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

Greenock Community Reunion

Bicentenary of the Scottish Jewish Community
19 November 2017
SCoJeC History Talk in Greenock

A crowd of approximately sixty people came to the stunning Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock for the final event in SCoJeC's programme Exploring Scotland's Small Jewish Communities, to mark the bicentenary of the Jewish community of Scotland. Speakers Fiona and Howard Brodie from the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre shared the interesting history of the smaller Jewish communities around Scotland, based on the pictures, letters, and other materials that have been collected in the Archives about Jewish life in Aberdeen, Inverness, Dunfermline, Ayr, Dundee, Falkirk, and Greenock.

SCoJeC History Talk in Greenock

Photo courtesy of Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Greenock-born Viki McDonnell also spoke and answered questions. Viki has made a special study of the history of the Jewish community of her home town after her curiosity was aroused when she discovered that the "Christmas candelabra" she had bought in a local antique shop was in fact a menorah. She started by searching the internet for information about the names she had found on the graves in the Jewish section of the local cemetery, and later joined the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre for more in-depth research, and recently published a book on the history of the Jewish community in Greenock.

Several people in the audience had connections with Greenock and either discovered their own family histories in the book or came to ask Viki if she could tell them more about them. It was incredible to see Viki introduce people who had never met before, saying "you should talk to each other, because you are related". Several families were reunited during the event. Viki also revealed to Howard that his grandmother, Dora Itzikowitz, had won a prize for being the heaviest baby born in Greenock!

SCoJeC History Talk in Greenock

Photo courtesy of Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Beacon Arts Centre's beautiful view to the sea was not the only reason it was chosen as a venue for this event. The Jewish connection is a bust that was specially commissioned last year of Henri Temianka, a Greenock-born Jewish world-famous violinist, who was the founder of the Paganini Quartet and California Chamber Symphony. His father was the minister of the Jewish Community in Greenock, and this would have been his 111th birthday.

One participant said about the event: "I was such a great afternoon! My family came from Greenock, and my grandparents met and married here. Their marriage is in Viki McDonnell's book, and I was one of the children in the pictures." Another said: "Thank you very much for bringing the event to Greenock, I enjoyed it very much. It was extremely interesting and well presented. The speakers were great and their knowledge wonderful. There was a lovely atmosphere at the event".

SCoJeC History Talk in Greenock

Photo courtesy of Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Wendy Niblock of the Beacon Arts Centre said: "It was a really interesting event and we were delighted to host it. It was fascinating learning about all the Jewish communities across Scotland and all the work Viki has done about the Jewish community of Greenock – and we were very pleased to help bring people together who didn't realise they were related!"

Fiona Frank, SCoJeC Projects and Outreach Manager, added "We were delighted to end our series of bicentennial history talks with this one, fittingly presented in this fantastic venue by a team from the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre which does so much to preserve the history of Scotland's Jewish communities."

 

We are grateful to the Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust for their support for this event which was part of Scottish Interfaith Week and the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology, a partnership between BEMIS Scotland and the Scottish Government to facilitate diverse multicultural celebrations.

 

   
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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438