Happy Chanukah.  Merry Christmas.  Happy New Year.

‘Tis the season, and I am lazy.  So, instead of a new, original post, I shall post a playful poem published long ago in The Boston Jewish Times.  Once upon a time, there was a Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin.  His name was Robert Briscoe.  Briscoe had been a follower of De Valera in Ireland’s struggle for independence, and later gave advice to Palestinian Jews in their parallel struggle against British rule and for statehood.  With that very brief background, I present to you:


They had gathered for
The Feast of Lights,
And with the last
Morsel eaten,
And a drop of wine taken,
Robert Briscoe stood
And spoke.

“I’ll tell you a tale
Of raids by night.
Of daring deeds.
Of a hero’s fight.
Of battles waged
Against great armies
By the Maccabee
Of old.”

With a gasp and a sigh
The children round
Eyed him with anticipation,
While bold Bob Briscoe
Rubbed his hands
As he prepared to begin
His grand narration.

“In the time
Of Antiochus the Fourth,
And in the time
Of Henry the Eighth,
And in the time
Of George the Sixth,
If the truth be known…
The children of Israel
Had to hide behind hedgerows
To learn their aleph-bet.
For to learn one’s
Language and religion then
Could not be done
Without let
Or hindrance.”

From the back of the room
Came a familiar groan
Of a man.
“You’re telling it wrong,”
Muttered Cohen Cohan.

But, Bob Briscoe went on.

“It was forty thousand footmen
The evil king sent
To keep the Irish down,
And the Jew’s head bent.”

“Give it up!” moaned Cohan,

But, Bob wouldn’t relent.

“There were Judah, Eleazar,
And Simon, and John.
De Valera and Collins
And Begin, Dayan…”
Briscoe counted them out
On the palm of his hand.

“You’ve mixed it all up!”
Cried out Cohen Cohan.
“De Valera and Begin!
They’re not Maccabees!”

“Never mind,”said bold Briscoe,
“I know what I know.
For Begin and Dev
I’ve struck many the blow.
For Israel and Ireland
And the true rights of man…”

“But they’re not Maccabees!!”
Shouted Cohen Cohan.

Briscoe replied
With a dangerous ease,
“Who’s telling this tale
My good man, you or me?
Such a klop I should give
To the side of your head!”

“Such a klop you should give?”
Said Cohen Cohan,
His whole face turning red.
“When you turn all our
History inside out?”

Then, rejoined Briscoe
Turning about,
“Fenian, Israeli
Or bold Maccabee,
When the fight’s on
For freedom,
It’s all one to me.”

Bold Bobby Briscoe
Never finished his tale
Which Cohan had decried
As beyond the Pale.
But the Tuatha de Danaan
And the Tribe of the Dan
All circled round,
And joining their hands,
Danced round and round
In the flickering light
Of a grand menorah
Still burning bright
Throughout that
Eighth night.


© Copyright-1992-Jessie Seigel.  All rights reserved.

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