Thursday 18 October 2018

When we moved to Dublin, we struggled to find kosher food

Johanna Novis, a mother-of-two, and a Canadian from a Conservative Jewish faith

Warren and Johanna Novis, part of Dublin's Jewish community, at their home in Rathgar. Photo: Arthur Carron
Warren and Johanna Novis, part of Dublin's Jewish community, at their home in Rathgar. Photo: Arthur Carron

Three months after her second child, Eddie, was born, Johanna Novis boarded a flight in Toronto bound for Dublin.

"My husband was to start a new senior managerial job in a major auditing and accounting firm here and so, in something a daze, we made the move with baby Eddie and his big sister Isabel," she tells Review.

Both Johanna and her husband, Warren (inset), grew up in families that practised Conservative Judaism in Toronto. Neither Orthodox, as such, or reformist but somewhere in the middle.

Toronto's Jewish population tops 200,000 so when the young family moved to Dublin in July 2014, they quickly realised that lifestyle changes might be needed.

"We were used to Jewish restaurants and supermarkets but when we got to Dublin, we found it was all but impossible to get kosher food. Now we know that there's part of an aisle in the SuperValu in Churchtown dedicated to kosher so we make do. We probably took a lot for granted in Toronto, and now understand that for many Jewish communities around the world, access to kosher and places of worship is not always easy." The family regularly attend the Terenure synagogue and Warren is called upon to make the quorum of 10 men for certain religious obligations on occasion. We, as a family, attend on Jewish holidays and occasionally on the Sabbath," explains Johanna.

Isabel, now five, attends Ireland's only Jewish Primary School - Stratford National School in Rathgar - where she learns her prayers and about the religion of her parents and forefathers.

"The school is Orthodox, which we are not, but we're very happy with it," she tells me. "There's also a multi-denominational aspect which is very important. Isabel is actually really interested in religion and when she meets someone, one of the first thing she'll ask is 'what religion are you?'"

Through the school and synagogue, Johanna has met many other young Jewish families who've recently moved to Ireland because of work. "It seems most are coming to work in the tech sector. It's a transient population as far as I can see, and many who worked in (tech firm) Intel have moved on again. I can understand how that can be somewhat frustrating for the indigenous Jewish population in Ireland."

Like many other young Jewish families who have moved here from overseas, the transition can take time but Johanna tells me the family is enjoying life in the Irish capital.

"The children are so happy and settled. And we've no immediate plans to go anywhere. Dublin is home and we're delighted to be part of the Jewish community in Ireland."

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