Happy St. Patrick’s Day, to all our Irish friends! There have been not a few prominent figures who fell in the sweet middle spot of the Venn diagram between Irish people and—to use the common euphemism—readers of Tablet Magazine. And even more have wished they fell there! (See, for example, Abie’s Irish Rose, the popular 1920s play about Abie Levy and his wife, Rosemary Levy, née Murphy.) I’m not making this up—even if the most famous Irish Jew was made up (that would be Leopold Bloom, the star of James Joyce’s Ulysses, whom we celebrate on a different day).
I asked Jonathan Wilson, author of a great New York Times Magazine article on Ireland’s Jewish community, to suggest some favorite, real-life Irish Jews. He offered a few; intern Jenny Merkin came through with a few more.
• Robert Briscoe, Dublin’s first Jewish mayor (also a member of the Irish Republican Army);
• His son, Ben, another Dublin mayor;
• Chaim Herzog, the Belfast-born president of Israel from 1983 to 1993;
• Speaking of Herzog, Wilson said, “my Auntie Pearl who once dated him!”;
• Yitzah HaLevi Herzog, Israel’s first chief rabbi (and, naturally, Chaim’s father), had been Ireland’s chief rabbi;
• Daniel Day-Lewis (mother);
• Sen. John Kerry—remember, he learned during his presidential campaign that his grandfather was a Czech Jew;
• Liam Neeson: not actually a Jew. But he played Oskar Schindler … who was not actually a Jew. So an honorary Jew, twice removed.
So, have a happy St. Patrick’s Day. We’d say several cliché things now, and wish you several more, but instead we merely suggest you click on and print out this St. Patrick’s Day Bingo card and see how well you do.