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'If you want to marry into the faith, the base is too small now'

What's it really like to be Jewish in Ireland when the once vibrant community has such tiny proportions? John Meagher finds out

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Shop closures: Natalie Wynn says there were signs the south Dublin Jewish community was on the wane in the early 1980s. Photo by Frank McGrath

Shop closures: Natalie Wynn says there were signs the south Dublin Jewish community was on the wane in the early 1980s. Photo by Frank McGrath

Emigration: Carl Nelkin met his wife in the US. Photo by Gerry Mooney

Emigration: Carl Nelkin met his wife in the US. Photo by Gerry Mooney

'Dark underbelly': Alan Shatter was the last member of the Jewish faith to be elected to the Dáil. Photo by Steve Humphreys

'Dark underbelly': Alan Shatter was the last member of the Jewish faith to be elected to the Dáil. Photo by Steve Humphreys

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Shop closures: Natalie Wynn says there were signs the south Dublin Jewish community was on the wane in the early 1980s. Photo by Frank McGrath

When Carl Nelkin was a boy, there were signs of his Jewish faith all around him. There were several shops specially catering for Dublin's Jewish community along Clanbrassil Street in the south-inner city, there were multiple Jewish clubs for him to join, and when it came to friendships, there were seemingly innumerable peers from the Irish-Jewish tradition that he could get to know.

He knew he was from a minority religion in an Ireland that was overwhelmingly Catholic, but it seemed as though the community he knew around the Portobello district of Dublin's Southside was a vibrant one.

But that was then, 1970s Dublin. Today, Nelkin - a lawyer who specialises in the aviation industry - is 58 and precious few of his childhood friends still live in Ireland. Most have long emigrated to places like Manchester, where there is a large Jewish community - many of them Irish expats - and to other parts of the UK, as well as Israel and the US. "There are more indigenous Irish Jews in Manchester than there are here," he quips. "When I go over, I see all these old faces and it's like I'm transported back in time."