The Orthodox synagogue at Adelaide Road in Dublin is to close in June due to falling numbers. It follows a continuing decline in the State's ageing Jewish population over recent decades. Estimates now place it at "between 1,000 and 1,200", with "60 to 75 per cent" over 50.
A meeting to discuss the planned closure of Adelaide Road will take place at 10.30 on Sunday morning in a nearby hall. It is expected there may be some local resistance, but the majority of the remaining 100- to 150-member congregation are believed to favour it.
It is part of a scheme involving demolition of the synagogue at Terenure in Dublin. This will be rebuilt, along with a new community centre. Plans to sell Adelaide Road are understood to be well advanced, with some offers under active consideration.
With Adelaide Road closed there will be just two Orthodox synagogues left in the State, the one at Terenure and another in Cork, which is also threatened with closure.
A separate Jewish community, the Dublin Jewish Progressive Congregation, has a synagogue in Rathgar. Its approximate 160-member congregation does not recognise the authority of Chief Rabbi Gavin Broder. It would be seen as more liberal than its Orthodox counterpart.
The closure of the Adelaide Road synagogue, which celebrated its centenary in 1992, will be particularly poignant for the Republic's remaining Orthodox Jews as it was the synagogue of what was once Ireland's largest Jewish community, on Dublin's South Circular Road. It was attended by the late Chaim Herzog, former President of Israel, when he grew up in Dublin. His bar mitzvah took place there and it was where his father, Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, preached.
Mr Joe Briscoe, spokesman for the Orthodox Jewish community in Ireland and who belongs to the Adelaide Road congregation, lamented its closure. The Republic's Jewish population peaked at about 5,000 in the immediate post-war years, and most lived in Dublin and Cork, he said. With the establishment of Israel in 1948, about 800 Irish Jews went there. Others have since emigrated to Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.
The community's situation in Cork is now so critical it is frequently difficult to find the necessary 10 males over 13 to hold services.
Mr Briscoe said the decline was not peculiar to this State but was a widespread phenomenon. Wherever it has taken place the reasons have been economic and social. In England, for instance, he said, small Jewish communities in Leeds, Bradford, Cardiff and Liverpool had joined larger communities in Manchester and London. This followed the disappearance in those smaller communities of many traditional crafts associated with Jewish people, such as tailoring, following the rise of multiples.
Young Jewish people leaving small communities for economic reasons meant fewer partners for those remaining.