Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester recently complete its tenth trip abroad, seeing the sights of Dublin.
Except when prevented by pandemic travel restrictions, the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester likes to travel each year to an overseas place of both Jewish and Muslim interest, at participants’ own expense.
From 29th July to 1st August, five of them completed their tenth trip, which was a long-planned visit to Dublin. The travellers were Jewish Co-Chair Councillor Heather Fletcher, whose father was from Dublin, Muslim Co-Chair Mohammed Amin, Forum Company Secretary Tahara Amin, Forum Executive Member Qaisra Shahraz, Forum Member Anne Isaac, who is a French convert to Islam.
The highlight of the trip was Sunday, when the group visited the Irish Jewish Museum. They had the benefit of a fascinating talk about the history of the Irish Jewish community given by Hilary Abrahamson. This was particularly moving for Heather Fletcher, as she is descended from an Eastern European refugee Philip Fletcher. His original surname was Gudelisky but when he settled in Cheetham Hill in Manchester he changed it to Fletcher based on the name of a shop.
Philip Fletcher and his wife Yetta had 10 children, nine born in Manchester and one in Dublin. Philip was a tailor but upon obtaining a job as a master tailor in Dublin he emigrated there in 1908 with his family. One of the 10 children was Heather Fletcher’s grandfather Samuel who was also a tailor in Dublin, and he married a woman from Broughton in Salford. Samuel was elected President of the Irish garment workers industrial union in 1931 which was the same year that he and Eva had a son, Neville who was Heather Fletcher’s father. After training as a doctor in Dublin, Neville moved to Salford and settled there for the rest of his life.
The Irish Jewish community is now relatively small, about 2,500, due to the impact of emigration and intermarriage. While Jews have been in Ireland since the time of Oliver Cromwell, if not earlier, the Muslim presence in Ireland is much newer.
On Monday, the group visited the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland, which is in the Clonskeagh area of Dublin, close to the campus of University College Dublin. This was opened in 1996 jointly by the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and the then ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The Centre does a significant amount of outreach work, and amongst other things is currently the site of an Irish government coronavirus testing centre. Like Manchester’s, Dublin’s Muslim community is very diverse, and the group were shown around the Centre by Zahri, who is from the Muslim community in Bulgaria.