March 17, 2011

Do Jewish People Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

by

Jewish St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and like a good Jew I am wearing green. I learned it from my grandfather. A devout and observant Jew, my grandfather was trained in all things Jewish. When he joined the military, he proudly wore his Judaism. In retirement I saw both intertwined. And it was in 2nd grade when he bought me a special “Lucky Leprechaun” shirt that I learned why my Jewish family wore green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Remember learning about the potato famine in Ireland back in the mid-1800s? For the lucky few who made it to the United States, they landed in New York City with nothing. My grandpa’s story to me begins with a synagogue in New York taking up a collection to help the Irish settlers, despite the poverty and hunger within their own Jewish community. They gave what would be, by today’s standards, a paltry sum, but in the mid-1800s was very generous. The money was given to an organization assisting the Irish poor because they, as Jews, felt that it was their duty to help all mankind and not just other Jews.

The story continues a century later, as Jews were trying to establish a homeland of their own, Israel. A generous donation from the Irish community in New York is said to have been presented to this same congregation. Not as a means of repayment, but to help their fellow brothers and sisters have a place to call home. Knowing that it was the Jewish people of New York that gave their ancestors, the first Irish settlers in New York, a sense that they were being welcomed in their new home.

So, in second grade I wore my special St. Patrick’s Day shirt my grandpa got for me. We had corned beef and cabbage for dinner – which for a Jewish family isn’t really that much of a stretch. And for dessert we had green jello. For many years I thought it was hokey. Until I finally understood. That some things are bigger than we are but that we are never too big to offer help.

I, like many Jews, don’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the religious sense. However, we recognize it as a day that demonstrates the connectedness of humanity, our obligation to do good for one another without regard to what, if anything, we’ll get in return. St. Patrick’s Day, while a Christian celebration, is a holiday where many Jews show support for the Irish people and our connection to the world at large. And although the Jewish population in Ireland is dwindling, as long as one Jew remains we will always be connected to this tradition.

Do all Jews celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Probably just as much as anyone else these days. No longer with much religious bent, St. Patrick’s Day is a time to come together with friends, eat corned beef, enjoy a few pieces of Soda Bread and drink beer. Green beer at that! Oh, and those Shamrock Shakes.

What does St. Patrick’s Day mean for you and how do you celebrate?

Sara

{ 6 comments }

Mara @ Kosher on a Budget March 17, 2011 at 12:05 pm

What a lovely story, Sara! Your grandfather was obviously a gutta neshama. <3

TheGregoryProject March 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm

‘gutta neshama’. yay ! adding that to my Yinglish vernacular. thanks !

shifra March 18, 2011 at 12:42 am

Sara, I LOVE this story! And what a great message! I don’t remember my mom making corned beef much, but I love it! Now I wish I could make some for dinner tonight! YUM!!!!

Dr. Michael D. Evans April 21, 2011 at 5:39 am

There’s nothing wrong when a Jew celebrates St.Patrick’s day. We commemorate for fun and love!

Ken from Dublin January 2, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Nice one Sara, really wonderful story and sentiment.

TheGregoryProject March 17, 2013 at 3:21 pm

i may just be a gay goy, but i do know a lot of things/traditions about the Jewish community from numerous friends and from just being aware … oh and i live in Toronto hello. i mean i’ve even read from the Haggadah at a couple of Seders. i know right, look at me go ! side note: i was totally bummed when i found out i was too old to search for the afikoman. damn kids.

ANYWAY, today i shocked myself when i thought “do Jewish people celebrate St. Patricks Day” and didn’t know the answer ? OMG how come i didn’t know this ?! – yes i’m being OTT on purpose peoples.

needless to say, but i had to Google it immediately. i was expecting the usual large amount of answers without any context, but not this time for this half Irish, half Canadian gentile as he was lucky enough to find Sara’s post. i felt like a leprechaun finding a pot of gold … omg kill me now !

that said, your article was beautiful, amazing and beyond awesome. mazal tov Sara ! not to mention, a def post to my Facebook timeline.

thanks again for sharing Sara and to everyone else out there, have a great Saint Patrick’s Day !

g.

ps | did i use enough Yiddish ? har !

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