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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


SCoJeC at Scotland Limmud

8 March 2015
SCoJeC at Limmud Scotland

SCoJeC was well represented at last week’s day Limmud in Glasgow, contributing sessions on "What the Community Wants from its Parliaments", "Being Jewish in Scotland", and (of course) sponsoring our trademark Klezmer Ceilidh at the end. Gillian Raab, a member of SCoJeC’s Council, also spoke about how Scotland’s Jewish population has changed between the 2001 and 2011 censuses.

First off was a chance for Limmud-goers to contribute to our Scottish Government funded inquiry about how the experience of being Jewish in Scotland has changed since our previous study in 2012. Fiona Frank, our Projects and Outreach Manager, led the discussion. The origins of the group were mixed – some had grandparents who had come here from Russia, Poland or Lithuania, some had family who were refugees from Nazi Germany, one participant’s family had come from British Mandate Palestine, initially to Wales, and there were three visitors from England.

"What's changed about Being Jewish in Scotland?"

Although participants felt comfortable within the Jewish community itself, some people talked about a change in their general attitude to being Jewish in Scotland, one summing up the feeling in the room by saying that she felt  “uneasy” and “not comfortable about speaking up for myself”. One participant felt “more vulnerable and sensitive in the last couple of years” and said she was “less likely to publicise who I am and what I’m doing than before”. An Israeli woman said “seeing the Palestinian flag on the Glasgow council building made me feel very Jewish and very threatened”.

Gillian Raab, an applied statistician, spoke about her research into the demographic changes in the Jewish population of Scotland between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, using data from the Scottish Longitudinal Study. According to the census, the number of Jews in Scotland has dropped from 6400 to 5700, a reduction of almost 11%. What is most surprising is the turn-over: according to the census, only 3,400 of the 5700 Jews resident in Scotland in 2011 were here ten years ago, so around 40% are new to Scotland, and 47% of the 2001 population is no longer here! Gillian explained that some of these changes could be attributed to people de-identifying from or re-identifying with the community, a significant excess of deaths over births, and more surprisingly an excess of immigration over emigration, as well as people who were missed from the census. However, all these figures need to be treated with caution, since it is also known that up to one third of Jewish people may not have identified themselves as Jewish in the census

SCoJeC at Limmud Scotland

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski and Public Affairs Officer Nicola Livingston also ran a discussion session on “What the Community Wants from its Parliaments” with the Board of Deputies Director of Public Affairs, Phil Rosenberg. After Ephraim gave a presentation on the split between Devolved and Reserved matters and how these were likely to change under the Smith proposals, Phil spoke about the Board’s Jewish Manifesto and the “Ten Commitments” that it is asking all candidates in the forthcoming UK General Election to sign up to. Then the participants split into groups to consider what they would like to see included in a similar “manifesto” of devolved Jewish concerns that SCojeC and the Board are collaborating on for the 2016 Scottish election.

Phil Rosenberg said it is important for the Jewish Community to do everything in its power to ensure that all candidates were aware of our concerns: “We encourage members of the Community not to leave this to representative organisations like the Board or SCoJeC, but to probe their local candidates’ views on key Jewish issues. With the polls suggesting the real possibility of another hung parliament, we cannot leave anything to chance and we are seeking to ensure that all political parties understand the key issues for the Community.”

Commenting that the Board’s “Ten Commitments” are “a bit like the Ten Commandments – but less binding”, SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said: “The Scottish political landscape is complicated by the fact that more powers are being devolved to the Scottish Parliament at the same time as we are electing members of the UK Parliament who will have no remit in those devolved matters that govern almost all of every-day life in Scotland. However, despite the differences in implementation, the principles enshrined in the Board’s “Ten Commitments” are common to us all, so this was a useful opportunity to discuss how the SNP might influence UK Government policy after the election as well as how the Scottish Government should respond to that concerns of the Community revealed by our Being Jewish in Scotland survey.”

SCoJeC at Limmud Scotland

The last session of the day was a Klezmer Ceilidh sponsored by SCoJeC as a celebration of the end of SCoJeC’s Voluntary Action Fund communal partnership project on “Expanding Jewish Volunteering in Scotland”. The band, Celter Schmelter, wowed the audience with a selection of Freylekhs, Horas, and Bulghars, and everyone joined in the dancing. The dance had many Scottish links alongside its Klezmer roots – we started with a “Yiddish Gay Gordons” and ended up with a very Scottish Auld Lang Syne. Click here, here, and here to watch some of the fun! SCoJeC has supported the production of Celter Schmelter’s first  CD, Hens’ Khasene – the Eigg Sessions, which was launched at Limmud, and which is one of the prizes for people completing the survey for the Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry.


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