Glucksman Ireland House is an idyllic red-bricked bastion of Irish culture in New York. For a quarter of a century, it has fostered the study of Ireland, Irish American and the Irish diaspora as part of NYU. To celebrate this, a new book, ‘Being New York, Being Irish: Reflections on Twenty-Five Years of Irish America and New York University’s Glucksman Ireland House’ has been launched. Despite its flashy title, Loretta Brennan Glucksman agreed with Sean O’Rourke when he said: “it is just a wonderful piece of storytelling”.
“We just get interesting people together to tell good stories and this book I think is a wonderful demonstration of that”
Loretta and her late husband Lewis founded the institution, not so much due to Loretta’s third-generation-Irish status, but more because of her American Jewish husband’s great grá for the Emerald Isle.
“The cliché is… look at this pushy Irish chick, this poor Jewish guy has no idea what’s happening and dragging him all over Ireland and the opposite was the truth. He had been in the navy in World War 2 and stationed in the North Atlantic and all his furlough he used to go to Ireland and he would make what he called his pilgrimages to the areas where his favourite writers had lived and worked so he knew Ireland like the back of his hand.”
At the time, NYU had no centre for Irish studies and so through his passion for the country, Lewis and Loretta built something special that could serve as the epicentre for Irishness in NYC.
Sean also spoke to Professor Kevin Kenny, Director of Glucksman Ireland House about the work of the centre and the impact the Irish have on the city of New York and on the culture of immigration in the US.
“Essentially the house does three things. We teach, so we teach the history of Ireland and the Irish diaspora to undergraduates and we have our own MA programme. We publish in the same areas and then we’ve got a very active public facing dimension with speaker programmes, book launches, interviews, a number of which are featured in the book… Anybody who’s interested in Ireland is welcome to come into the building.”
Kenny described how the Irish “paved the way for cultural pluralism”.
“What I mean by that term is simply the ability to hang on to what you stand for while becoming American at the same time so in the 19th century, the Irish insisted on keeping their Catholicism and I think that set a very important precedent… In a way, the Irish are gatekeepers for subsequent immigrant groups.”
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