Ireland’s President Mary McAleese has personally thanked the Jewish community for a donation of $82,000 given to the victims of the Irish Potato Famine in 1847.
The President was speaking at New York's Temple Shearith Israel, a synagogue founded in Crosby Street in 1654 by Brazilian, Spanish and Portuguese Jews.
In 1847 Jacques Judah Lyons, who was chazan of the synagogue, organised a donation of $1,000 from the congregation to be sent to the victims of the famine. The Irish famine killed more than a million people between 1845 and 1852.
The donation is the equivalent of $82,000 in today’s currency, at a time when many in the immigrant Jewish communities of New York were also struggling to feed their own families.
In the synagogue records, Mr Lyons reportedly told congregants: “There is but one connecting link between us and the sufferers. That link, my brethren, is humanity.”
More than 160 years later, President McAleese spoke at the synagogue, thanking the Jewish community for their support.
She said: “We are remembering one of the relatively unremembered acts of true humanity, when the community at Temple Shearith Israel reached out the hand of mercy, generosity and compassion to an afflicted people such a long way away in Ireland.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also attended the ceremony at the synagogue, and said: “The Jews and the Irish share a heritage of resilience in the face of hardship, and generosity to others during their times of troubles.
“So it was only natural that when the devastating potato famine drove so many of the Irish people to our shores, that the members of Shearith Israel would extend their help. They were fulfilling one of the most deeply held teachings of the Jewish faith.”
Rabbi Hayyim Angel of Shearith Israel said: “We have an ongoing commitment to the underlying values of humanitarian concern that transcend boundaries of geography, religion, and ethnicity.