Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
 
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

"Being Jewish in Scotland"
 
17 March 2011

SCoJeC's proposal for a study of the experience of "Being Jewish in Scotland" took another step forward when the Scottish Government organised a meeting in Newton Mearns Synagogue.

Richard Foggo addresses the meeting

The purpose of the meeting was to enable officials to hear the range of views within the community, and it was chaired by Richard Foggo, a senior official working with the Community Safety Minister Fergus Ewing. Earlier this year Mr Ewing indicated the Scottish Government's support in principle for the project and to continue to build positive relations with the Jewish community. The meeting was attended by around 40 members of the community representing a wide range of organisations.

The project was introduced by SCoJeC Chair, Paul Spicker, who is professor of Public Policy at Robert Gordon University. He pointed out that as a representative organisation, SCoJeC has a two-way relationship with the Jewish Community: we inform the community about new policies, we ask the Jewish community for their views, and then we convey these views to the Scottish Government and others. SCoJeC's job is not to promote a party line or our own views, but to reflect what Jewish people all over Scotland think.

Paul Spicker addresses the meeting

Government tends to think of communities as living together in one place but that is not true of the Jewish community, who are dispersed all around Scotland. Frequently, especially in rural areas, people think they are the only Jewish person in the vicinity, but events such as SCoJeC's Kosher Ceilidh show that this is often not the case. These are interesting developments and interesting challenges. A very important part of SCoJeC's work is to support these small communities and isolated individuals, and in doing so we have become aware of the diversity of experience across the country.

The project is intended to look across the whole range of people and experiences to find out what is on their minds as individuals and members of Jewish communities, and to find out what makes the network of Jewish people work, to engage Jewish people to find out how they stand in relation of Scotland as a whole, to give the Scottish Government some learning about how minority communities work, and to find out about how organisations in the community work. It is also about the sometimes unrecognised strength of communities.

Discussing the experience of "Beng Jewish in Scotland"

The survey will be done using a wide variety of methods to encourage people to get involved, including questionnaires in hard copy and on our website, public meetings, and meetings with individuals. The questions will be open-ended, not prompting particular kinds of response, but engaging people in discussion, and encouraging them to identify the issues that matter to them.  It doesn’t matter if the answers people may give are not answers to the questions we've asked.

Paul concluded, "You may be wondering "what will it do for us?" It is all part of strengthening the community. It will also help SCoJeC because we'll be a better organisation if we know what people are thinking, feeling and wanting."

A number of themes emerged from the discussion following the presentation:

The project is welcome and the community is strong enough to accept what it finds, good or bad, and try to use it in a positive way. However, the process must be open and transparent. It must allow people to express their views and talk about their experiences. It is important we are allowed to express views of antisemitism. If we can find out and know more about ourselves, perhaps we can feel stronger and more comfortable as a community.

Most of us feel secure and comfortable. We don't read about incidents of antisemitsm every week in Jewish press. However, many Jewish people feel increasingly less safe and we have come to regard security at communal events as normal; this shouldn't be the case. Antisemitism can and does affect the way we live our Jewish lives.

Government structures and the 'Big Society' support a view of communities as being geographic. Such a view of localism may be a threat to small dispersed minority communities. We are diverse and dispersed but also well organised.

Summing up the meeting, SCoJeC director Ephraim Borowski said:
"The range of experiences of Jewish people in Scotland is very varied and we are therefore delighted the Scottish Government has indicated support in principle for our proposed project on the experience of "Being Jewish in Scotland".  We are pleased to have had the opportunity to facilitate this meeting to inform communal organisations about the project, and are gratified by the turn-out, which enabled the Scottish Government to hear the views of representatives of so many communal organisations.  The project will be inclusive and wide-ranging and will seek to reflect the diversity of Jewish people's experiences of living in Scotland."

 

   
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