09 July 2021

Days off school, sins confessed,
and sharing memories in Cork

Part of ‘Evening Echo,’ a public artwork in Shalom Park, Cork, by the New Zealand-based artist Maddie Leach (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The members of Munster Jewish Community have voted overwhelmingly to change the name of the community to the Cork Jewish Community, with the tag line, ‘Serving the Whole of Munster.’

With the new name comes a new website at www.corkjewishcommunity.ie as well as a new Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/corkjewishcommunityireland .

Many of the members live in the Munster counties of Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford as well as Cork, and so the line was added ‘Serving the whole of Munster.’

With the new name, a new Constitution and Mission Statement are being drafted, and the community is also looking for a new logo.

Meanwhile, Cork Jewish Heritage Stories, an event sharing stories about earlier days in Jewish Cork, is being recorded this weekend, to be aired during National Heritage Week.

In his award-winning and vivid collection of poems Jewtown (Inverin, Co Galway: Doire Press, 2016), the Carlow-based poet Simon Lewis is inspired by many memories of Cork’s Jewish community. For my Friday eveing reflections, I am reading one of those poems, inspired by Al Chet (על חא‎), a prayer confessing sins that begins with the opening words, ‘For the sin which we have committed before you …’ It is traditionally said ten times in the course of the services on Yom Kippur.

Al Chet by Somon Lewis:

You told me you wished you were born
a Jewman when I’d miss school
every week for the High Holy Days

At noon when you kneeled in the classroom
and children chanted the Angelus, you said you prayed
for days off school, like me.

Miss O’Hara heard you whisper,
sent you to Father Patrick next door
and we were told to ignore the crying,

cursing and crashing from the lashes.
We could hardly hear your knuckle knock
on the classroom door letting you back

to class, looking like the last hour
on Yom Kippur for the sin you had committed
with an utterance of the lips. I tried to tell you

on the next Yom Kippur when I read
the Al Chet prayer, I was thinking of you,
but I knew you had written me out.

Shabbat Shalom

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