Asher Ben­son

Born Lon­don, May 28, 1921. Died Dublin, Novem­ber 24, 2006, aged 85.

The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

THE IRE­LAND correspondent of the JC for nearly 20 years, Asher Ben­son was an East En­der by birth but be­came an in­te­gral part of the Ir­ish-Jewish com­mu­nity af­ter the Sec­ond World War.

The only child of Mil­lie and David Bern­stein, im­mi­grants from Poland, he grew up in a close Jewish life and was part of the left-wing Jewish move­ment which em­braced the newly formed Habonim youth group.

He and his many friends were among the huge throng that took part in the bat­tle of Cable Street in Oc­to­ber 1936, when the East End stopped Mosley’s Black­shirts and dealt Bri­tish fas­cism a blow from which it never fully re­cov­ered.

He reg­u­larly fre­quented Speaker’s Cor­ner on Sun­day morn­ings in Hyde Park, where he ar­gued back with fas­cist speak­ers, us­ing hu­mour and sharp wit to op­pose their an­tisemitic views.

Af­ter fin­ish­ing his ed­u­ca­tion, Asher joined the civil ser­vice and won an en­trance to univer­sity.

It was dur­ing this pe­riod that he met his fu­ture wife, Ida Sil­ver­man, at a Habonim camp in Lon­don. She was born in Drogheda to Lithua­nian-Ro­ma­nian par­ents.

His univer­sity plans were thwarted by the out­break of war, when he served for five years in In­dia and Burma. On de­mo­bil­i­sa­tion, he went to Dublin and mar­ried Ida in 1946.

With a young fam­ily to sup­port, he worked long hours in his new whole­sale tex­tile busi­ness. The fam­ily grew up in the Dublin sub­urb of Terenure.

In the 1950s Asher set up Habonim in Dublin with a group of friends. It flour­ished but closed down in the 1980s. He spoke con­stantly of his re­ceives many curious vis­i­tors.

Af­ter Ida’s death in 2004, he di­rected his ef­forts to cre­at­ing a book record­ing the his­tory of the Dublin Jewish com­mu­nity, mainly in pic­tures.

Al­though in his early 80s and nearly blind, he achieved his am­bi­tion, with the aid of a small group of tire­less friends, and fin­ished the man­u­script only weeks be­fore his own death.

With p i c t ur e s p r o - vided by fam­i­lies still in Dublin or now scat­tered around the world, “Jewish Dublin: Por­traits of Life be­side the Lif­fey” is a fas­ci­nat­ing book which will be of in­ter­est to all Dublin­ers, ir­re­spec­tive of their faith.

Asher was a multi-faceted per­son­al­ity with a pho­to­graphic me­mory. His favourite start to the day was com­plet­ing The Ir­ish Times cross­word, which most days he fully achieved.

His later years were taken up in learn­ing bridge, which he played sev­eral nights a week. Though he could barely see the cards, the game in­tro­duced him to a new set of friends whose sup­port was in­valu­able in main­tain­ing his zest for life.

He was also a for­mer mem­ber of “Ma­bel’s Ta­ble” at the orig­i­nal Bew­ley’s Ori­en­tal Restau­rant in Dublin.

The name re­ferred to a group of Jewish friends who met daily and ex­changed ban­ter with the wait­ress, the epony­mous Ma­bel. Fiercely in­de­pen­dent, he en­joyed life to the full with a wide cir­cle of friends.

He is sur­vived by two sons, Alan and Gerry, and a grand­daugh­ter. Habonim boys and girls who, though dis­persed around the world, still kept in touch with him.

A new ca­reer opened up for him when he was ap­pointed the Ire­land correspondent of the Jewish Chron­i­cle in 1979, a post he held with great pride un­til he lost most of his sight in 1997.

He was a reg­u­lar and re­li­able correspondent, though chron­i­cling an ever de­clin­ing com­mu­nity.

Asher was the in­spi­ra­tion and driv­ing force be­hind the open­ing of the Ir­ish Jewish Mu­seum in Dublin. It was opened by the Ir­ish-born pres­i­dent of Is­rael, Dr Chaim Her­zog, on June 20, 1985, dur­ing a state visit to Ire­land.

The mu­seum con­tains a sub­stan­tial col­lec­tion of mem­o­ra­bilia re­lat­ing to the Ir­ish-Jewish com­mu­ni­ties and

Asher Ben­son: adopted Dubliner

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