04 October 2019

The Synagogues of Dublin:
7, Oakfield Place Synagogue

The synagogue at 7 Oakfield Place, off Clanbrassil Street, Dublin, was founded in 1885 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The synagogue at Saint Mary’s Abbey, off Capel Street, was established in 1832, it was Dublin’s most prestigious synagogue until it closed in 1892, and the city’s only synagogue until the mid-1880s.

However, new Jewish immigrants fleeing Poland, Russia and the Baltics in the face of rising persecution in the Tsarist empire, found the congregation at Saint Mary’s Abbey too formal, stern, assimilated, middle class and unwelcoming.

In the 1880s and 1890s, these new arrivals, who settled mainly around Clanbrassil Street and Portobello, formed their own small congregations or hebroth in an area that would soon become known as ‘Little Jerusalem.

These small new synagogues were also established out of necessity: the more orthodox new arrivals needed to be able to walk to their synagogue on Friday nights and Saturday mornings without breaching any of the limitations on distances during the sabbath.

These new hebroth that sprung up in the side streets of ‘Little Jerusalem within a decade included shuls in Saint Kevin’s Parade (1883), Oakfield Place (1885), Lennox Street (1887), Lombard Street (1893), Heytesbury Street (1891) and Camden Street (1892).

According to Louis Hyman in The Jews of Ireland, the shul founded in Oakfield Place in 1885 was one these many hebroth established in this area by the recent immigrants from Lithuania and Poland.

The Oakfield Place synagogue had 45 seat-holders or subscribing members in 1885, according to the Jewish Year Book, although this number had fallen to 35 by 1897.

Although many of these small synagogues survived after the opening of the new synagogue at Adelaide Road in 1892, some of them survived for only a few short years, and others closed within a few decades.

When the United Hebrew Congregation was proposed in 1909, it had the support of many of these smaller hebroth. A synagogue opened at Greenville Hall on the South Circular Road in 1916, it attracted the members of many of these small synagogues, and a new synagogue built on the site of Greenville Hall opened in 1925.

The hebra at Oakfield Place finally closed in the 1930s.

The synagogue at Oakfield Place, off Clanbrassil Street, continued until the 1930s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Tomorrow: 8, Lennox Street Synagogue

Yesterday: 6, Saint Kevin’s Parade Synagogue

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