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Yad Vashem

The Jewish working class in Northern Ireland


In Carnmoney cemetery we find the gravestones of Samuel and Betsy Pinker, formerly of 61 Eglinton Street Belfast. Samuel was a tailor whose daughter Ettie married a tailor Henry Benjamin Rosenberg of 16 Old Park Road. Samuel Pinker’s headstone records his date of death in both the Jewish and Gregorian calendar dates: 12th Nissan 5696 and 4th April 1936. His will is short and simple. He leaves the whole of his personal estate to his wife. Most of his effects were derived from a life assurance policy with Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society. His gravestone is one amongst a multitude of stones which represent those families who from their arrival from the mid 1880s eked out a living from their trades. Isaac Patchunski, also buried in Carnmoney is recorded in the 1901 census for Alloa Street as a hardware traveller.16 He and his wife moved from Russia and for a time resided in Leeds, where their son Joseph was born, before they settled in Belfast to raise their five children who attended the Jaffe’s Jewish school. The lives of these families may appear unremarkable when compared to the likes of Otto Jaffe or Herman Fox. Yet their headstones are vital reminders of the presence of ordinary Jewish men and women in the heart of the working class districts of Belfast. It is important that in what is eventually becoming a multi-cultural and more diverse society that we do not forget just how peculiar and fascinating the presence of German, Russian and Polish Jewish families would have initially appeared to working class men and women who in all reality had little or no experience of other cultures or nationalities. The presence of the Jewish peddler, carpenter, draper, glazier, baker, tailor, traveller, jeweller, carpenter or even Rabbi17 must have had a remarkable effect on broadening the cultural horizons of Belfast’s indigenous residents. This subject of Jewish experience in Belfast’s Protestant and Catholic ghettos needs much more research, and quickly before the spoken recollections of a past generation are forgotten.

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