Gerald Goldberg

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Gerald Yael Goldberg
Gerald Goldberg
Gerald Goldberg at his home, "Ben Truda", in Cork

In office
Preceded by Seán French
Succeeded by Brian C. Sloane

Born 1912
Cork, Ireland
Died 2003
Cork, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fianna Fáil
Spouse(s) Sheila Goldberg
Religion Judaism

Gerald Yael Goldberg[1] (born 1912, Cork, Ireland — died 31 December 2003, Cork, Ireland) was a lawyer and politician who in 1977 became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Cork. Goldberg was the son of Lithuanian Jewish refugee of the village of Akmian (Yiddish)/Akmene (Lithuanian), Kovno (Kaunas) who was put ashore in Cork with other Jews and told that "Cork was the gateway to America." [2]

Early life

He was educated at the Model School and Presentation Brothers College in Cork, and a Jewish boarding school in Sussex, England before attending University College Cork, serving as President of the University Law Society. He received a Master of Arts degree from the University in 1968 and the University awarded its famous graduate an honorary doctorate in Laws in 1993.

After qualifying as a solicitor in 1934, Goldberg had a career in Criminal Law practice in Cork for 63 years, once representing noted Cork writer Frank O'Connor. He was the first Jewish President of the Incorporated Law Society of Ireland[3]

During the Second World War he set up a committee to assist Jews fleeing National Socialism, but encountered resistance from various arms of the government, which was determined to discourage Jewish immigration to Ireland during "The Emergency".

Political life

He was elected an Alderman to Cork Corporation as an Independent in 1967, and unsuccessfully sought the mayoralty in 1970. He accused Patrick Cooney, then Justice Minister, of condoning torture of those (mostly Irish republicans and other advocates of political violence) held under the Offences Against the State Act, 1939[4] in 1974.

Goldberg was among those who condemned the speech in 1970 by the then-Mayor of Limerick, Steve Coughlan, who made justifying references to the 1904 Limerick Pogrom, which had forced Goldberg's family to flee Limerick for Cork, and had clashed with a previous Limerick Mayor on the same matter in 1951.[5] Goldberg previously attended a symposium on the Limerick Pogrom in 1965, which had also attracted local opposition,.[6] which faded during the reading of the first sermon of Father Creagh, who along with other members of the clergy, including the local bishop, had motivated his Roman Catholic parishioners to carry out the 1904 pogrom, for which one teenager, John Raleigh, was arrested. [citation needed]

Lord Mayor

Goldberg joined Fianna Fáil in 1970, and the Corporation elected him Lord Mayor in 1977. He toured the United States as Lord Mayor where he was given the freedom of several cities including Philadelphia, New York and Dallas.

As Lord Mayor of Cork he was styled "The Rt. Worshipful, Lord Mayor Gerald Yael Goldberg of Cork". During his term of office he opened the Trinity pedestrian bridge. Named after an adjacent church, local wags nicknamed it "the Passover".[7] The bridge is also close to the local synagogue on South Terrace, where he had been president, and is approximately a mile from Shalom Park, near the traditionally Jewish area of the city (Monarea Terrace). [citation needed]


Goldberg had a keen interest in history, especially local history of Cork, and published a number of books including The Adventurers of Cork; A History of the Jews of Cork and Johnathan Swift and contemporary Cork. He contributed the article on the Jews of Ireland in the Encyclopedia of Ireland and a chapter on Cork to the History of the Jews in Ireland. [citation needed]

Later life

Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 he received death threats[8] and the Cork synagogue was firebombed, the motivation of which he ascribed to unbalanced reporting in the media. He considered leaving Ireland, but chose to remain. [citation needed]

In 1986, after his retirement from active politics, Goldberg was one of the early defectors from Fianna Fáil to the Progressive Democrats.[9]

In 1998 he defended[10] the extent of the Vatican apology for the Holocaust issued by Pope John Paul II, in contrast to the disappointment expressed by many prominent Jews such as Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Goldberg noted Pope Pius XII's stated fear of the consequences of excommunicating National Socialists for their persecution of Europe's Jews, saying "These things must be brought to an end, we must put them behind us. Could the man have said more?" Goldberg's life was featured in an RTÉ documentary, An Irishman, A Corkman and a Jew. [citation needed]

He married his wife Sheila (who predeceased her husband) in Belfast in 1937 and they lived their married lives at "Ben Truda"[11] on Cork's Rochestown Road. His passion for collecting antiques was highlighted by the auction [12] of his collection in 2004 consisting of pictures, bronzes, antique furniture, silver, porcelain and glass.

Goldberg had served on the Board of Governors of the National Gallery of Ireland and reportedly had one of the largest private Jewish libraries in Ireland. As a patron of the arts he was deeply involved with the Cork orchestral society, Irish Theatre ballet and the lunchtime concerts in the Crawford College of Art and Design. He was said to have been delighted at the announcement that Cork had become the European Capital of Culture in 2005. [citation needed]


In his latter years he welcomed and tutored students of Irish-Jewish history from University College Cork in his home. He died at the age of 91 at Cork's Marymount Hospice, receiving a Civic Funeral on 4 January 2004. His sons John, Theo and David survived him.


  1. Gerald Yael or Gerald Yoel Goldberg. He was originally named Yoel and his sisters gave him the anglicised named Gerald as a baby.
  2. Biography on cover of Jonathan Swift and Contemporary Cork, GY Goldberg, Mercier, 1967
  3. UCC Famous Alumni: Public Service
  4. Offences Against the State Act (1939)
  5. "1970s" from the Limerick Leader, 1 January 2000
  6. "The Jews of Ireland" by Robert Tracy, Judaism, Summer 1999
  7. "Cork's Jewish Community - Small in Size, Grand in Spirit" by Marlena Thompson, InterfaithFamily
  8. Antisemitism and Racism: Republic of Ireland, Stephen Ross Institute
  9. "FF loses two more members as O'Malley defections rise". The Irish Times. 7 January 1986. Retrieved 19 July 2011. 
  10. "Leading Irish Jew defends Vatican" by Áilin Quinlan, Cork Examiner, 16 March 1998
  11. "Distinguished address" by Tommy Barker, Cork Examiner, 22 May 2004
  12. "500 lots in sale of Goldberg family collection" by Ros Drinkwater, Sunday Business Post, 3 October 2004

External links

Civic offices
Preceded by
Seán French
Lord Mayor of Cork
Succeeded by
Brian C. Sloane