Categorized | Lighter Side, Zimmerman_Mark

Jewish trivia quiz: Jews and Ireland

By Mark D. Zimmerman

Is one answer correct? More than one? None? Make your guess and click on the link at the bottom to find the real answer.

Mark D. Zimmerman

MELVILLE, New York — With St. Patrick’s Day having just been celebrated, we are reminded of the long history of Jews in Ireland, going back as far as 1079, as noted in the Annals of Inisfallen (a chronicle of Irish medieval history): “Five Jews came from over sea with gifts to Toirdelbach [king of Munster], and they were sent back again over sea.” What significant event for Jews took place in the Irish city of Limerick?

A. The first synagogue in Ireland was established in Limerick in 1747, founded by Sephardic Jews who came to Ireland from Portugal. The synagogue, Congregation Anshe Sephardim, closed in 1848 after many congregants died during the Great Famine, while others fled to the larger cities of Dublin and Cork seeking food or jobs.

B. In 1888 Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, also known as Isaac Herzog, was born in Limerick to Polish Jewish immigrants who had fled the pogroms. Herzog studied with his father who was a rabbi, and proved to be a Jewish scholar, mastering Talmud while still young. He eventually attended the Sorbonne and the University of London, before returning to Ireland, where he became the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland, from 1921 until 1936. His son, Chaim Herzog, became president of Israel, and his grandson, Isaac Herzog, is a current member of the Israeli Knesset and a leader of the Zionist Union electoral list.

C. The Guinness brewery was established in Limerick in 1759, started by a German-Jewish immigrant, Arthur Guinness, whose original name was Arthur Ginsberg. Ginsberg, who was from Germany, had worked at the Hofbräu Brewery in Munich before moving to Limerick. He began making beer, but was unsuccessful because the Irish-Catholic tavern owners would not buy from a Jew. He changed his name to Guinness, eventually leading the company to become one of the most successful beer brands in the world.

D. In 1904, Father John Creagh of the Redemptorist Order in Limerick gave some anti-Semitic sermons which led to a boycott of the small Jewish community there, as well as assaults against some of the city’s Jews. Many of the Jewish families left Limerick and moved to Cork. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork, Gerald Goldberg, was from a family who had fled the Limerick boycott.

E. When Irish novelist James Joyce, who was Catholic, was growing up in Limerick, Ireland, he was best friends with a Jewish boy who lived next door named Leopold Bloomberg. They used to hang out almost every day after school doing all the silly things that little boys used to do. One day James said to Leo, “Listen to the poem I made up.”

A young Rabbi was teaching in Cork,
And he told the kids–take out a fork.
When you’re here in this cheder
You must eat your potater
With some brisket, and never with pork.

When Joyce later gained fame as the writer of Ulysses, he honored his childhood friend by naming the protagonist Leopold Bloom. One day a reporter from the Times of London was interviewing Joyce about his youth, and Joyce recited the poem he had written for his childhood Limerick friend. The silly verse became known as Joyce’s Limerick poem, and eventually that phrase was applied to all poems that followed the same meter and rhyme scheme.

Link to answer:

Zimmerman is the author of the Rashi, Rambam and Ramalamadingdong series of Jewish trivia e-books. Learn more at

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