When Ira Siegal from Philadelphia contacted the museum trying to unravel the mystery of his family’s origin he knew his ancestors came from Ashmyany, Belarus (now Oshymany near Vilna) and that his great grandfather, Moshe Schreider, a widower, moved to Dublin in 1885 with his son Isaac (Ira’s grandfather, born in 1883) and daughter, Anna (born in 1885), but the trail stopped there.
When Isaac immigrated to the U.S. in 1908, he carried with him the family Torah which his father had carried with him from Ashmyany and which came to be known as “the Irish Torah”. Known for his tenor voice, Isaac Schreider was a ba’al tefilah (prayer leader) at his shul in Philadelphia but there were rumours that his grandfather had once sung in Dublin to crowds “calling his name from the balcony”.
A search through the museum’s theatre programmes and the newspaper archives revealed that indeed Isaac Shreider had his first major role as the lead in the Yiddish opera “Shulamit” performed at the Abbey Theatre in July 1908 by the Dublin Jewish Dramatic Society. Ira was delighted to see the glowing press reviews of his performance confirming those rumours at last.
The museum carried out a search through various documents and records to discover that Isaac’s father Moishe was a very learned man, mohel, and shochet who had a brother Matisyahu living in Dublin at the time. Matisyahu was a Hebrew teacher and father of Hyman Schreider, noted educator in the community and principal of Zion Schools Cheder for many years. Through this connection we were able to ascertain that Ira had a third cousin, the last of his Irish family still living in Dublin.
Ira arrived in Dublin and was thrilled to meet his cousin Eddie Segal A”H. They walked around the neighbourhood of the museum and looked at the old family homes. He found his great grandfather Moishe was buried in Dolphin’s Barn cemetery, solving a mystery for Eddie who was always baffled by the identity of the Shreider name on the headstone!
After Isaac left Ireland and the Abbey stage, he went on to become the President of his shul, the Neziner Congregation from 1927-1947. The “Irish” Sefer Torah continues to play a significant role for the Schreider-Siegal family. Four of Isaac’s great grandchildren have read from it on the occasions of their B’nai Mitzvah, and in 2015, Ira had the opportunity to do so on the fiftieth anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. He has continued to research and tell the story of his large extended family through talks and presentations.