Shalom Ireland is a one-hour documentary about Ireland’s remarkable, yet little known, Jewish community. This fascinating film chronicles the history of Irish Jewry while celebrating the unique culture created by blending Irish and Jewish traditions. From gun running for the Irish Republican Army during Ireland’s War of Independence to smuggling fellow Jews escaping from the Holocaust into Palestine, Shalom Ireland tells the untold story of how Irish Jews participated in the creation of both Ireland and Israel. The film profiles several prominent Irish Jews including Robert Briscoe, the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin; the renowned Talmudic scholar Rabbi Isaac Herzog, who served as the first Chief Rabbi of Ireland before becoming the first Chief Rabbi of Israel; and Rabbi Herzog’s Belfast-born son, Chaim Herzog who became President of Israel. Today, as their population declines and their culture is in jeopardy of extinction, Irish Jews recently launched an effort to revitalize Dublin’s once vibrant Jewish community.
For director Valerie Lapin Ganley, an American Jew, the making of Shalom Ireland was an unexpected journey back to the Irish Jewish roots that she didn’t even know she had. When she met her Irish-American husband-to-be, Michael, she sensed that their two cultures were very compatible, but only after the couple made a trip to Ireland in 1993, did she discover that Ireland had been an important stop on her family’s journey from Eastern Europe to the United States, and that in 1894, her great grandparents were the first Jewish couple married in Waterford, Ireland. From this ironic discovery her search began, and the result is above all a sincere and touching film that weaves together heartwarming interviews with rare and often breathtaking archival material.