Higgins ‘lectured us about the atrocities being committed by Israel’, says Chief Rabbi in Ireland

Jewish families in Ireland for ‘six, seven, eight generations’ report heightened tension

Ireland’s new Chief Rabbi has challenged President Michael D Higgins over remarks the latter made on Friday describing claims of anti-Semitism in Ireland as “irresponsible”.

Chief Rabbi Yoni Wieder said on Sunday that Jewish families who had lived in Ireland for “six, seven, eight generations” had told him that never before had they felt such a “tension” or “their viewpoint as Jewish people so delegitimised”.

Speaking outside the Dáil at a march in solidarity with Israel, organised by the Ireland Israel Alliance, he said, “I speak of the viewpoint of the Jewish community in Ireland. I’m not talking about Israeli Jews that live here – although they certainly concur. I’m talking about the core of the Irish Jewish community.”

Their viewpoint was “what President Higgins and so many others fail to realise”, he said.

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He emphasised that “we must be careful not to takes things out of proportion. We are so grateful that we are physically safe, that for the most part there has not been any physical violence against Jewish people as we have had in other countries in recent months. We are so grateful to this country that we are safe.”

Speaking to the Irish Examiner last Friday President Higgins said it was “absolutely outrageous to be abusing the Jewish community” by saying that there is widespread anti-Semitism [in Ireland]. He continued: “I don’t think it is helpful if people representing the Jewish state seek to encourage fear where it doesn’t exist by saying to people: ‘All of us now and anyone of Jewish faith must feel afraid’; that is grossly irresponsible.”

It would be “very wrong”, he said, to blame members of the Jewish community for the actions of the Israeli government.

In his address outside the Dáil, Chief Rabbi Wieder said the climate in Ireland now was “one in which many members of the Jewish community here feel deeply isolated and hurt”.

Not a week passed since October 7th “that I haven’t had people tell me they feel uneasy in the street when wearing something that identifies them as Jewish, or at work. That they are negatively judged, that they are seen as the outsider, as the ‘other’,” he said.

“Our voice as Jewish people in support of Israel, and in expressing the environment as we experience it here on the ground, is not being listened to,” he said.

He recalled how he and other senior members of Ireland’s Jewish community met President Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin last Thursday, “the day before he made these comments”.

“For much of the hour we spent together, President Higgins lectured us about the atrocities being committed by Israel in Gaza,” he said.

He had hoped “that perhaps I could open his eyes as to the experience of the Jews in Ireland, that maybe he would listen to myself and to lay leaders of the community when we told him what long-standing Irish Jewish families are feeling”.

“Judging from his comments, it seems that the only thing President Higgins took from our meeting is that there are many Irish Jews who are against preventing aid from getting in to Gaza. That is most certainly true. But why was that the only thing he could say on behalf of the Irish Jewish community?

“Why does he still fail to accept the affinity that the vast majority of Irish Jews feel with the state of Israel” and “why is he unmoved when he was told by a senior member of the Jewish community, that as much as it pained him to say it, he did not want his grandkids brought up in Ireland if this was the environment they would have to deal with?” Chief Rabbi Wieder asked.

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