Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The earliest reference to Jews in Belfast dates from 1652. Mention of a "Jew Butcher" in 1771 suggests the existence of the nucleus of a community. Jews are again recorded in the 1840s. D.J. Jaffe, who settled in Belfast in 1851, established a congregation in 1869 and built its first synagogue in 1871–72. Joseph Chotzner was the first minister (1869–80; and again 1893–97).
After 1881, the community increased with the arrival of Jewish refugees from Russia. These at first formed their own congregation but, in 1903, joined the main congregation.
A municipal Jewish elementary school was established in 1898. Sir Otto Jaffe, twice lord mayor and once high sheriff, served for many years as the congregation’s president and built its second synagogue in 1904.
Isaac Herzog served as rabbi of Belfast from 1915 to 1919, followed in 1926 by Jacob Shachter and, in 1954, by Alexander Carlebach (who served until 1965).
In 1967, the Jewish population numbered about 1,350. In that year, a new synagogue building was consecrated. In the mid-1990s the Jewish population dropped to approximately 550 and, in 2004, to about 500. An Orthodox synagogue and a Jewish community center continue to exist.
B. Shillman, Short History of the Jews in Ireland (1945), 134–6; Carlebach, in: JHSET, 21 (1968), 261ff.; idem, in: JC, Suppl. (July 30, 1965); L. Hyman, Jews of Ireland (1972). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: JYB, 2004.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.