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25 August 2010

Sir Otto Jaffe, Lord Mayor of Belfast



Over the course of history, many Jews have served their communities in government positions. Some of the more well known include Sir Otto Jaffe, who was born in 1846 in Hamburg, Germany but came to Belfast, Ireland with his family in 1852, where his father Daniel established a business exporting Irish Linen. For about ten years, from 1867-1877, Otto lived and worked in New York. At that time his brothers retired from the family business so Otto returned to Belfast to lead the company. Eventually the family business, " Jaffe Brothers" became the largest linen exporter in Ireland.

Jaffe, was never one to shy away from service. At various times he served as a Justice of the Peace, a member of the Belfast Harbour Commission and a governor of the Royal Hospital. In 1899, Jaffe, who had given up his German citizenship and become a British Citizen, was elected Lord Mayor of Belfast

The 1901 Census, above, shows the family of Otto and Paula Jaffe, with their household. He was reelected as mayor in 1904 after having served as High Sherriff of Belfast. He was also very active in the Jewish community. In 1871, his father established the Belfast Hebrew Congregation. Between then and 1903, the congregation increased from about 50 members to well over 1000. In 1904, he opened the new synagogue at Annesley Street, of which he paid most of the construction costs.
The life that he enjoyed in Belfast, would change drastically on 7 May 1915, when the Lusitania was torpedoed by the Germans off the coast of Cork. This led to a lot of anti-German attitudes, and even though he was loyal to the Crown, and had a son serving in the British Army, he was accused of being a spy. In June of 1916, he resigned as Alderman and moved with his wife to London, where he died in 1929. His wife, was to ill to attend the funeral, and died in August of that same year.




The records of the Jaffe family can be found in The Jews of The British Isles

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