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