Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

Seven talks in seven towns

Bicentenary of the Scottish Jewish Community
15 September 2017
SCoJeC History Talk in Aberdeen

SCoJeC is delighted to have continued its celebration of the bicentenary of Scotland's Jewish Community with a second series of talks on the history of small Jewish communities, featuring Professor Nathan Abrams of Bangor University, who describes one of his research interests as "Jewish Diasporic communities in Europe with a particular emphasis on Scotland and Wales".

Nathan was living in the flat above Aberdeen Synagogue and teaching at the University of Aberdeen when he started the research for the book Caledonian Jews: a study of seven small communities in Scotland. Now, eight years after its publication, SCoJeC is delighted that Nathan agreed to come and speak in three of the town featured in his book, and these talks have just taken place in Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness.

SCoJeC History Talk in Aberdeen

Unfortunately Aberdeen synagogue was extensively damaged by flooding last week, so Nathan wasn't able to return to his old haunts, and the venue had to be changed at the last minute. Happily, the talks in Dundee Synagogue and in the SHIMCA Chinese Cultural Centre in Inverness went ahead without incident, and we were delighted that around 50 people in Aberdeen, 35 in Dundee, and 15 in Inverness, were keen to find out about the history of Jewish people in their areas. The Lord Provost was among the audience in Aberdeen, and expressed great interest in the talk.

SCoJeC History Talk in Dundee

Nathan spoke about the earliest references to Jewish people that he had been able to find in each of the cities where he was speaking. In Inverness, Ezekiel Caspar Auerbach, a hawker of stationery from Warsaw, was baptised into the Inverness Gaelic Church in March 1830, the baptism being watched by a great crowd "anxious to witness a scene so novel in this part of the country". Other early references were found in the crime reports of the various city newspapers, with Jewish people featuring as either the victims or the perpetrators of crimes.

SCoJeC History Talk in Dundee

Once the communities became established, records were easier to come by, and Nathan was able to recount fascinating stories about the members of the Jewish communities in each city – some of whom were the parents or grandparents of people who had come to hear the talk. In Dundee for example, he spoke about the journey that had led Dr Albert Jacob (whose son-in-law is now president of the Aberdeen community) to the city. In Inverness he spoke about the jeweller Isaac Finkelstein and showed a photograph of his shop, "Finkelstein's Victorian Market". The current owner of the shop was in the audience, and was able to add new information about the Finkelstein family and the history of the shop itself. He is very proud to maintain the distinctive frontage of the shop, which is unchanged from Finkelstein's day.

SCoJeC History Talk in Inverness

We received excellent feedback from members of the audience at each venue. One person who attended the talk in Inverness wrote, "Thank you so much for the talks. I was totally fascinated by the one that I came to". Another who came to the Dundee talk said, "Nathan Abrams was excellent. His manner of delivery is delightful; and he told me about the history of the Dundee community I knew nothing about". And one of the Aberdeen participants wrote, "I found the speaker interesting and stimulating and able to get a lot of information across in a witty and personal way. I am not Jewish myself, but the talk sparked a real interest. A very enjoyable and informative evening."

We are grateful to the Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust for their support for this series of events. The first three talks were given by Michael Tobias in Dunfermline, Falkirk, and Ayr in June, and the final talk will be in Greenock on Sunday 19th November to mark the 111th birthday of the violinist and conductor Henri Temianka.


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438