Jewish community receives expressions of interest in south Dublin synagogue

Community opts for ‘wait and see’ approach on building put up for sale in March, says Hebrew Congregation representative

Dublin’s Jewish community has received seven or eight expressions of interest in its synagogue in Terenure, one of its representatives has said.

Members of Dublin’s Hebrew Congregation have decided to adopt a “wait and see” approach on the future of their synagogue in the south Dublin suburb.

The property remains on the market almost seven months after it was put up for sale with an asking price of €7.5 million.

Congregation president Michael Stein said the matter was discussed at their annual general meeting last week and that they were looking at “all options. It has a great past, is in a great location but it is an old building as are those who attend it. Most are 70-plus, with children and grandchildren abroad, while most of the new Jews arriving in Ireland are transient.”


Many of these incoming Jews work in the information technology sector. Most are secular and non-practising and tend to follow the work where their high-tech companies are concerned.

According to the 2016 census, there were 2,557 Jews in Ireland. The numbers from last year’s census will not be available until October 26th but are understood within the broader Irish Jewish community to be much the same as in 2016.

A decision to sell the synagogue at Terenure would have many ramifications, Mr Stein said.

“An alternative would have to be found, for example, but Dublin is a capital city and will always have a synagogue whatever its size. A ‘wait and see’ is the right message,” he said.

Distinctive building

The Terenure synagogue is a distinctive building, designed by Irish architect Wilfred Cantwell and dedicated in 1953.

A new rabbi, Yoni Weider with his wife Olivia, was installed there in August. Its former rabbi, Zalman Lent and his wife Rifky, have opened Dublin’s first Chabad centre in Rathmines. It means Dublin is no longer an exception among capital cities in not having a Chabad centre.

There have been Jews in Ireland since the reign of William the Conqueror in the 11th century.

The first documented synagogue in Dublin, at Crane Lane near Temple Bar, was recorded in 1663. In 1835 a deconsecrated Presbyterian church at St Mary’s Abbey in Dublin became a synagogue for the city’s 300 Jews.

In 1882 Russia’s Tsar Alexander III’s passed laws making Jews outsiders. Many fled, some to Dublin, increasing its Jewish population to 700, most from Lithuania. In 1892 a new synagogue was built on Adelaide Road, which remained open until 2000.

By 1901 there were 2,015 Jews in Dublin; 10 years later, it was 2,899. The newcomers gravitated towards the South Circular Road, where kosher shops serviced the community, especially on Clanbrassil Street.

By the mid-20th century, Ireland’s Jewish population reached a peak, just short of 5,000, a majority in Dublin living now in the suburbs. The Terenure synagogue was built in 1952.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times