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

"What's Changed About
Being Jewish in Scotland"
Full Findings Published

 
27 July 2016

What's Changed About Being Jewish in Scotland: Full Findings

Click on the above image to read the full findings

The full findings of SCoJeC’s study of What’s Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland, which we carried out in 2015, have now been published.

The catalyst for this was the huge spike in antisemitic incidents in August 2014, when SCoJeC received almost as many reports in a single month as in the whole of the previous year. So many Jewish people told us that they were feeling uncomfortable and anxious and even afraid to go about their day-to-day activities, that the Scottish Government was concerned enough to fund a further study of how the experience of Being Jewish in Scotland had changed since our original study in 2012.

Like that study, this new report provides a comprehensive overview of what Jewish people in Scotland are thinking, feeling, and experiencing. It is based on responses from a significant cross-section of the Jewish population of Scotland, spread across the entire country from the Borders to the Shetlands, from members of the larger Jewish communities in Glasgow and Edinburgh, the smaller ones in Dundee and Aberdeen, and also from Jewish people who live very many miles from the any Jewish facilities. We heard from Jewish people whose families had lived in Scotland for generations, and people who had very recently arrived in Scotland from other parts of the world. We heard from members of the Orthodox, Reform, and Liberal Jewish communities, as well as from people with no connection to formal Judaism, from people who had no interest in the Jewish religion or Jewish ritual, but who, in a wide variety of ways, felt connected to Jewish culture or for whom particular foods or melodies evoked their childhoods, as well as from people who only found out they were Jewish as adults.

As in our previous study, we were careful not to ask leading questions. First we asked people what they feel is good about being Jewish in Scotland, and only then what is not so good. We also asked how open they are about being Jewish, whether they had ever been treated differently because of their Jewishness, and whether they felt that there was anything that the Scottish Government, the Jewish Community, or others could do to address their concerns. Unfortunately, in stark contrast to 2012, most people did not tell us they feel that Scotland is a good place to live. On the contrary, more than one in ten respondents said that they could think of nothing good about being Jewish in Scotland, and without being prompted others said they had begun to think about leaving Scotland, one in six talked about keeping their identity hidden, and one in three talked about a heightened level of anxiety, discomfort, or vulnerability.

Because of the context of many of the incidents in 2014, we added questions to explore further what we had already been told in 2012 about how events in the Middle East affect Jewish people's experience in Scotland, and about their experience of hate crime.  We were disturbed by the results, with four our of five respondents saying that the events in the Middle East had negatively affected how they are treated as Jews in Scotland.

That said, we were also gratified by the response of the Scottish Government. The First Minister agreed to address a public meeting in the Community, and was outspoken that “There is nothing that happens in Israel or Palestine that can be justification for antisemitism or any racial or religious hatred”, and has since reiterated publicly that “I don’t want to be the First Minister, or even live in, a country where Jewish people want to leave or hide their identity.” The Justice Secretary, the Lord Advocate, and the Chief Constable have all also sought to engage with the Jewish Community and to reassure us that Scotland has zero tolerance of all forms of hatred, racism, and antisemitism.

Commenting on the findings of the new report Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance said:

"I am immensely proud that we live in a nation that is rich in diversity and where Jewish people have been part of that diverse population for at least 200 years.

"The Jewish community in Scotland has helped to shape our shared history and will continue to help shape our shared future.

"The publication of What's Changed About Being Jewish in Scotland helps us to understand more fully the views and experiences of the Jewish community in Scotland and, while there is much to celebrate, we do, of course, share the concerns raised about a heightened level of anxiety within the Jewish community. Our vision of a nation free from fear, prejudice, and discrimination is one the Scottish Government will continue to work for, and that is why we continue to support the Jewish community – for example, through funding of around £55,000 to the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities this year.

"My message to the Jewish community in Scotland is clear: Scotland is your home, you are welcome, and your contribution to our economy, our society and our culture is valued.

"I will give full consideration to What's Changed About Being Jewish in Scotland and look forward to working with the Jewish community to ensure that Scotland continues to be one of the best places in the world for people from all backgrounds to live, work and raise their families."

SCoJeC Director, Ephraim Borowski, commented:

“Although many of these findings are very perturbing, it is reassuring that the Scottish Government has listened to the concerns of Jewish people throughout Scotland, and is taking them seriously by increasing its support for SCoJeC’s work to ensure that Jewish people in Scotland feel safe, supported, and well integrated, and making good on the First Minister’s promise of “greater engagement with members of the Jewish community as we work together to eradicate antisemitism and intolerance in this country. Last year we were told that Scotland is no longer “a darn fine place to be a Jew” as it had been thee years earlier, but the sincere commitment of the Scottish Government gives us hope that before too long that can be so once again.”

The report has also been the subject of a Motion in the Scottish Parliament which expresses concern at the findings and welcomes the response of the Scottish Government. The motion was tabled by Michael Russell MSP, and reads in full:

S5M-00936 Michael Russell: What's Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland? – That the Parliament notes the publication of the study, What's Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland? by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities supported by the Scottish Government and following on from the original study on the issue undertaken in 2012; is concerned that the outcomes of the study indicate that much anxiety, discomfort and vulnerability is being experienced by Scotland's Jewish population and a considerable worsening of the situation since 2012; recognises that four out of every five respondents believe that events in the Middle East have affected how they are treated as Jews in Scotland; is mindful of the long tradition of tolerance and mutual respect that has existed in Scotland with regard to all religious and ethnic minorities; is pleased that the First Minister has made it clear that "there is nothing that happens in Israel or Palestine that can be justification for antisemitism or any racial or religious hatred" and that she "does not want to live in a country where Jewish people want to leave or hide their identity"; welcomes the strong reassurances from the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, the Lord Advocate and the Chief Constable regarding zero tolerance of hatred, racism and antisemitism, and expresses the hope that every person in Scotland will also take that approach to all discrimination and intolerance.

 

Click here to read the full findings of
What's Changed About Being Jewish in Scotland

 

   
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