Since SCoJeC began holding events in Inverness in 2012, attendances have grown from what one participant called “a community of one” to a thriving group of well over 30, culminating in a desire by some of the Jewish people in the area to hold more events, including Friday night meals, Kiddushim, and occasional Shabbat and Festival services.
Some 70 years after the last known religious service in Inverness, this became a reality when financial assistance from the Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust and support from SCoJeC enabled a full programme of pre-Rosh HaShanah events to take place right in the heart of Inverness, at the Multi-Cultural Centre of the Highlands & Islands and Moray Chinese Association. After SCoJeC’s traditional kosher buffet (home cooked by two of the local members), Linda Martin, SCoJeC’s Voluntary Ambassador for the Highlands and Islands, gave an explanatory talk about the meaning of Rosh HaShanah, and some of its customs and traditions.
The event began early enough for people from further afield to attend and still be able to return home before nightfall, and around 40 people came along, including family and friends of local Jewish people, and some from as far as Gairloch and Lochaber – people who would otherwise have spent the whole Festival alone.
Later, after nightfall, the fledgling local community met at the home of one of the members to light candles, make Kiddush, and dip apples into honey as a symbol of a sweet year ahead.
The following morning three of the ladies met to read the morning service, using traditional melodies and two well-worn prayer books, and blow the Shofar, followed by Kiddush and a light luncheon. In the afternoon, after the afternoon service, some walked the short distance to the seashore for the Tashlich ceremony, followed by more food, an opportunity for some who had missed the morning service to hear the Shofar, and a Kiddush to end the day. On the second day, the group met again to read morning service and blow Shofar once more in the hope that this heralds a new beginning for the emerging community in Inverness.
Two weeks later, the group, augmented by some visitors from London, met again in the home of one of the members to celebrate the first day of Sukkot by shaking the Lulav and hearing that day's reading from the Torah. Following Kiddush, the group (of course) enjoyed a traditional four-course meal from kneidlach soup to apple cake and Turkish coffee, discussed how they could foster Jewish life in Inverness by encouraging supermarkets to stock more kosher items and bulk ordering from kosher suppliers.
Suggestions for future events included the possibility of a group trip to Israel, and weekend breaks in kosher hotels over Shabbat, and celebrations for Chanukah and Pesach. Any Jewish people who wish to be informed of future events in the Highlands should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.