Robert Briscoe, A Jewish Irishman
Highlights Taken From The Life of a Great Man Who Was Proud of His Religion
1956, Robert Briscoe became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin, although he
was not the first Jewish Mayor in Ireland (That title belongs to William Annyas.
He was elected Mayor of Youghal, County Cork, in 1555).
Briscoe was elected twelve times in the Dublin South.
Briscoe became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin.
His son Ben also served as
Lord Mayor of Dublin from1988 to 1989.
was the son of Abraham William Briscoe and Ida Yoedicke, both of whom were
Jewish Lithuanian immigrants. The original
family name in Lithuania is believed to have been Cherrick.
and Lilly had seven children. Only
two sons, Ben and Joe, remained in Dublin.
Ben followed his father into politics, while Joe joined the army.
Joe joined the army at age fifteen and prevaricated, stating that he was
eighteen. He too rose through the
retired in 1993 with the rank of Commandant.
was active in the Irish Republican Army and “Sinn Fein” during the War of Independence and accompanied Eamon
de Valera to America. He spoke for
the Sinn Fein cause at public meetings there and was adamant that being Jewish
did not lessen his Irishness. Briscoe
was sent to Michael Collins to Germany in 1919 to be the chief agent for
procuring arms for the IRA. Eamon
Martin, former Chief of Staff of Fianna Eireann, was best man at Briscoe’s
wedding. They had been close
friends during the Irish War of Independence.
the Civil War, Briscoe was involved in an incident with fellow anti-treaty IRA
members who attacked pro-treaty politician Darrell Figgis at his home.
The assault resulted in Figgis losing some of his beard. In his
biography, he recalls an incident of being recognized by a pro-Treaty opponent
during the Civil War. Briscoe
merely turned and walked away, confident that his enemy would not shoot him in
the Second World War, Briscoe, at that time a member of Dail Eireann, came under
close scrutiny from the Irish security services.
His support for Zionism and his lobbying on behalf of refugees was
considered potentially damaging to the interests of the state by officials from
the Department of Justice. Briscoe was an admirer and friend of Zeev Jabotinsky and his
campaign to liberate the Jews. Between
1939 and 1940, Robert Briscoe, along with John Henry Patterson, a former
commander of the 4th battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Zion
Mule Corps, were involved in fund raising for the Irgun in the USA.
Jabotinsky, while head of the Irgun, visited Dublin to receive training
in guerilla warfare tactics against the British under the instruction of
Briscoe. During the period Briscoe
described himself as the Chair of Subversive Activity against England.
He wished for Ireland to give asylum to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, but
did so discreetly in order not to be accused of compromising the neutrality
policy of the Fianna Fail government.
memoir, “For the Life of Me,” was published in 1958.
Emerald Isle immigration center in New York has devoted a special award in
Briscoe’s name. The group
celebrates the close relationship between Jewish and Irish communities in New
York and honors Jewish New Yorkers who have helped support immigration in the