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Exeter and Irish trip - April 2015

Exeter Conf. And Irish Trip April 2015.

April 8th - Flew via Amsterdam to Exeter UK to attend 60th Anniversary Conference of the Soc. Of Hispanists of Great Britain and Ireland at University of Exeter (13th-15th April).
I had to depart some days before the beginning of this event as it was Passover and Peak Prices for price of travel plus difficulty of getting a seat on the plane.
The University, together the nearest Jewish Communities of Exeter and Plymouth, did everything possible to ensure I was comfortable and had Kosher for Pessach foods. The greatest difficulty of the first days Wed-Sunday was that my luggage and Walker were missing for four days and this caused much inconvenience, but mercifully showed up the day before the main Conference started.
A further perk for me in being able to attend was to see and discuss a number of Casa Shalom Administrative matters with Prof. Nicholas Round, who for so long from way back to 1984 when he was the Head of Hispanics at the Univ. of Glasgow and later held a similar position at The Univ. of Sheffield, had supervised and so intensely encouraged my Historical Researches. Today he is a greatly valued Member of the Casa Shalom Board and when he heard I was invited to attend the Conference arranged a Grant for me of 500 Pounds to help cover the enormous expense of the travel etc. A few months previously when Casa Shalom was going through an intense Crisis he sent from his own resources a considerable amount of money to enable us to carry on our work. Mrs.Ann Round,  a much respected Historian in her own right ,also travelled over from Penzance on the Tuesday to hear me give my paper entitled ”Anti Franco Fighters in the German Concentration Camps “ - new Research, which was exceptionally well received by those in the Audience.
Attending the Conference also enabled me to attend the formal opening of the “Spain and England Exhibition –Juan Luis VIVES and Thomas More “ at the Street Gallery, within the Campus of the University.
After the Conference finished I received several invitations of hospitality from Members of the Exeter Community and in addition was invited to address the Congregation in the Synagogue on Holocaust Day. Exeter Synagogue is the third oldest Synagogue in the UK and is a fine Georgian Building both in and outside, situated in Synagogue Lane in the Centre of Town, although today the majority of the members live out in the beautiful countryside thereabouts. 
On Monday April 20th,  I departed from Exeter to fly to Belfast. Here upon arrival I was most warmly received by Rabbi David Singer and his wife Judy at their home for Lunch, as well as other Members of the Community. The Community arranged very comfortable Hotel accommodation for me and I was taken to see many interesting places within the confines of the city and on the 22nd I lectured in the Belfast Synagogue as part of the Remembrance Day and Israel Independence day celebrations.
After they finished, the Delegation that had driven up from Londonderry two and half hours away took me back with them... This giving me an exceptional opportunity to meet large and small groups of people on a few occasions who had Jewish Roots, and mostly still observed a number of Jewish customs within their family. A considerable number amongst them were seeking to regain their Heritage and in the meantime giving strong support to Israel. I spent Shabbat with one such family which was an exceptional experience to see them make Kiddush, say many Prayers as modern Day Orthodox Jews know them.  There was in some families an intense study of Hebrew, to the extent of taking courses of daily study from an Internet arrangement by the Hebrew University. I am happy to report that number of those I met made membership of Casa Shalom and others promised to become involved and I look forward very much to all this happening when we are about to fix the date in the very near future for the opening of the Casa Shalom Jerusalem Office, which means that support is more vital than ever. I especially appreciate all the arranging done by Isobel Kuzma, who is the Israel Representative in Ireland for Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and her Husband Jerry, that made this most valuable part of my visit so successful and all those who gave me such comfortable accommodation and took such care of my Dietary requirements.
My one disappointment in Derry, was the fact that the person descended from The Black Irish and was a the first instigator of this part of my Irish visit by sending a message requesting that we meet and finally decided to unburden himself of much that he knew, was urgently called away in his work as a Helicopter pilot to Borneo, the day before I arrived, but I am promised to have information from him shortly. 
There was a Synagogue in Derry until about thirty years ago and I am seeking more information on this, but all the families of that Congregation have moved away, but I have tracked one down now living in Israel and I hope to set up a meeting with this lady shortly. 
I was also taken to visit the Derry Armada permanent Exhibition and meet the Curators. There was enormous interest from them re my findings connected to the way that many of the ships involved were commanded by the Spanish King Phillip and had owners of Marrano origins, plus the way that it recorded that many of the crew came, which indicated they saw the dangerous journey and expected battles as a chance to leave the horrors of the Inquisition and then so many of the Ships floundered on the coast of Ireland and how many of those that survived stayed on, sending for their families and from which stems much of the handed down family Legends as to Jewish links.........During my lengthy discussions on this subject the Administrators expressed interest in holding a Seminar/Conference on these joint s subjects either in Ireland or Israel with Casa Shalom.
Although the Dublin Community, which is by far the largest in Ireland, seemed very keen to have me, they were unable to get dates and venues fixed to coincide with the other invitations, so I stayed more fruitful days in Derry, before being driven the very long drive (four hours), to meet up with my already arranged reservation to fly back to Israel on Tuesday morning April 28th. I was booked into a wonderful 5* star hotel by the Dublin Community for my last night in Ireland and flew out via Paris early the next morning feeling I had a unique experience, learned much, plus I was most grateful for the wonderful welcome and hospitality.

Since returning home I have managed to acquire a copy of the Census of the 165 registered Jews in Limerick in 1901, which looks like from some of the names listed it will also lead me to further discoveries.

I close with a repeated deep appreciation of all who made this trip possible and for me to experience.
Gloria Mound
Hon. Research Fellow, Dept. of Hispanics, University of Glasgow 1988-2015
Executive Director, Casa Shalom-Institute For Marrano (Anusim) Studies