17 October 2019

The new Bishop of Knossos and
his student days in in Ireland

With the new Bishop of Knossos, Father Prodromos Xenakis, when he visited the Church of Ireland Theological Institute with Dr Katerina Pekridou, now the Dialogue Secretary of the Conference of European Churches

Patrick Comerford

It is always interesting to hear news about someone I have known but have lost touch with. I got to know Father Prodromos Xenakis from Crete when he was a post-graduate student in Maynooth in 2010-2012.

He was following a programme in Biblical studies leading to the MTh degree, and was attached to the Greek Orthodox Church in Dublin.

During that time we took part in Greek community events in Dublin, a broadcast service on RTÉ, and he came to the Church of Ireland Theological Institute when I was presiding at the Community Eucharist on the day the calendar of the Church remembers Saint Polycarp, a second century martyr and Bishop of Smyrna.

It was good to hear today that Archimandrite Prodromos, who is now the Chancellor or Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of Crete, has been elected the next Bishop of Knossos in Crete.

As Bishop of Knossos, Archimandrite Prodromos will also serve as assistant bishop to the Archbishop of Crete, Archbishop Ireneos. Father Prodromos Xenakis has been a long-time associate of Archbishop Ireneos and has held several positions in the Archdiocese of Crete.

Knossos is a titular see in the Church of Crete. The separate diocese was abolished in 1823 and was attached to Metroplis, based in Iraklion.

The new bishop was elected late on Wednesday [16 October 2019]. His predecessor as Bishop of Knossos is the present Bishop of Rethymnon, Metropolitan Evgenios of Rethymnon and Avlopotamos.

The Bishop-elect of Knossos told the Greek media last night: ‘The election is a special honour to me. I feel joy and gratitude to everyone.’ His episcopal ordination will take place in Saint Minas Cathedral Iraklion on Saturday 26 October.

Father Prodromos Xenakis at a Greek community dinner in Dublin in 2012 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bishop Prodromos was born Zacharias Xenakis in Stavrakia, Iraklion, in 1979. He studied at the Theological Seminary of the University of Athens, and was ordained a monk and deacon in the Monastery of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou near Athens in 2005.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos then sent him to Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, where he followed a postgraduate programme in Biblical Theology in 2010-2012. On his return to Crete, he was ordained a priest in January 2013 and became an archimandrite.

He is the head of the press office and has served on a number of boards and committees in the Church of Crete, with special interests in communications, culture and church charities.

He has been a director of youth programmes and a programme producer with Light, the radio station of the Archdiocese Crete. He was a member of recent delegation of the Church of Crete to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Government. Bishop Prodromos will remain secretary of the Council of the Church of Crete.

Archbishop Prodromos Xenakis … elected Bishop of Knossos in Crete last night

The Synagogues of Dublin:
18, Rathmore Villas, Terenure

The small Machzikei Hadass synagogue is discreetly located in heart of Terenure village (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

The small Machzikei Hadass synagogue at 18 Rathmore Villas, behind 77 Terenure Road North, is within a short walking distance of Terenure Synagogue on Rathfarnham Road – and from the house where I was born. Yet, its discreet location in the heart of Terenure village makes this one of Dublin’s least-known synagogues.

Although this synagogue was founded in 1968, its beginnings go back to the foundation of a synagogue in 1883 at Saint Kevin’s Parade, off Clanbrassil Street, in Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem.’

The Jewish community in Dublin numbered about 400 or 500 people in the 1880s. But the city had only one synagogue, at Saint Mary’s Abbey, off Capel Street. In the eyes of the new Jewish refugees and migrants from East Europe arriving in Dublin in the 1880s, this one synagogue was quite Anglicised, too modern and assimilated and with something of a German-Jewish character.

Following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, a large number of pogroms broke out throughout the Russian empire, leading to a large exodus of Jewish people from Russia, Poland and present-day Lithuania and Latvia.

The new arrivals in Dublin first settled mainly in the area clustered around Portobello, the South Circular Road and Clanbrassil Street that became known as ‘Little Jerusalem.’

They never felt fully at home in the synagogue at Saint Mary’s Abbey and formed ad hoc minyanim or quorums of ten adult males in private houses. These small congregations led in turn to the eventual foundation of half a dozen or more small synagogues in Little Jerusalem.

One of these small synagogues was founded in Saint Kevin’s Parade, off Clanbrassil Street, in 1883. It is was one the last of the small synagogues founded in the area at that time. The founder and first President (Parnes) of the synagogue, Reuven Bradlaw, was also involved in the foundation of the Bais Olam or Jewish burial ground in Dolphin’s Barn, where he is buried. He was one of the men who carried a Sefer Torah at the opening ceremony for the synagogue on Adelaide Road in 1892.

While most of these earlier, small synagogues in the ‘Little Jerusalem’ area came together in 1920s in the synagogue at Greenville Hall on the South Circular Road, this synagogue maintained its separate identity in the decades that followed.

By the time the congregation moved to Terenure in 1968, it was known as Machzikei Hadass (מחזיקי הדת, ‘those who reinforce the Law’). The name comes from a 19th century organisation of synagogues and yeshivas in East Europe that aimed to improve Jewish education and observance, and may have been added at the time of the move to the present site in Terenure in 1968.

Machzikei Hadass moved from Saint Kevin’s Parade to Terenure over 50 years ago (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Steinberg family arrived from Munkatch in Czechoslovakia in 1928. Aharon Steinberg was responsible for a regeneration of the synagogue in Saint Kevin’s Parade, and he may have given it its current name when it moved to its present site at Rathmore Villas, behind 77 Terenure Road North.

Aharon Steinberg presided over the move over half a century ago, in April 1968, not long before he died. A marble plaque commemorating the move can be seen at the entrance, beside the original foundation plaque. The Aron Kodesh or holy ark holding the Torah Scrolls is the original one from Saint Kevin’s Parade.

The name of Reuven Bradlaw’s wife, as donor, is inscribed on the silver yad or Torah pointer used to this day in the Machzikei Hadass. His name and the date 1883 are on the marble foundation plaque at the entrance to the synagogue.

The synagogue celebrated its centenary on Shabbos VaYigash, 10 December 1983, with the Chief Rabbi, Dr David Rosen, and the late Judge Wine in the box, and with over 100 people in the synagogue and at a Kiddush that lasted rather longer than usual.

When the synagogue at Greenville Hall on the South Circular Road closed in 1984, many of its members joined the observant community of Machzikei Hadass in Terenure, which offered a warm welcome to newcomers who were less observant religiously than its traditional membership.

Two of Aharon Steinberg’s sons were Presidents of the synagogue: Louis Steinberg, who died in 1980 and Jack (Yankele) Steinberg, who was President from 1983 to 1997 and who died in Manchester in 2009.

Almost all of the current regular attenders came to this synagogue in recent decades. Even though the congregation may struggle to reach a minyan of ten adult males on a Saturday, the synagogue has benefited from the trickle of immigration in recent years, and it celebrated its first Bar Mitzvahs in 18 years in 2011.

The synagogue at Saint Kevin’s Parade, off Clanbrassil Street, Dublin, was founded in 1883 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Yesterday: 17, Terenure Synagogue, Rathfarnham Road

Tomorrow: 19, Some other buildings in Dublin.