Homelands to Townlands: Jewish Communities

Homelands to Townlands: Jewish Communities

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Antrim, Austria, Belfast, North Belfast, Stormont, Vienna




Transmission 22/08/2008


24min 48sec







Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Westway Films

Rights Holder

ITV, Westway Films

It is illegal to download, copy, print or otherwise utilise in any other form this material, without written consent from the copyright holder.


In this episode, the viewer meets Melvin Goldberg, a second generation Jew living in Belfast. Through home videos, family photographs and conversation, the viewer starts to understand the struggles Melvin's family, and the Jewish community in general, have had to overcome in their efforts to settle and be accepted in Northern Ireland. Melvin's family history is dramatic and he raletes a number of fantastical anecdotes, recalling how his grandfather's appendix burst just after he had boarded Titanic, in Southampton, in 1912. Removed from the vessel to receive treatment, this medical emergency was, ironically, to save his life. Some two decades later, Melvin's father was also to have a lucky escape.

During the Second World War, he was rounded-up by the Nazis and brought to a concentration camp, only to be recognised by an old school friend who was an SS officer and who assisted him in getting out. On a lighter note, Melvin describes how his father took his mother out on their first date. Unfortunately, he hadn't asked her name and so couldn't tell the Rabbi who he intended marrying!Turning from the specifics of the Goldberg family, the programme switches focus to tell the broader story of the Jewish community in Northern Ireland.

The first Jewish settlers arrived in NI in the 19th century. Most came from Germany, with the intention of becoming involved in the linen industry. It was this first wave of settlers who built the original synagogue on Great Victoria Street, a place that would become a focal point for Belfast Jewish life.The synagogue - now situated on Somerton Road in North Belfast - continues to play a pivotal role in the life of Northern Ireland's Jewish community. Cyril Rosenberg, a member of the Jewish Council, explains that for the refugees coming over during the Russian persecution of Jews and those that came later, particularly those arriving before and during the Second World War, the synagogue provided social, financial and spiritual support.


Supported by the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council

A Westway Film Production for UTV.



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