Joseph Edelstein

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Above: The cover of Joseph Edelstein’s controversial novel, The moneylender. (NLI)

Above: The cover of Joseph Edelstein’s controversial novel, The moneylender. (NLI)

Joseph Edelstein was among the most eccentric Dublin characters of his era. Born in Portobello in 1886, the son of Russian-born parents, he was a writer and an effective public speaker who frequently addressed United Irish League meetings. In 1908, the year in which his novel The moneylender caused controversy in the Jewish community, he founded the Judaeo-Irish Home Rule Association alongside Jacob Elyan. Although intelligent and multilingual, Edelstein was a chronic alcoholic and suffered periods of mental disturbance. According to Ray Rivlan, ‘when the mental hospital in Grangegorman, Dublin, certified him as sane, he took great pleasure in brandishing his certificate of mental competence and boasting he was the only man in Ireland who could prove his sanity’. From the 1910s numerous criminal charges were brought against him, including window-breaking, setting off fire alarms, public drunkenness, posing as a detective, assault on a young girl and knocking down a young boy. Some of Edelstein’s later behaviour may have been connected with the accusations of being a spythat dogged him from 1916. In 1933, in an attempt to clear his name, he published in pamphlet form the Irish Independent’s account of the enquiry into the Portobello murders. Edelstein, who worked on behalf of Jewish refugees in the 1930s, was killed in a road traffic accident in 1939.

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