(JTA) — Irish Jews are getting ready to celebrate a rare occasion that they call the “Double P”: when the Jewish holiday of Purim and St. Patrick’s Day both fall on the same day.
“It’s a very joyous moment that combines both parts of our identities, which share a lot of similarities, including a strong sense of identity and the pursuit of freedom,” said Malcolm Gafson, the Dublin-born chairman of the Israel Ireland Friendship League, who lives in Israel.
Purim, with its focus on joy, costumes and more than a wee bit of alcohol consumption, meshes particularly well with some St. Patrick’s Day traditions, which have become a carnivalesque celebration of all things Irish.
This year’s Purim, which begins on Wednesday evening and outside of Israel ends on Thursday evening, will be a special one for another reason for the Dublin Hebrew Congregation, the only Orthodox synagogue in Ireland, according to its rabbi, Zalman Lent.
This year marks the return of large Jewish communal events in Dublin, for the first since the 2020 outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Orthodox and Progressive synagogues of Ireland — both in Dublin — and others all over the world will celebrate Purim by reading the Book of Esther, the story of Queen Esther’s victory over the Jew-hating Haman.
Many Jews in Ireland will attend the annual city center parade, often wearing something green. But the Jewish community of Ireland doesn’t mark the Double P in any specific way, according to Lent, who is affiliated with the Hasidic Chabad-Lubavitch movement.
Most of the Jews of Ireland are newcomers to the island, and have only a superficial connection to St. Patrick’s Day — the traditional date of the death of Saint Patrick, a 5th-century Christian missionary who is considered the foremost patron saint of Ireland.
According to Lent, only a few hundred of Ireland’s 3,000-odd Jews are locals, descended from immigrants from Eastern Europe who settled in Ireland from the 19th century onward. The others, many of them Israelis, live in Dublin as employees of Google, Facebook, Intel and other high-tech giants headquartered in the city, which is sometimes called Europe’s Silicon Valley.
The newcomers began coming to Dublin about 15 years ago, and their numbers are growing: The number of Jews in Ireland leapt by 29% from 2011 to 2016, reaching about 2,500 that year, according to a 2020 demographic survey of European Jewry by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. Intel’s decision this week to invest a further $13.2 billion in Ireland could create new jobs that will almost certainly attract more Jews to the country.
The Jewish high-tech crowd tends to be secular but many are happy to attend the local Jewish school, and are a mainstay of community events such as for Hanukkah and Purim, Lent said.
At Ireland’s only Jewish school, Stratford National School, the high school division has more non-Jewish students than Jewish ones. The proportion of Jews in the elementary school division is only 50%.
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In Israel, where hundreds of Irish Jews live, Gafson’s group is determined to celebrate the Double P, which last came in 2003.
The group has booked Murphy’s Irish Pub in Netanya on March 20 for a Double P celebration that they are calling “Pur’Irim” — a mashup of the Jewish holiday’s name and the Hebrew-language word for the people of Ireland.
The 100 expected guests will raise one glass of Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day, another for Purim, and then a third, fourth and beyond. Revelers are expected to exclaim both “sláinte” and “l’chaim.”
On the flip side, many Israelis in Ireland also appreciate St. Patrick’s Day, which in Dublin is celebrated for several days, including at a festive parade that is reminiscent in spirit of Purim parades in Israel. This year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin has a theme of “connections” — a reference to the fact that it’s the first one since 2019 due to COVID-19.
One custom that is not Irish tradition, Lent said, is calling St. Patrick’s Day the abbreviated or “St. Patty’s Day.” St. Paddy’s Day, by contrast, is used by many in Ireland.
But calling the saint Patty is something “Only Americans do, and it’s a source of constant annoyance here,” said the rabbi, who was born in the United Kingdom and has been living in Dublin with his wife Rifky since 2000.
For Jasmine Sade, a 35-year-old Israeli mother of two living in Dublin, the Double P meant buying two sets of costumes for her two children, ages 5 and 4: green outfits for the St. Patrick’s Day parade and more traditional Purim costumes. On top of that, there’s a dress-up activity in Irish schools on April 23, for World Book Day.
“So it’s a little hectic with the celebrations and costumes all on top of one another but there’s enough time,” she said.
But it’s an enriching and happy period, said Sade, who is originally from Tel Aviv and moved to Ireland in 2018 with her children and partner, who is an Israeli who works in Ireland.
“I really enjoy celebrating both holidays,” she said. “I’m glad our kids have the opportunity to experience all these happy festivities from multiple cultures.”
The resumption of synagogue events has also made the day stand out for Sade, who attends the Dublin Hebrew Congregation.
“Purim of 2020 was the last community celebration with a lot of people,” she said. “So this Purim marks the end of an era and the start of a new one.”