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

Improving Relations with the
Church of Scotland

13 February 2018
Lunch meeting hosted by the Moderator of the Church of Scotland

SCoJeC very much welcomes the increasing numbers of contacts between the Church of Scotland and the Jewish Community, which have led to much improved relations with the Church after the tensions of recent years.

The Moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Derek Browning, hosted a unique kosher lunch for members of the Jewish Community, including Micheline Brannan and Fiona Brodie, Chair and Vice-Chair of SCoJeC, together with leading members of the Church's interfaith team, at his official residence in Edinburgh. The theme of the discussion was the challenges facing all people of faith in Scotland today, and how shared hospitality offers as an example of how faiths can relate to one another. The Moderator said, "As part of my Moderatorial year I am focussing on hospitality. How we relate to one and other as Christians and Jews is a complex and important issue, and there are many pressures on our communities in a world that spends more time looking for conflict than concurrence."

Dr Browning has just returned from a ten-day visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan, during which he preached at the rededication of St Andrews Church in Tiberias, following its recent refurbishment.

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski with the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and Church of Scotland minister in Tiberias

The congregation included representatives of many of the Christian denominations in Israel, the mayor of Tiberias, and Ephraim Borowski, Director of SCoJeC. In his sermon, the Moderator emphasised the significance of its location on the banks of the Sea of Galilee for both Christians and Jews, as well as the history of the Church's contribution to the area, establishing the first hospital in what is now the Scots Hotel, where the following night he toasted the Immortal Memory at a Burns Supper organised by Scottish ex-pat Lennie Levstein.

The Moderator commented: "The presence of the Church of Scotland in the Holy Land is an important commitment by the Church. It is good for us to be in this place, sharing, listening, learning, and witnessing. It is important to work in supportive and creative partnerships where Christians, Jews, and Muslims commit to work together. It is good that we recognise what makes us distinctive and different but within the context of what we share in common, a belief in the living God Whose presence gives life its meaning and purpose. At the special service on 24th January 2018, it was good to gather together with people of faith and goodwill and bring together the diverse families of faith in the Holy Land to share and to celebrate."

Scottish ex-pat Lennie Levstein at the Church of Scotland Burns Supper in Tiberias

During his visit the Moderator also spent time at Yad vaShem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial and archive, and on his return he issued a strong statement following the publication of the annual CST Antisemitic Incident Report, acknowledging "the worrying increase in antisemitic hate incidents across the UK, with some 1,382 incidents recorded in 2017. The concern should not only be felt by the Jewish community but by the whole community. It is important we acknowledge the failings of the past and the present, and work together for an inclusive and tolerant society. To paraphrase a verse from the Bible, 'How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell in unity."

The Moderator addresses the Church of Scotland Burns Supper in Tiberias

Meanwhile, the "concentrated dialogue between our two faith communities in Scotland" that was proposed by the Church as a way to repair the damage caused by some of the positions they have taken in the past has been under way. As well as SCoJeC, the group includes both religious and lay leaders of the Scottish Jewish Community, and representatives of the Chief Rabbi and the Board of Deputies, as well as the Principal Clerk and the Convenors and Secretaries of a number of the Church's key committees. It has now met three times, and topics have included the significance of Jerusalem in Judaism, the meaning and importance of the reformation for the Church, the Balfour Declaration, and the Kairos Palestine document.

'Dialogue' meeting between the Scottish Jewish community and the Church of Scotland

SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan commented: "It is a privilege to spend time with senior figures in the Church of Scotland, and we welcome the atmosphere of unfailing courtesy and consideration in which the dialogue is taking place. So far we have been exploring one another's key principles and beliefs in order to understand better the starting point for each faith. We are looking forward to deepening and widening our dialogue, and with it the respect in which we hold each other. We will never agree about everything but we hope to find a cure for hurt feelings and conflict in the past and develop some ground rules for moving forward in harmony."


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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438