Diplomat and curator of Irish Jewish Museum

 

RAPHAEL SIEV: RAPHAEL SIEV, who has died aged 73, was a former diplomat and the curator of the Irish Jewish Museum. Following his retirement from the diplomatic service he threw himself wholeheartedly into developing the museum.

Describing its aims in 1987, he said: “Firstly to record our history, the history of the Irish Jews, and, secondly, to be a bridge providing knowledge and information to other, different, societies in Ireland.”

He envisaged expanding the museum, located in the old Walworth Road synagogue off the South Circular Road in Dublin, into a dedicated centre with audio-visual and restaurant facilities. A fitting, lasting tribute to him would be if other dedicated people were to bring those plans to fruition.

Born in Dublin in 1935, he was the son of Albert Siev, formerly of Liverpool, and Edith Aronovitch of Limerick.

Educated at Zion Schools, Bloomfield Avenue, and the High School, Dublin, he took a gap year at Gateshead religious seminary before continuing his studies at Trinity College Dublin. He was called to the Bar in 1960.

In 1968 he became legal assistant in the Land Registry. Two years later he joined the Department of Foreign Affairs, and began work on the legal documents connected with Ireland’s accession to membership of the European Economic Community.

In 1972 as an Irish delegate to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg he was appointed to various legal committees.

His work took him far and wide: in New York he attended the United Nations General Assembly; in Montreal he dealt with civil aviation law; in Vienna he worked on diplomatic law; in Washington he negotiated diplomatic privileges; and in Brussels and Jamaica he attended meetings of the International Seabed Authority.

As deputy head of mission in the Irish Embassy in Copenhagen, he was accredited to Denmark, Norway and Iceland. At Strasbourg he represented Ireland before the Court of Human Rights, and he spoke from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly Hall in New York.

Involvement in international law gave a greater sense of fulfilment to that he would have derived from practice as a barrister.

In retirement he continued his active interest in diplomatic affairs while advising anyone who could legally benefit from his wealth of experience and knowledge.

He was a scholar with a broad knowledge of many topics, be it law, politics, Irish history or

deep commentary on the Talmud. A committed Orthodox Jew, he was a regular attendee at daily prayer.

He gave many years of service to his local synagogue, leading the service on many occasions, especially the High Holy Days.

He took great pride in being a Kohen (a member of the priestly sect) and taking part in blessing the congregation on Festivals.

Conscious of the decline in numbers of the Jewish community in Ireland, he lamented the fact that few Jews were allowed into Ireland during and immediately after the second World War.

“We could’ve taken in the best brains in Europe . . . We really don’t know the damage we did ourselves. They would’ve turned the country around. It was a tragedy,” he said.

Two days before his death he attended the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration at the Mansion House, Dublin, where he gave a reading.

He is survived by his brother Stanley, sister-in-law Rosel, nieces, nephews and extended family.

Raphael Victor Siev: born March 13th, 1935; died January 28th, 2009