Dublin’s storied Jewish history has turned a new page in recent years as open borders and international cooperation have lured a new Jewish population to the city’s burgeoning economic center. One challenge for many new Jewish arrivals—as for lifelong Jewish Dubliners—is that until a few months ago, there wasn’t any kosher dining anywhere on the Emerald Isle.

That’s why Rebecca Simha Attali was among the first customers eagerly waiting in line when Rabbi Zalman and Rivkah Lent, co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Ireland, opened the doors to Deli 613 in March as the first kosher eatery in Ireland for more than 50 years. Attali is among the many young, primarily Israeli and French professionals who recently moved to Dublin to work in its widely recognized technological hub. She arrived a year-and-a-half ago. With minimal kosher products sold in markets, Attali, who keeps kosher, became a pescatarian, purchasing kosher packaged fish and vegetarian foods, until the Lents simultaneously opened their food market and deli. Along with various raw meats and dairy products, the market sells cooked-ready meat, fish, cold cuts and dips.

“It’s a real pleasure not just to enjoy the menu, but to have a place where we can come to congregate with friends, meet new Jewish people and revel in hearing Hebrew spoken, which provides a means to bond,” Attali tells Chabad.org. Attali, who has lived in France and Israel, and attended college in Canada, dines there twice a week, on average. “The entire place is very chill, calm and peaceful, and everyone receives a warm welcome, whether they’re Jewish or not.” The deli serves the same Israeli dishes, including the Mediterranean chicken salad, beef hummus and the sabich pita sandwich that her mother and grandmother prepared for Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

Patrons also include longtime Irish Jews, many of whose ancestors emigrated to Ireland from Lithuania in the late 1880s to escape pogroms and other forms of antisemitism.

The Irish-Jewish population, which is culturally similar to those in the United Kingdom, peaked at perhaps 5,000 people following World War II and gradually shrunk as the younger generation either moved out of the country or assimilated to one degree or another.

Interestingly, Chabad’s history of providing kosher food in Ireland predates the Lents, who moved to Dublin in 2000. After the Holocaust, Ireland agreed to supply kosher meat to the Jews living in displaced persons (DP) camps in Europe, but they needed shochtim (trained kosher slaughterers). A group of Chabad families relocated to Ireland to fill that need. They eventually moved on, but until this very day, there are a handful of middle-aged Chabad men and women in Brooklyn, N.Y., and elsewhere who were born in Ireland.

The deli features Mediterranean favorites like felafel.
The deli features Mediterranean favorites like felafel.

An International Phenomenon

“The only kosher restaurant in town” has been a concept that Chabad centers worldwide have been promoting for decades in places that had none. Not too far from Dublin, Chabad of Scotland’s L’Chaim’s Restaurant was the first kosher dining experience for Jewish community members, business travelers and tourists in Glasgow.

In Tokyo—long-recognized as a culinary capital of the world—Chana’s Place, the country’s first-ever glatt-kosher restaurant, opened in 2022. In Copenhagen, locals and travelers enjoy kosher dining at the Chabad-run Taim Kosher Restaurant. There’s the kosher restaurant in Taiwan’s new $16 million community center, a kosher deli in the new $44 million Chabad center in Berlin, and just next door to Chabad of Malibu, Calif., the Mediterranean-fare based PitaBu is Malibu’s only kosher establishment.

In addition to being strictly kosher, the restaurants are all proud of the gastronomic quality of the food. “We made a conscious decision to purchase high-quality food, prepared in a full commercial kitchen by well-respected chefs,” says Rabbi Lent in Dublin. Nonetheless, the quick success of Deli 613 caught the Lents by surprise. “We meant the restaurant and store to be a small segment of our Chabad Complex,” said the rabbi, who, along with his wife and staff provides Jewish education and Shabbat and holiday celebrations for residents and visitors alike.

It also features Ashkenazi Jewish favorites like corned beef on a bagel.
It also features Ashkenazi Jewish favorites like corned beef on a bagel.

“The plus side of being busy with the deli is that we’re meeting people who we otherwise might never have met. Whether people don tefillin after their meal or are willing to add their name to the Chabad of Dublin’s mailing list, whoever comes in is already doing a mitzvah by virtue of eating kosher food.”

The majority of Deli 613’s clientele are non-Jewish, adding to the diversity of the clientele and the recognizably relaxed sense of friendship, kindness and acceptance among the vast majority of Irish toward the Jews. Serving non-Jewish community members has also helped to alleviate misunderstanding about the Jewish religion, says Rabbi Lent. The customers often ask “What does kosher mean?” “Why aren’t you able to serve milk in a meat restaurant” and “Why is the meat expensive?” According to Rabbi Lent, discussions such as these help to make Deli 613 a “non-threatening way to enter a Jewish establishment.”

And then there are surprise visits. Recently, the staff was treated to a lunch visit from Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who ordered a corned beef sandwich. To further cater to the Irish experience of visiting Deli 613, the Lents are making plans to include a Guinness-flavored stew.

Dubliners like actor Colm Meany frequent the deli.
Dubliners like actor Colm Meany frequent the deli.

The Lents say they have additional plans to build on the kosher aspect of their Chabad Center by expanding the existing deli menu, and creating a restaurant with full table service, rather than the patrons needing to pick up their meal at the deli counter.

With the logistical problems and rising costs of bringing kosher food into Ireland from England since Brexit, the Lents are now relying on France, Belgium and Israel for their kosher food, which used to be shipped from a far closer proximity: from Manchester, England.

Despite the challenges, the Lents note that they receive great joy and satisfaction from the store and deli attached to their Chabad House. It makes it easy to provide high-level kosher food to those who otherwise might not keep kosher, said the rabbi.

Chabad simultaneously opened a food market alongside the deli. Along with various raw meats, dairy products and kosher staples, the market sells cooked-ready meat, fish, cold cuts, dips and baked goods.
Chabad simultaneously opened a food market alongside the deli. Along with various raw meats, dairy products and kosher staples, the market sells cooked-ready meat, fish, cold cuts, dips and baked goods.

‘Nice to Bring Home a Ready-Cooked Meal’

Anna Adler, whose parents emigrated from Austria to Ireland in 1932, was born in Dublin in 1947, when the Jewish population of Ireland was at its height. Her parents felt welcomed by their many Irish friends. Other than going abroad for school, Adler has lived in Ireland her entire life.

Adler says she visits the deli on average once a week to partake in the “delicious kosher food, lovely atmosphere and friendly, helpful staff.”

Although Anna firmly maintains that each selection on the menu is “so tasty,” she does have her favorites: salt beef, hummus, falafel, latkes and salad. She also loves the convenience of buying kosher food in the Chabad Complex kosher store.

“It’s wonderful to have such a great facility and meeting place,” says Adler. And it’s so nice to bring home a ready-cooked meal midweek, with no need to wash up afterward!”

Rabbi Zalman and Rivkah Lent - File photo
Rabbi Zalman and Rivkah Lent
File photo