History was made when sixteen people gathered in Lamlash, Isle of Arran, for a kosher buffet at the home of Eliezer and Sharon Shenhav. This was the first time ever that Jewish residents and holiday home owners had held a communal event, and the evening was unique, heartwarming, and convivial.
The Shenhavs are Israelis from the Jerusalem area who came to Arran many years ago on holiday and decided that the temperate climate of Scottish summers suited them well. Ten years ago they bought a house there, and ever since they have spent a few months each summer in Scotland; and slowly but surely they have been making contact with other Jewish people on the island. And so it came about that they made contact with us this summer and kindly agreed to host a "SCoJeC goes to the Isles" event on Arran, open to local Jewish people and their families. They were joined by 9 other Jewish residents and holiday home owners as well as five members of the Glasgow Jewish community including Ephraim Borowski and Fiona Frank of SCoJeC.
Lev Atlas, the Glasgow-based Russian-born violinist, who had given a concert on Arran the night before and is collaborating with SCoJeC’s Klezmer, Baroque, and Tartan musical tour of Scotland, also joined the gathering and performed Klezmer music as well as some of his own arrangements of Russian and Jewish folk tunes. The group was enchanted by the beautiful traditional music as well as Lev's explanation of the history of Klezmer music. His stories of his experiences of coming to Scotland from Russia were fascinating and humorous.
After a delicious buffet – with kosher provisions brought over on the ferry from Glasgow – everyone had a chance to chat, get to know one another, and meet new friends and neighbours. The evening concluded with each participant talking about their experiences as Jews on the island, and a discussion about the experience of "Being Jewish on Arran".
Sharon and Eli told us that as very visible Israelis, they were often asked questions about the Middle East, but that the tone was always polite and respectful. From the young adults present we heard about some difficulties in growing up as “the only people on the island who were slightly different”, with experience of ignorance and insults; but in the main people had a very positive story to tell. They all without exception talked about the warmth and specialness of this evening, and of the feeling of belonging and connection that they got from spending time with other Jewish people.
There was unanimous agreement that this first Jewish community event on Arran would not be the last. Anyone interested in participating in future events of the Jewish community on the Isle of Arran should contact Fiona Frank at 07779 206 522 or e-mail email@example.com.