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

Scotland's unique Jewish Gathering

 

26-28 October 2018

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

SCoJeC was delighted to play a central role in the unique – and uniquely successful – Jewish Gathering in Edinburgh over the weekend of 26th to 28th October. Around 160 Jewish people from all over Scotland – from the Western Isles and the Grampians in the north to Galloway in the south came together for a programme that included traditional Shabbat meals, inspiring speakers, music, discussion – and of course a whisky-flavoured tisch!

Scottish Jewish Gathering

John Danzig of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, who chaired the organising committee, commented that the event had exceeded expectation and "captured interest in a way we had not imagined". He said "the Gathering created a sense of identity, strengthened communal ties, reflected that there is unity through diversity, and raised the profile of Jewish Scotland. There were people from the Western Isles to Dumfries and Galloway. There were people from the Orthodox, Reform, and Liberal communities. There were people aged 3 to 83. There were opportunities to form friendships, and to discuss how we can help one other. The ruach (atmosphere) was lovely and sometimes brought tears to my eyes."

Scottish Jewish Gathering

The first guest speaker, at the Friday night dinner, which was also attended by around 50 students, was Board of Deputies vice-president Edwin Shuker, who spoke emotionally about how he and his family had fled from persecution in Baghdad just before his bar mitzvah, and his gratitude that he now lives in a country where the Jewish community is able to flourish. UJS campaigns officer Daniel Kosky also delivered an upbeat assessment of Jewish life on campus. After separate Orthodox and Reform Shabbat services, we all came together again for a lavish kiddush. Giffnock's Rabbi Moshe Rubin spoke stirringly about hospitality, likening the Edinburgh shul's four corner entrances with Abraham's tent, which was open on all four sides, and during Shabbat lunch, Lindsay Simmonds of the London School of Jewish Studies spoke about Jewish women leaders from the Torah to the present day.

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

After a candle-lit musical Havdalah led by Student Chaplain Yossi Bodenheim, Daniel Frank, who recently moved to Glasgow, led a brainstorming session on how to tackle the Community's demographic decline, promote younger people into leadership, and "grow Jewish Scotland", and we were then joined for a musical soiree led by Gica Loening on fiddle, Phil Alexander on accordion, and Dan Abrahams on guitar, with Yiddish songs by Sukkat Shalom's Mark Solomon, Howard Brodie, and Sam Gaus.

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

Overnight, the scale of the atrocity in Pittsburgh became clear, and the Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, who spoke at Sunday lunch, expressed his and the Scottish Government's sympathy and solidarity both with the victims and with Jewish people throughout the world who now felt more vulnerable.

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

He spoke movingly about his own experience of discrimination growing up as a Muslim in Glasgow, adding that his father used to speak about our Jewish neighbours as being our cousins. He said he saw himself as representing not only his own community but all minority groups, and reiterated the Scottish Government's commitment to tackling hate crime and promoting good community relations: "In Scotland we will continue to work together to tackle prejudice and build the society we want to be, where each person, every family, and all communities can flourish."

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

Sunday also featured break-out groups with Giffnock's Rabbi Moshe Rubin leading a discussion on Jewish schools, Glasgow Jewish Rep Council co-president Nicola Livingston on mental health, Joe Goldblatt on fundraising, and Talia Samuelson from the Office of the Chief Rabbi on the use of technology and social media, and there were separate activities for the 20 children aged 3 to 16. At a special open meeting of SCoJeC's Council, SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan and Director Ephraim Borowski reported on recent activities and answered questions, in particular about relations with the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland. The final session was a panel discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing them by the chairs of all Scotland's Jewish communities, who quickly came to the realisation that that their differences of geography and affiliation are more that outweighed by what they have in common, and the Gathering ended by resolving to send a message of sympathy and support to the Jewish community of Pittsburgh.

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

One participant described the Gathering as a combination of a Shabbaton and a Limmud, and another, from Aberdeen, said, "It's quite unusual for there to be rabbis from different spheres of Judaism, and Jews from all strands of Judaism coming together. The fact that this was such a unified event is so important going forward." An Edinburgh member said, "The atmosphere this weekend was very warm and mirrored what is happening here. It was so multi-dimensional and with a real mix and it gave us a new insight."

Scotland's Jewish Gathering

Glasgow Jewish Representative Council co-president Evy Yedd commented: "The atmosphere was just beautiful, with everyone joining in with the singing. It really was something special. To witness friendships being formed by Jews young and old from all parts of Scotland has been an uplifting experience I will never forget. We can't wait to run the next Shabbat weekend."

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said that the Gathering had been "an incredibly ambitious project, so it was all the more remarkable that it had been so successful, bringing together more than 150 people from all of Scotland's Jewish Communities. There were also many who are not members, from the south west to the north east, and even the Outer Hebrides, some of whom have never previously had any opportunity to attend communal activities. There was music, discussion, learning, and a very positive contribution from Scotland's Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf. People found out that they are not the only Jews in their area, many, especially the children, struck up new friendships, and communal leaders discovered how much they have in common. The buzz was palpable, despite the pall cast by the appalling news from Pittsburgh, and people left wanting more, so planning starts now for the next Scottish Jewish Gathering."

 

   
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