A look at the Dublin story of ‘Joe Edelstein’s Alarm’ in Little Jerusalem.
Back in September, I paid a visit to the Irish Jewish Museum in Portobello, a pretty incredible gem covering everyone from the fictional (Leopold, I’m talking to you…) to the very real Jewish characters in Dublin history.
One of the characters touched upon was Joe Edelstein. Joe’s name would have been very well-known in the area that became Dublin’s ‘Little Jerusalem’. He was a businessman and writer of some importance in the Jewish part of the city. The Irish Times of September 11 1908 noted for example that he spoke at a meeting of the Judaeo-Irish Home Rule Association at the Mansion House in Dublin and proposed that “….this great meeting of Jews resolve to support such measures as will tend to secure for the people of Ireland a full grant of self-government.”
Edelstein wrote a most controversial work, The Money Lender, which was not well received in the Jewish community of the capital. A copy of it can be seen in the museum today. It was felt by some that the book re-inforced negative stereotypes about the community. It was published in 1908. Despite objections to the work, Joe remained an influential figure in the Jewish community, and newspaper archives show he continued to speak at many public events, continuing to champion the Home Rule movement.
Sadly, Edelstein, once an influential figure in his community, was to fall on hard times and turn to drink. The Irish Independent of November 11, 1939 noted that he was fined a sum of 40s for an offence arising out of being drunk. On one occasion Edelstein was fined by damaging works in the National Library.
Manus O’Riordan has done some excellent research on the Jewish community in Dublin, and noted that:
Edelstein was a man with a serious drink problem, and was subject to frequent psychiatric breakdowns, with resulting periods of hospitalisation. In fact, one such commitment to the Richmond mental hospital for a whole nine months stretch stemmed from the scandal of his 1911 conviction for the crime of indecent assault….
… Edelstein lived on New Street, the central venue for James Connolly’s outdoor public meetings during his 1902 Wood Quay election campaign, and a straight continuation of Clanbrassil Street, the principal thoroughfare of Dublin’s “Little Jerusalem”.