MANATEE -- Saint Patrick's Day is upon us, a Monday to recognize Patrick, one of the most revered patron saints of Ireland.
One of Manatee County's most creative Jewish congregations found a way Sunday to recognize St. Patrick and the Jewish holiday of Purim, which ran from sunset Saturday to nightfall Sunday.
Congregation Ner Tamid called upon resident playwright, Rabbi Barbara Aiello, to create: "The True Actual History of the Jews of the Emerald Island or Does Your Bubbe Come from Ireland?"
The play and its talented cast of "CNT Players" drew laughter from an enthusiastic crowd of less than 100 who met Sunday for an unusual Purim/St. Patrick's Day luncheon at the 10-year-old synagogue at 4802-B 26th St. W., Bradenton.
"It was educational and a lot of fun," said visitor Eleanor Weiner of Bradenton, who attended with her husband, Mickey.
The luncheon raised $150 for Jewish Family and Children's Service in Sarasota, said Rena Morano, Congregation Ner Tamid education director and lay service leader.
The first part of the luncheon featured Aiello's play and the second part centered on Purim.
The shared history of Jews and the Irish is not suprising to Morano.
"Since the destruction of the temples, the Jews have traveled the world looking for safe places to build their homes," Morano said. "In those travels they have influenced many nations and often they are the unheralded actors behind the more well-known historical events."
During Aiello's play, the audience learned Portuguese Jews established Ireland's first synagogue in 1660 when there were 350 Jews in the whole country.
The first Jews came to the Emerald Isle 2,600 years ago when Prophet Jerimiah left Judea to make the trek in a small group that included the daughter of King Zedekiah of Judah.
"Why did we go to Ireland?" says Jerimiah, played by Carlos Goebbels. "Oy vey, it was no big deal. We Jews were on the run again."
Aiello also revealed the Blarney stone didn't come to Ireland, it ended up in Ireland. Jewish hero, Jacob, fell asleep in the desert and laid his head on a stone Jerimiah eventually carried to Ireland.
"So, if you kiss the Blarney stone, you are really kissing a piece of Jewish history," Goebbels' character says.
Aiello also writes the Harp of Tara started out as the Harp of David.
The play also claims Irish Jews invented fish and chips when they fried fish caught off the Irish coast, set them out with potatoes and poured a little vinegar over the whole thing.
"One of the things I liked best about the play is the part that tells how, when the Irish potato famine caused a big immigation to New York, the Jews of New York collected money to help the new immigrants," Morano said. "So, much later, when the Jews were collecting money for the creation of the state of Israel, the Irish said you helped us so we are helping you, and they gave Israel a big check."
The second part of the lunch explored the story of Purim, which comes from the Book of Esther in the Bible.
It recounts the actions of Esther, who saved the Jews when she discovered a plan by Haman, adviser to King Ahasuerus, to kill all the Jews in the empire.
Esther told the king she, the Queen of Persia and Ahasuerus' wife, was, unbeknowst to the king, Jewish. Haman was taken away and the Jews annually celebrate Esther's victory at Purim.
With 50 member families already, Congregation Ner Tamid is hoping more will visit its synagogue in Parkwood office park. The congregation created a new event called, "Shabbat at Table," which harkens back to family style Shabbat dinners when religion, food, family and ideas all mixed.
"It's good friends, great conversation, delicious dinner, all seasoned with just the right amount of Torah," Morano said. "We are asking people to bring a dish, bring a friend and bring your candlesticks."
The first "Shabbat at Table" is 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 28 at 4802-B 26th St. W.
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Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.