Only 3 weeks after his historic visit when he became the first Rabbi to address the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, was back in Edinburgh to lead Time for Reflection, which opens the weekly session of Parliament. Tying together the recent festival of Shavuot, the Ethics of the Fathers from the Talmud, Abraham Lincoln, and Pablo Picasso, he said it is deeds, not words, that matter, and urged Parliament always to set their sights high, and seek to do the right things for the right reasons.
The Chief Rabbi then addressed a lunchtime meeting in the Parliament, arranged by SCoJeC and sponsored by Ken Macintosh MSP, which was attended by MSPs of all parties as well as a cross-section of Scotland’s faith community leaders. This was also an historic event – the first time ever that the chairs of all the Jewish communities in Scotland have come together in the same room. Chief Rabbi Mirvis referred to the generally positive experience that members of the Community reported to SCoJeC’s Being Jewish in Scotland survey – his favourite response was “I count myself incredibly lucky to be both Scottish and Jewish” – but he also noted that there remain dark corners of antisemitism, and he expressed his appreciation of how seriously this is taken by all in Scottish public life.
Accompanied by Ephraim Borowski and Nicola Livingston, the Director and Public Affairs Officer of SCoJeC, Chief Rabbi Mirvis also held private meetings with First Minister Alex Salmond, the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, the leaders of all the Scottish political parties, and the Moderator and acting Principal Clerk of the Church of Scotland. At each he spoke of the valued relationship between the Jewish Community and Scottish civic society, and commended SCoJeC for its role as the single voice of the entire Jewish Community of Scotland.
The Chief Rabbi later said he was very pleased to have been able to meet the new Moderator, the Right Rev John Chalmers, so soon after the General Assembly. This provided a valuable opportunity to continue discussions about rebuilding relationships following the damage that the previous year's General Assembly had done to Jewish-Christian relations by adopting a document that criticised central Jewish belief about the land of Israel in politically loaded, factually inaccurate, and offensive terms, and by rejecting two amendments calling for dialogue with the Jewish Community. The Chief Rabbi welcomed the Moderator's proposals for renewed dialogue on both theological and other matters of mutual concern, and undertook to play a part personally in these discussions.
During his visit the Chief Rabbi also addressed a packed public meeting at the Edinburgh synagogue, met the leaders of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, and delivered Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Scotland.