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Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce

Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce: A Socioeconomic History

Cormac Ó Gráda
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 320
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    Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce
    Book Description:

    James Joyce's Leopold Bloom--the atheistic Everyman ofUlysses, son of a Hungarian Jewish father and an Irish Protestant mother--may have turned the world's literary eyes on Dublin, but those who look to him for history should think again. He could hardly have been a product of the city's bona fide Jewish community, where intermarriage with outsiders was rare and piety was pronounced. InJewish Ireland in the Age of Joyce, a leading economic historian tells the real story of how Jewish Ireland--and Dublin's Little Jerusalem in particular--made ends meet from the 1870s, when the first Lithuanian Jewish immigrants landed in Dublin, to the late 1940s, just before the community began its dramatic decline.

    In 1866--the year Bloom was born--Dublin's Jewish population hardly existed, and on the eve of World War I it numbered barely three thousand. But this small group of people quickly found an economic niche in an era of depression, and developed a surprisingly vibrant web of institutions.

    In a richly detailed, elegantly written blend of historical, economic, and demographic analysis, Cormac Ó Gráda examines the challenges this community faced. He asks how its patterns of child rearing, schooling, and cultural and religious behavior influenced its marital, fertility, and infant-mortality rates. He argues that the community's small size shaped its occupational profile and influenced its acculturation; it also compromised its viability in the long run.

    Jewish Ireland in the Age of Joycepresents a fascinating portrait of a group of people in an unlikely location who, though small in number, comprised Ireland's most resilient immigrant community until the Celtic Tiger's immigration surge of the 1990s.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-8021-8
    Subjects: History, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-8)

    The adventures of Leopold Bloom in Dublin on 16 June 1904 (Bloomsday) are familiar to lovers of literature everywhere. James Joyce’s decision to give such a prominent role to a Dublin Jew (or half-Jew) inUlysseshas ensured Ireland’s capital city an enduring role in Jewish studies.¹ Yet although aUlysseswithout its Bloom is inconceivable, Joyce’s central character sprang from a community rarely mentioned in social and economic histories of the city or, indeed, in discussions of Jewish migration generally. There is a good reason for this: the small size of that community. In 1866, the year of the...

  6. Chapter 1 ARRIVAL AND CONTEXT (pp. 9-29)

    InThe Commonwealth of Oceana, a political pamphlet first published in 1656, James Harrington described “Panopea” (Ireland) as “the soft mother of a slothful and pusillanimous people.” Neither conquest by arms nor replantation with “a new race” of British colonists had made Panopea viable. If Harrington had his way, it would have been planted “with Jews, allowing them their own rites and laws, for that would have brought them suddenly from all parts of the world, and in sufficient numbers.” There the Jews could have combined both trade and agriculture, in which they had excelled in the Land of Canaan....

  7. Chapter 2 “ENGLAND-IRELAND” AND DEAR DIRTY DUBLIN (pp. 30-44)

    Why did the few thousand immigrants from the tsarist empire who emigrated between the 1870s and the early 1910s choose “England-Ireland” (as Ireland was known inder heimin the 1880s)? Why did a majority of them settle in Dublin? After all, the Irish economy was poor relative to, say, other destinations in this period, and its growth sluggish by comparison. On the eve of the World War I Irish GDP per head lagged far behind that of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and Argentina.² Moreover, most post-1880 east European Jewish emigrants, no matter where they went, tended...

  8. Chapter 3 “THEY KNEW NO TRADE BUT PEDDLING” (pp. 45-71)

    For centuries Jewish men everywhere have been disproportionately represented in trade and finance and in skilled craft occupations.³ Some concentrated their business on the local marketplace or in retail outlets; others traveled around with their wares, selling to country people in their own homes. Already in the ninth century, the wordsJudaeusandmercatorwere almost interchangeable in Carolingian documents; in medieval times in the Near East Jews bartered manufactured goods for agricultural produce, which they then sold in the towns; in early modern Germany Jews became skilled horse traders; in eighteenth-century England, Jewish traders specialized in peddling cheap jewelry...

  9. Chapter 4 SELF-EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL MOBILITY (pp. 72-93)

    The claim in a confidential 1903 police report that Dublin’s Jewish immigrants “do [not do] any manual labor” was true in the narrow sense that they did not engage in the dominant proletarian occupations of servant, gardener, casual laborer on the docks, or in transport or construction. But that is not to say that there were no wage earners—“ordinary working people”—in the immigrant community a century ago. Several—including recent arrivals, the so-called greeners—found work as tailors, cap-pressers, machinists in clothing sweatshops or factories, cabinetmakers, brushmakers, glaziers, shoe repairers, or collectors of rags or old furniture. All...

  10. Chapter 5 Settling In (pp. 94-121)

    For centuries, Jews have been more urbanized than any other ethnic or religious group. For observant Jews, living close together in clusters was a prerequisite for religious practice: the ten-man minimum needed for communal prayer (the minyan), the requirement that the faithful proceed to shul on foot on the Sabbath and on holy days, and the need to sustain even a part-time minister—who might also serve as butcher (shochet) and circumciser (mohel)—presupposed a community of ten or more households for viability. Their urbanization may have had noneconomic origins, but it lent itself to occupations as traders and skilled...

  11. Chapter 6 Schooling and Literacy (pp. 122-128)

    Jewish culture in the late nineteenth-century shtetls valued learning, both religious and secular. For generations, most boys had received a form of schooling in the Holy Law that put a premium on “mental agility, close attention to the meaning of words, and lively criticism.”¹ In the late nineteenth century shtetl Jews also increasingly valued secular schooling, so much so that they were greatly overrepresented in the best schools, whereupon the authorities sometimes imposed quotas on them. The bookish Litvaks particularly valued schooling. The Litvak author Israel Kasovich was not alone in having to face many frustrations in trying to get...

  12. Chapter 7 The Demography of Irish Jewry (pp. 129-159)

    Four features of Jewish demography stand out: the contrasting marital fertility rates of secular and non-Orthodox Jews, on the one hand, and Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, on the other; the increasing incidence of “marrying out” among diasporic Jews; the relatively high life expectancy of Jews; and the decline of Jewish populations everywhere outside Israel. A century ago, as noted at the outset of this study, it was the low infant and child mortality of Jewish populations that struck observers most. We now take a closer look at that aspect of Jewish demography in Ireland, as well as the fertility of...

  13. Chapter 8 CULTURE, FAMILY, HEALTH (pp. 160-177)

    Traditionally, economists have been more skeptical of cultural approaches to human behavior than other social scientists. The economists’ assumption that human beings are endowed with stable, exogenous preferences leaves little room for differences or changes in tastes when accounting for relative economic performance, at either the macro- or microlevel. Adam Smith believed that tastes across individual consumers were broadly similar. Other economists insist that while some individuals may be born with more acute or less sophisticated tastes than others, the spread of tastes across different communities is more or less the same. Either way, the main point is that tastes...

  14. Chapter 9 NEWCOMER TO NEIGHBOR (pp. 178-203)

    Today over one in every ten residents of the Republic of Ireland was born outside the country. Great Britain and Northern Ireland still account for a majority of these but may not do so for much longer. Between May 2004 and April 2005, over eighty-five thousand personal public service (PPS) numbers were issued to nationals of countries admitted into the European Union in 2004, or over ten times the number of work permits issued to nationals of the same countries in the previous twelve months. Poles accounted for half of the total in 2004–5, and Lithuanians a further one-fifth....

  15. Chapter 10 ICH GEH FUN “IRE”LAND (pp. 204-216)

    The account of Irish Jewry in economic and demographic context in the preceding pages began with James Joyce’s fictional creation, Leopold Bloom. Bloom, the son of a Hungarian Jewish father and an Irish Protestant mother, married a Roman Catholic and befriended Litvak immigrants. In effect the multicultural Bloom had a foot in four camps, which makes him a historically implausible character. For Joyce, Bloom was the “modern” outsider to Dublin’s parochial Gentiles; but had Bloom stepped from the written page into the real-life Little Jerusalem of Joyce’s day, his mixed parentage, his non–east European background, and his atheism would...

  16. Appendix 1 LETTERS TO ONE OF THE LAST “WEEKLY MEN” (pp. 217-220)
  17. Appendix 2 MR. PARNELL REMEMBERS (pp. 221-223)
  19. NOTES (pp. 229-270)
  20. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 271-294)
  21. INDEX (pp. 295-300)