A Happy St. Patrick's Day Recollection: When a Little Boy Met the Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin Ireland

One St. Patrick's day, when I was a little boy, I met Bobby Briscoe, the Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin Ireland, at my father's synagogue in New York City on East 67th Street.

I vividly remember his top hat and the big medal around his neck which swung out at me when he bent down to shake my hand. 

It was a grand day for the Jewish and the Irish!

The New York Times wrote up the visit. A wonderful New York story of a previous innocent age. 

New York Times. Published: March 17, 1957

Lord Mayor Prays at Altar in Traditional Shawl - Pays Visit to Cardinal

The Lord Mayor of Dublin devoted forty minutes yesterday morning to being plain Robert Briscoe and worshiping in the Orthodox Jewish faith of his ancestors.

He prayed at a Sabbath of Remembrance and pre-Purim service at Congregation Zichron Ephraim, 163 East Sixty-seventh Street. With the prayer shawl he brought with him for the service around his shoulders, he received the Orthodox honor, aliyah - an invitation to the altar.

Then he recited the traditional prayers in Hebrew before and after readings from the Torah. The aliyah was also extended to City Council President Abe Stark and Kings County District Attorney Edward S. Silver, who had of accompanied Mr. Briscoe to the synagogue.

Because of a heavy schedule, Mr. Briscoe and his group did not stay for the entire service. Rabbi Zev Zahavy, spiritual leader of the congregation said that the Lord Mayor's presence at the services was "an inspiration to all Jews in America and throughout the world."

In keeping with the Orthodox custom of not riding on Saturday, the Lord Mayor and his group walked from the Pierre Hotel, where he is staying, to the synagogue. In addition to Mr. Silver and Mr. Stark, Mr. Briscoe was escorted by two detectives of Jewish and Irish extraction, Ely Kerner and John O'Hagan.

Wears Kelly Green Tie

The Lord Mayor wore a cut-away coat, a black topper, a Kelly green tie with a golden harp embroidered in it.

As he strode up Fifth Avenue to attend synagogue services. he passed a group of policemen awaiting their parade assignments and remarked: "Top o' the morning. It's a fine day."

He paused to talk to a group of policewomen. Holding his prayer shawl, he told one young policewoman that, if she saw her commanding officer, "tell him I'm on my way to say my prayers."

Leaving the synagogue, he stopped at Engine Company 39, at 157 East Sixty-seventh Street, and told Lieut Joseph Kennedy, the commander: "No fires today, it's St. Patrick's Day."

Earlier in the morning, he had visited Cardinal Spellman at the Roman Catholic prelate's reidence at 452 Madison Avenue. Mr. Briscoe delivered a personal greeting in behalf of Archbishop John Charles McQuade of Dublin, and gave the Cardinal forty-five sets of Rosary beads, three boxes of chocolates and a glass bowl - all products of Ireland.

Cardinal Spellman told his guest: "There has not been as much excitement here since the Dionne quintuplets." Mr. Briscoe remarked that he was going to attend synagogue services.

"Be sure to leave all those Rosary beads here," the Cardinal replied with a laugh.

Mr. Briscoe laughed. "That's very good, very good," he said.

He returned to the Pierre, but not before being hailed by storekeepers, taxicab drivers and pedestrians. There was a brief rest and then he set out for the synagogue. Mr. Briscoe had originally intended to attend services at Congregation Rodeph Sholom on West Eighty-third Street but decided against it because of the long walk.

He returned to the hotel at noon for a brief visit with James A. Farley, chairman of the parade, and out again - this time for the St. Patrick's Day Parade with a ringing delaration of: "What a beautiful day!"


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