The Albert Road area around the docks in Cork became a Jewish quarter from the end of the 19th century.
Whilst there were some Jews in Cork from the mid 18th century, a big influx of Jews from the Vilna & Kovno areas of Lithuania arrived from the 1880s onwards. These folk were fleeing Russian pogroms and settled in the Albert Road area in houses on Hibernian Buildings, Albert Road, Monrea Terrace and Eastville.
People always wondered why Jews settled in Cork, a city in what was then a very Catholic country. Allegedly the immigrants with no English may have thought the port of Cork was in fact ‘New York’.
Whatever the reason for their arrival, the area became locally known as "Jewtown" though not in a pejorative way. Whilst poor it was more a Jewish quarter rather than a Jewish ghetto.
At its peak the Jewish population of Cork in the early part of the 20th century was about 500 with the bulk living in Jewtown. Now the Jewish population is estimated somewhere between 20 to 30 in a city of almost 200,000.
The most famous Jewish native of Jewtown was Gerald Goldberg (several times Lord Mayor of Cork). Whilst not Jewish, James Joyce's father, John Stanislaus Joyce, lived near the Goldberg family home in Jewtown.
Today, the streetscape is more or less as it was more than a century ago but alas there is very little trace of the Jewish community today. The Jewish meeting house at the corner of Electric Terrace/ Eastville is now a residential property. The nearby synagogue (technically Orthodox) on 10 South Terrace which is well over 100 years old is still in use. There are sadly only a handful of Jews in the congregation though it is occasionally inflated by visitors.
Additionally there is a green area called, Shalom Park opened in 1989, in the heart of Jewtown. In Dec 2011 an art installation marked the Jewish Hanukkah festival and a similar lighting show is planned for the next 50 years!
There are a few decent bars in the area (on Albert Quay) such as the ‘Idle Hour’ and ‘The Sextant’ which serves food.