its roots in the Irish diaspora.
posted by stet at 6:02 PM on March 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because you met one Irish guy that was anti-Semitic?

If there's one thing I can't abide it's people who make sweeping generalizations about entire ethnicities. You know, like those fucking racist Irish.
posted by yoink at 6:06 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Although there is a long Jewish history in Ireland, much of the Irish-Jewish diaspora can be traced back to a small population of Lithuanian Jews fleeing forced conscription in the Tzar's army in 1884.

Apparently there was a sizeable Jewish community in Northern Ireland, which was distinct from the one in the Republic; the Ulster Museum in Belfast mentions there having been a lot of Jewish migration to the city. Perhaps there was a connection of some sort with Huguenot migration, as there was in East London?

I seem to recall the 20th-century Australian comedian Ugly Dave Grey having been of Northern Irish Jewish origin.
posted by acb at 6:08 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is entirely fitting, considering that Saint Patrick's day is an American holiday with its roots in the Irish diaspora.

It's a public holiday in Ireland, though. And my girlfriend (who's from Dublin) tells me that they do take it fairly seriously there. Perhaps it was originally American, or kept alive in America while the British tried to crush out all forms of Irish nationalism, but it seems to have become an authentic institution there, quite distinct from the kitschy Guinness-flavoured carnival it is abroad.
posted by acb at 6:12 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


He even went so far as to suggest that the snakes driven from Ireland by St. Patrick were actually Jews.

The Irish elected a Jewish mayor of Dublin back in the fifties.

I don't want to encourage you to return to Irish Pubs, though.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:22 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best Irish pub in Minnesota is Kieran's, started by an Irishman with a Jewish wife. Just another data point.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:00 PM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


considering that Saint Patrick's day is an American holiday with its roots in the Irish diaspora.

No. St Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland so it's one of the more important religious holidays in Ireland, or was. It celebrates the establishment of the Catholic Church in Ireland, and given the insanely religious slant DeValera and his bunch gave to the Irish constitution and educational system in the 20s for much of the last century that was treated as one of the Most Important Things to happen in the history of the island and one of the things that Makes Us Irish. Keep in mind that the Irish Catholic Church was for many years regarded as different and frankly, a bit better, than the rest of the Catholic Church by many older Irish people. Obviously, this is no longer the case.

When I was a kid schools taught the story of St Patrick coming to Ireland and establishing the religion each year, confusing many small children like myself into thinking that St Patrick founded the country of Ireland for many of their formative years . This is also where you learn that St Patrick, disappointingly, was English and not Irish at all (He was Welsh! say the welsh. Welsh, English, whatever, reply the Irish). Then you proceed to learn all about St Bridget and blah blah blah the founding and spread of the Church in Ireland. I'm pretty sure that far more Irish people could relate this story than the actual history of the Easter Uprising and the civil war. (many more religious schools used to skip over the Civil War entirely, rather tellingly)

MOST IMPORTANTLY St Patricks day occurs in the middle of Lent and so you are allowed the day off from abstaining. This manes many Irish people my ages recollection of it is that it was the day you had off school, went to Mass and then ate sweets till you were sick. That's also why it became associated with drinking- if you were abstaining for Lent (and you were in theory unless you were a total dissolute) it was a day you were allowed to drink.
posted by fshgrl at 8:36 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think we're talking past each other.

The American holiday of St. Patrick's Day is an Irish-American holiday; the Irish holiday of St. Patrick's Day is an Irish holiday. They are similar, fall on the same day, and take their name from the same saint, but they are distinct holidays with distinct traditions, although they sometimes influence each other.

But this is true of the ongoing relationship between Ireland and the members of the Irish diaspora in America. We communicate back and forth constantly, influencing each other, since at least back to Dion Boucicault, who traveled back and forth to his native Ireland and owned a theater on Broadway. Irish-Americans brought the banjo to Ireland (specifically, the Virginia Minstrels, led by Dan Emmett). We have a linked history that is occasionally delinked by circumstance and then relinked, as with the current The Gathering festival, but they are unique histories with unique expressions, and St. Pat's on either side of the Atlantic has its own character.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:57 PM on March 17, 2013 [4 favorites]


For the original post, nice links, thanks!

For those people who insist that corned beef isn't an Irish tradition, nonsense. That Is corned beef really Irish? link actually starts by explaining the long tradition of producing corned beef in Ireland, going back hundreds of years. The fact that lots of people were too poor to eat it doesn't mean that nobody at all ate beef in Ireland through the 19th century. The standard Irish cut of beef used is silverside, a term also used in Australia and New Zealand, and it is very much a traditional dish. The idea that corned beef isn't Irish is itself an Irish-American myth.

As for the differences between the celebration of St. Patrick's Day in Ireland and America, it's certainly true that St. Patrick's Day parades started in the US. The older tradition in Ireland was of wearing shamrock, one which goes back to at least 1700. It's been a public holiday in Ireland for over a hundred years, and a day off work and school for everybody has always been a big deal.
posted by Azara at 2:19 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The standard Irish cut of beef used is silverside, a term also used in Australia and New Zealand

That's a good bit of information; I have a brisket I am about to take out of the brine and cook today (I use this recipe for making my own corned beef; it's really easy and beats anything you can buy in a supermarket). I couldn't do it yesterday because I was in airports all day. Anyhow, the next time I corn some beef I will use the silverside cut (apparently what us yanks call rump roast or bottom round, according to Wikipedia).

I also just found out the even here in Augusta, GA, we have our own little Jewish/St. Patrick's corned beef thing going on.
posted by TedW at 7:55 AM on March 18, 2013


Bunny Ultramod just said everything I was going to say about how the Irish and the Irish-Americans are two people divided by a shared holiday. It's like something from Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where the main character has been working for an Americanized incarnation of the god Odin for most of the book (the premise of the book is that all the world's gods are real). After the main action winds down, the main character goes on vacation in Iceland, meets the Icelandic incarnation of Odin there, and is surprised when that guy is wholly ignorant of things the American Odin did. The Icelandic Odin says that well, yeah - that's because the American incarnation came over with the first Norwegian immigrants and evolved to become what they needed, meanwhile he came over with the first immigrants to Iceland, and evolved to become what they needed. They're both Odin, but two different Odins.

Same, too, with St. Patrick's Day; with the Irish, it's a religious holiday celebrating the patron saint. With Irish-Americans, it's a chance to embrace a part of one's own cultural identity and honor the ipact of that group on the history of this country. And with the Irish/Jewish-Americans of 50 years ago (she said, bringing the conversation within screaming distance of the topic), the celebration they observed was no doubt about "hey, here's a weird chance to indulge both sides of our cultural identity at the same time because why not."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually think the Jewish and the Irish-American experience have a great deal in common, he said, being an Irish-American who was adopted by Jews.

First, there's the general similarities between Jews and Irish. They're tribal. They're a small population that has had a disproportionate effect on the larger world. They're famous for the focus on education and civic engagement. They tend to use folk and cultural histories as touchstones for understanding the present. There's a lot of these. If you read the history of Irish-Americans, you read a lot of sentences like this: "Within a hundred years, the Irish in America had the largest percentage of any cultural group that had a college education, but for the Jews."

More than that, the experience of Jews and Irish-Americans is one of diaspora, and trying to understand your identity when it must be reforged in diaspora. We've developed a lot of the same mechanisms -- cultural institutions, religious institutions that also support ethnic and cultural identity. The Irish in American develop bar culture quite a lot more than the Jews, and this cannot be underestimated, as, for a hundred years or more, bars were the essential breeding ground of civic engagement, as has a lot to do with why our past half-century of US Presidents, but for the never-elected Gerald Ford, have been Irish-Americans. But Jews developed stuff the Irish didn't -- elaborate national summer and youth programs, for example. I think we can both stand to learn a lot from each other about what it means to maintain an identity when that identity had been national and has now become ethnic. I mean, St. Pat's and Purim are awfully similar holidays in a lot of ways, and I should know, I celebrate both.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:49 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


One of the things I found but didn't include was a few articles about the search for the "Colleen Queen Esther" for the combined Purim/St. Patrick's Day celebrations (from a defunct e-bay auction).
posted by ChuraChura at 10:03 AM on March 18, 2013


St Patricks day occurs in the middle of Lent and so you are allowed the day off from abstaining. This manes many Irish people my ages recollection of it is that it was the day you had off school, went to Mass and then ate sweets till you were sick.

Oh God, flashback - the first time I visited my friend in Ireland, it was March, and I'd joined her family when they dropped in on friends the day before St. Patrick's Day. The friends rustled up tea and snacks for us; all they had to hand were snack-packs of some kind of candy, and I noticed my friend took one, but pocketed it instead of eating it. She and I wandered around Cork the rest of the afternoon, and I noticed she kept occasionally glancing at the horizon. Finally, towards dusk, she studied the horizon, then asked me, "does it look like sunset to you?"

"...Sorry, what?"

"The sun. Is it below the horizon?"

"Um....yes?"

"Finally!" my friend crowed, then dug her candy out of her pocket and tore into it like a starving ferret. (Then she explained the thing with St. Patrick's Day being a day off Lent, and how lots of people counted St. Patrick's Day Eve as the kickoff.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think also that some of the differences in what people remember as 'traditional' are due to some selective biases in emigration. In Ireland, there were graduated differences in what was traditional (both for food and other things) between the very poor, the slightly less poor, the middle class and the upper class. There were also regional differences between the west and the east, and between rural areas and towns. With internal migration, and increasing prosperity a lot of those differences were smoothed out in Ireland, and what people here now see as traditional is a mix of a number of strands.

The Irish who left for America in the massive emigration from 1850-1950 tended to be disproportionately from the poorer, rural and more western section of the population. For people on the east coast, it was comparatively more common to migrate to England. A lot of Dubliners like myself will have the occasional American cousin, but lots and lots in Liverpool, Birmingham and London. Likewise, the large Glasgow Irish community has most of its Irish ties in Donegal and the northwest. So the traditions that the emigrants took with them were often quite specific to a particular region or income bracket, and were only a subset of a wider range that applied to Ireland as a whole.
posted by Azara at 11:42 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


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