Bridget Teresa McCrory
Jacob Schachter (1886 - 1971):
Jacob Schachter spent the greater part of his career in Belfast, including three decades as leader of the Jewish community in Northern Ireland.
Schachter was originally from Romania where he received his Rabbinical Diploma in 1911 and from 1913-1920 was Rabbi at Galaţi, in the east of the country. In 1920 he moved to Manchester where he was Rabbi until 1926 and a member of the Beth Din (the rabbinical court). In that year he moved to Belfast, to follow in a Rabbinic lineage which included Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog whose son Chaim, born in Ulster, later had a highly distinguished diplomatic career.
For the thirty or so years he would spend in Belfast, he not only had as a primary concern the welfare of his flock, though his rabbinate well covered highly dangerous and tragic times. Jewish refugees from Europe did not always find it easy to gain access to Ulster specifically, but people were supportive, and accommodation was found for many, including young individuals like Dinah Kohner, who having been able to escape from Czechoslovakia in 1939, to settle in Belfast had to be evacuated out of city due to air raids, hence becoming a double refugee.
Schachter was energetic and enthusiastic in the cultural, social, intellectual life of Belfast, and by no means did he confine himself within the bounds of his own community alone. He delivered and published academic papers on a range of subjects, whether particular individuals to commemorated or celebrated, or papers on “The Child in Jewish Literature” and “The woman in Jewish Literature” – papers delivered to a private society of intellectuals and academics; he made broadcasts, not just on local BBC radio in Belfast but also over radio in Palestine, which was logistically not easy in the middle of the twentieth century; letters appeared in Belfast and Dublin newspapers. Rather chillingly, one of the many addresses he gave was a Remembrance Day address, delivered in Belfast synagogue to a widely-drawn group from the Lord Mayor down. The date was October 1938.
In 1954 he decided to retire, and settled in Jerusalem, where amongst other studies he edited much of his father’s scholarly work on Talmudic themes, and produced versions of this especially for students. He published a selection from his output in December 1966, which he dedicated to his good friend Rev Professor Ernest Davey of Union Theological College, Belfast, the teaching establishment for Presbyterians in Ireland.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University, Belfast, for his wide-ranging contributions both to his own congregation, and to the wider community.
Jacob Schachter: Ingathering (Jerusalem; private publication, 1966); private information
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