click on the image to read the full findings
The full findings of SCoJeC's Being Jewish in Scotland project, the first comprehensive study of the things that matter to Jewish people throughout Scotland, have now been published. The Scottish Government Community Safety Unit, to whom we are grateful for funding the project, said it has not only “prompted reflection on what it means to be Jewish in 21st-century Scotland, but has also highlighted common understanding and shared patterns of experience that will be recognised by, and have relevance to, wider Scottish society.”
In line with the purpose of the CSU’s objectives to help increase the safety and security of the Jewish population of Scotland, and by extension to provide feedback on the Scottish Government’s support for minorities in Scotland, we have already begin an extensive programme of disseminating these findings to public authorities, and they have been extremely well received. After a presentation to Community Safety officers from Police Scotland, one of them reported, “police colleagues and partners from other agencies all agreed that it had been a most enlightening dialogue about what life is really like for some Scottish Jews. And there was sadness and disappointment that a significant level of bigotry and antisemitism seem to be accepted by victims as a 'normal' occurrence and therefore, a part of life – not worth reporting to police. This is contrary to Police Scotland Zero Tolerance approach where we want all incidents where prejudice may be a motivating factor to be reported.”
As well as the police, we have already given presentations to Scottish Government civil servants, the Procurator Fiscal Service, and NHS managers, and we have plans to roll this out further to local authorities, education authorities, employers, faith groups, and others. We hope these findings will prove useful in assisting all statutory and voluntary organisations and agencies to support and respond more effectively to the needs and concerns of the Scottish Jewish community.
The 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 Galloway 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 living very many miles from the any Jewish facilities, as well as from a few former residents now living outwith Scotland. We heard from Jewish people whose families had lived in Scotland for generations, people who had just arrived in Scotland from places as far as the USA, South America, and Israel, and as near as England. 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 range of ways, felt very connected to Jewish culture – some, for example, described the memories evoked by traditional Jewish foods that they ate as children – as well as from people who only found out they were Jewish as adults.
We asked people to tell us what they feel is good about being Jewish in Scotland, what is not so good, 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, local authorities, or others could do to improve the situation of Jewish people in Scotland. In general people told us they feel that Scotland is a good place to live, and that many Scottish people respect Jews as the “people of the Book”. But we also heard stories of ignorance, and, worse, of blatant antisemitism, some but not all of which was related to events in the Middle East. No fewer than 80% of the respondents, without being prompted, told us that they feel threatened and vulnerable because, as Jews, they are held responsible for the actions of the state of Israel, and some told us they even deny their identity as a result.
As we had intended, the very act of investigating what Jewish people think is important has served to strengthen those networks and enhance relationships, thereby increasing people’s feeling of belonging and sense of security. “I am a community of one,” said one focus group participant who lives many miles from the nearest formal community, “SCoJeC is my community.”
Everywhere we put on an event, whether a klezmer dance and concert, a Jewish book event, a talk about Jewish history, or even just a kosher buffet in a village hall, we made new connections and met Jewish people who had thought they were the only Jewish person for miles around, and who were surprised and delighted to be proved wrong!
If, twenty years from now, a future Scottish Government were to commission a future SCoJeC to conduct a similar study, we would hope to be able to report a drop in levels of intolerance, a greater sense of mutual understanding between Jewish and non-Jewish people, and as much joy in ‘Being Jewish in Scotland’ as was expressed by the great majority of the people we spoke to during this inquiry. As one participant told us: “Scotland’s a darn fine place to be a Jew”.
Click here to read the full findings.