Every time we go to Inverness new people join us! On this occasion a bumper turnout of 25 people from Inverness and environs – mostly Jewish, but also a few local people with an interest in Judaism – joined SCoJeC Projects and Outreach manager Fiona Frank, and volunteer Lisa Weintraub, at Inverness Library, to light Chanukah candles and enjoy festive food.
"When Fiona organised the first Inverness meeting about two years ago, there were four or five people present," said one of the participants, Kathy Hagler, "and in these two years she created and nurtured a whole new community. Two years ago I thought I was the only Jew in and around Inverness, and now I have many new friends of whose existence I was not aware before Fiona arrived on the scene."
The Chanukah story was evocatively told by former Glasgow resident Martin Watssman, and then the children lit the chanukiot together. We particularly liked the Loch Ness monster chanukiah!
Most of the children shared the experience of being the only Jewish child in their school; one young girl, who told us she doesn't usually feel comfortable telling people she is Jewish, said that she felt very happy to be among other Jewish people for the first time in her life. She and her brother told us about having been told at school that 'the Jews killed Jesus', and how one boy had taken great pleasure in telling them that Hitler wanted to kill the Jews. Experiences such as these were the stimulus for our Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry, and are why it is so important that we continue to disseminate the findings to education authorities, teachers, and other agencies.
Whilst preparing for the party, Fiona had a skype link-up with a primary school class that had been studying Chanukah for the past week. The children were very knowledgeable about Chanukah customs and practice, and could tell us the names of everything on the party table: latkes, doughnuts, chocolate money, bagels, and, of course, a chanukiah. They appreciated the opportunity to see what they'd learned in 'real life'. Lisa, a North American who recently completed a Masters degree in Edinburgh, told the children how her family celebrate Chanukah, and that this year, for the first time since the date of Thanksgiving was fixed by US law in 1941 – and last time for the next 80,000 years! – the two festivals coincide.