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

SCoJeC Activities

The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) is the democratic organisation that represents the organised Jewish community in Scotland.

SCoJeC was established in 1999 in response to Devolution with the principal aim of providing the Jewish Community of Scotland with a single democratically accountable voice in dealings with the Scottish Parliament and Government, other communities, and other statutory and official bodies. This remains a core element of our work and SCoJeC is now widely recognised in the Jewish and wider Scottish communities as the representative umbrella body of all the Jewish communities in Scotland. Our remit includes a strong commitment to fostering integration and promoting dialogue and understanding between the Jewish community and other communities in Scotland, and we work in partnership with other organisations and communities to promote equality, good relations, and mutual understanding.

The members of SCoJeC’s Council are the elected representatives of each of the formally constituted Jewish communities in Scotland – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Tayside and Fife – as well as three looser groups – Jewish people in the Highlands and Islands, Jewish students studying in Scottish universities and colleges, and Israelis in Scotland. Although not formally represented on the Council, we also maintain contact with a large number of unaffiliated individuals, both in rural locations from the Borders to the Shetlands, and in urban areas. In addition to the elected representatives, the Council also includes up to six people who have been coopted on account of their particular expertise or experience; these have included a former judge and professor of law, a professor of social policy, a former senior civil servant, a consultant physician, and a senior social worker. In addition, we invite observers from communal organisations that serve the whole of Scotland, and members of the Jewish Community who are office-bearers of organisations to which SCoJeC is affiliated, such as BEMIS, Interfaith Scotland, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Our representative democratic constitution enables us to speak authoritatively in the name of the whole Jewish Community of Scotland to government, parliament, churches, trades unions, the media, etc, about matters of concern to Jewish people in Scotland. In order to do that effectively, we always consult as appropriate with the leadership of the Scottish Orthodox, Reform, and Liberal communities, with the management of relevant communal organisations, and with members of the community with relevant expertise, before preparing responses to consultations issued by the Scottish Government, Parliamentary Committees, and others.

Our activities include:

Representing the Jewish community in Scotland to government and other official bodies by:

responding to official consultations on matters that affect the community such as antisemitism and hate crime, equalities and human rights, Family Law, registration and the census, shechitah, medico-legal matters, protection of children and vulnerable adults, charity regulation, and other matters affecting communal organisations;

regular formal and informal contacts with Ministers, MSPs, MPs, and civil servants;

participation in the Scottish Government’s Equalities Round-Table, and Scottish Parliament Cross Party Groups such as those on Race and on Human Rights;

representation on a wide range of national organisations dealing with aspects of community relations, interfaith relations, Human Rights, equality matters, etc, including, amongst others, the Boards of BEMIS (the Scottish Ethnic Minority umbrella body), Interfaith Scotland, and Faith in Communities Scotland.

membership of advisory bodies such as the Joint Committee on Religious and Moral Education, the Scottish Government Death Registration Advisory Group, NHS Spiritual Care Committees, Police Scotland Community Advisor groups, and the Joint Faiths Advisory Board on Criminal Justice;

meetings with senior officers and officials of the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, and the STUC;

organising occasional high profile events such as the Chief Rabbi’s visits to the Parliament.

Working in partnership with other organisations to promote good relations amongst community groups and to promote equality:

This includes collaboration with the Scottish Government and BEMIS on a variety of projects including MEMO (Minority Ethnic Matters Overview), a weekly electronic bulletin of information of interest to minority ethnic communities, and MEMO+, an occasional series of briefing papers on specific topics of interest to ethnic minority communities, such as the Independence Referendum, the Government’s legislative programme, the election manifestos of the main political parties, equality legislation, etc.

Providing services to all of Scotland’s Jewish communities by:

facilitating Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme Record applications for most voluntary organisations in the Jewish community (including all communal youth groups, synagogues, and educational organisations), as well as for BEMIS, Interfaith Scotland, and others;

facilitating visa applications for overseas visitors to carry out work in the community, to enable, for example, a visiting rabbi to perform a wedding, or a communal organisations to bring volunteers from outwith the European Economic Area to participate in youth and other programmes;

acting as a clearing house for requests from the National Records of Scotland to confirm the bona fides of any foreign officiant at a Jewish wedding in Scotland;

providing information to communal organisations on developing issues such as exemption from water rates, fire regulations, charity law, burial regulations, and equalities and employment legislation;

organising briefings on current issues for communal professionals, lay leaders, and others on topics relevant to their organisations, such as child protection, the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme, immigration law, charity law, safety and security in communal buildings, and the findings of our Being Jewish in Scotland inquiries;

responding to a wide range of general enquiries from local authorities, hospitals authorities,  the police, prison service etc, and the public.

Supporting the wider Jewish Community of Scotland by:

providing a support network for the smaller Jewish communities, for individuals and families who live in rural areas and outwith any Jewish community, and for those in and around the main conurbations who have chosen not to join the formally organised communities;

publishing a quarterly newsletter, Four Corners, to build a sense of community by providing information about events and activities across Scotland;

working with other organisations within the community on partnership projects including active engagement of students and young people;

promoting good relations with other communities, and greater involvement in their own community by Jewish people throughout Scotland;

facilitating social and educational events in the smaller communities and in remote venues such as Lochgilphead, Findhorn, Oban, Skye, the Shetlands, Arran, and the Borders;

arranging and supporting events for specific groups such as Israelis in Scotland, and Jewish students at Scottish universities and colleges;

supporting volunteers in the smaller communities by providing training, for example, on speaking about Judaism to local schools and church groups;

responding to requests from rural local authorities, NHS boards, schools, local police, etc for information about the needs of local Jewish residents, in order to promote better understanding of Judaism and the Jewish community.

Bringing Scottish issues to the attention of relevant UK Jewish organisations

including the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council, The Community Security Trust (CST), the Office of the Chief Rabbi, Shechitah UK, and the Israeli Embassy.

We maintain a close working relationship with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and our respective responsibilities reflect those of the Devolution settlement; whilst the Board of Deputies speaks for the entire UK Jewish community on Reserved matters such as foreign affairs, equality legislation, etc, SCoJeC speaks for the Jewish community in Scotland on Devolved matters such as justice, health and welfare, community relations, etc., so that the Jewish input into matters that are determined in Scotland is also determined in Scotland.

Providing information to the wider public by:

publishing the Guide to Jewish Facilities in Scotland on our website;

conducting our Being Jewish in Scotland inquiries  into what matters to Jewish people in Scotland, and disseminating their findings to Government, public authorities, and others;

maintaining a regularly updated website with information about the Jewish Community of Scotland and its activities and concerns;

publishing Scotland's Jews, a guide to the history and concerns of the Scottish Community, which also including a brief guide to Jewish beliefs and practices;

making available through our website the Jewish Way of Life  teaching resource (published by the Pears Foundation), with the assistance of Education Scotland (formerly Learning and Teaching Scotland);

participating in joint projects and events with other ethnic, religious, and cultural communities, in order to promote better relations and better mutual understanding;

responding to general enquiries and requests from local authorities, Procurators Fiscal, NHS boards, schools, Police Scotland, etc;

responding to enquiries and requests from Jewish people planning visits to Scotland, such as the location of synagogues and kosher facilities;

responding to a very wide range of general enquiries and requests such as the availability of sheet music for Jewish wedding music for bagpipes, and the whereabouts of the (non-existent) daily minyan in Tarbert!

SCoJeC’s work on behalf of the Jewish community has been extremely well received on all sides. Many organisations and individuals in the wider Scottish community have said how helpful they find it to have a single point of contact that acts not as a gatekeeper but as a doorway to the views of the Jewish community, and many organisations and individuals in the Scottish Jewish community have told us how much they value the channel that the Council provides for conveying the views and interests of the community to the wider world.

We have listened to what Jewish people in Scotland tell us matters to them by conducting our qualitative surveys (funded by the Scottish Government) of the variety of experience of Jewish people in Scotland, and the findings of these surveys have since informed a great deal of our outreach activities, including events in remote locations, establishing a network for the hundreds of Jewish people of Israeli origin in Scotland, and a new web-based resource for Jewish people in Scotland with no formal affiliation with the community, as well as seeking to disseminate the findings of the project about the needs and concerns of Jewish people in Scotland to public bodies and service providers in sectors such as welfare, education, justice, and health.

Our success depends upon our being seen to be taking an active interest in Scottish politics on behalf of the whole Jewish community of Scotland. Regular personal contact with the Scottish Parliament and Government, the Scottish media, and a wide range of organisations and individuals in Scottish civic society is crucial.

Many politicians and others have commented on SCoJeC's effectiveness. One former Presiding Officer told us, "SCoJeC is an example to other communities. I want to thank the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities for grasping the outstretched hand of the Parliament, and for getting involved. Your representatives are weel kent figures to Ministers, to MSPs, to the senior civil servants, to the leaders of the STUC. You bring common sense and decency to everything you do. And you do engage – how you engage!"


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