Ephraim Borowski has been awarded an MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List for services on behalf of the Jewish Community in Scotland, a community for which he has worked unstintingly, and always in a voluntary capacity, for all of his adult life. He has played a leading role in the development of structures to enable the community to respond effectively to political and demographic change, and to represent the views, needs and potentials of the Jewish community to wider Scottish society. The establishment of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, the democratic body that represents all of the Jewish communities in Scotland, is due to his recognition and understanding of the changes that would flow from devolution. He has also served the UK-wide Jewish community as Regional Chair to the Board of Deputies of British Jews, has been Chair of Giffnock Synagogue (the largest Synagogue in Scotland) and, for more than ten was Hon Secretary and Vice President of the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council Earlier this year, he was the only Scot named in the Jewish Chronicle's list of the most influential members of the Community.
Ephraim has not, however, confined his energies to the Jewish community. His passionate belief in equality of opportunity for all has led him to be invited to participate at a strategic level as a member of Scottish Executive advisory groups such as the Race Equality Advisory Forum and the Faith Liaison Group, and the Scottish Committees of both the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Commission for Racial Equality. His conviction that all communities must be supported to speak for themselves rather than be spoken for by gatekeepers, has provided the impetus for him to become actively involved in organisations such as the Scottish Inter-Faith Council and BEMIS (the umbrella ethnic minority organisation in Scotland) of which he is Vice-Convener.
Giving the 2006 CTPI Baillie Lecture at Edinburgh University, he advocated a 'tartan model' of Scottish society in which "each community makes a valuable contribution to the whole, while still retaining its own unique identity ... [an] intersecting pattern, each thread visible as itself against the background, but all holding together, not despite their intersections, but because of those intersections ... not for one colour or thread to overwhelm the others, but for all to coexist for the sake of a coherent whole." Ephraim has devoted his energies to ensuring that the thread of Scotland's Jewish communities contributes brightly to that tartan, and that the threads of Scotland's many other communities are enabled to do likewise.
He is a former head of the Philosophy department of Glasgow University, where he was also President of the Glasgow Association of University Teachers, and the employee representative on the University Court, and he was a Governor of Hutchesons' Grammar School for more than twelve years. Ephraim is a ministerial appointee to the General Teaching Council for Scotland, where he is the first non-teacher to have been elected convener of one of its committees, and he was Acting Convener of the Scottish Education Forum. He compiled the Collins Dictionary of Mathematics, and has been President of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow. He now sits as a member of the Employment Tribunal.
Dr Kenneth Collins, SCoJeC Chair, expressed his pleasure at the news, saying: "The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities welcomes the award of an MBE to its Director Ephraim Borowski with great pride. The award of such an honour for services to the Scottish Jewish community is rare indeed. Ephraim has worked for the Council as Director with great devotion for many years in a voluntary capacity, and the award will be seen both as a personal achievement as well as a recognition of the work that the Council has done in meeting the challenges of creating an inclusive Scotland in the wake of devolution."
Reflecting on the award, Ephraim said: "According to Jewish tradition, everyone has a responsibility to work for the welfare of the community, but Judaism also teaches that virtue is its own reward, and one should neither seek nor expect payment or glory. What I learned from my parents, to paraphrase Jack Kennedy, was to ask, not how the Community could serve my interests, but what I could do to improve the Community. That is what makes this award as unexpected as it is humbling.
"It is for that reason that I find it difficult to interpret this honour as recognising any personal achievement, as opposed to the achievements of the organisation with which I am most associated. It is in that spirit that I welcome it as public recognition of the success of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. Established less than ten years ago as the democratic representative body for the entire Community within a devolved Scotland, SCoJeC has undoubtedly exceeded expectations not only in promoting the interests of our own community, but also working with others for the common good.
"That success was not one person's alone, and I wish therefore to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many people who have contributed to the success of the Council. It has been a privilege to work with them all, but I trust others will forgive me singling out our Public Affairs Officer, Leah Granat, without whom we would not have achieved a fraction of what we have accomplished.
"If I have contributed to that success, and thereby to the welfare and good name of the Community, knowing that would have been reward enough. To have that contribution recognised in this way is truly astounding, and I look forward to continuing to work not only for the good of our own Community, but for better understanding amongst all the diverse communities in a cohesive and integrated Scotland – one Scotland, of many cultures."