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

Jewish Community moves to
St Andrews University

 

7 April 2019

Tayside and Fife Jewish Community move to St Andrews

SCoJeC was delighted to be part of the celebrations to mark the inauguration of Scotland's newest Jewish facility by holding our quarterly Council meeting there for the first time – attended by representatives of every community in Scotland. Thanks to the generosity of the University of St Andrews, the Tayside and Fife Jewish Community is in the process of moving from its existing synagogue in Dundee to a new base in the University Chaplaincy Centre.

As Paul Spicker, Chair of the Tayside and Fife Community and former Chair of SCoJeC, explained, the demography of the area has changed dramatically – there are now only two Jewish families living in Dundee and the majority of their members live south of the Tay in Fife, in addition to the large number of Jewish students and staff in St Andrews. Last Yom Kippur there had been only six people at a service in Dundee and fifty in St Andrews.

Tayside and Fife Jewish Community move to St Andrews

The community had already rebranded itself as Tayside and Fife rather than Dundee when it became an incorporated charity three years ago, and its last AGM agreed to put their present building on the market and they then negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with St Andrews University enabling them to hold services and other events in the University Chaplaincy. Paul concluded, "While I cannot but be sad about the closure of the building, this is not the end for the community. We have moved some significant artefacts, including Torah scrolls and prayer books, to St Andrews; the other assets of the synagogue, including two more Sifrei Torah, will mainly be distributed to other Jewish Communities around Scotland. Our next events will be in St Andrews."

Tayside and Fife Jewish Community move to St Andrews

Following the SCoJeC meeting, we were joined by the Principal of the University, Prof Sally Mapstone, and the University Chaplain, the Revd Donald MacEwan, and more than 25 Jewish students and staff, for a short celebratory service of thanksgiving. Bill Shackman, the University's Honorary Jewish Chaplain as well as a Trustee of the Tayside and Fife Community, explained the significance of hachnasat Sefer Torah, the celebration welcoming the Torah scrolls to their new home, and connected that to the dedication of the Biblical Tabernacle described in recent week's Torah readings. The scrolls were then passed from hand to hand round the room, with everyone including the Principal participating, before one of the students read the Priestly Benediction from the book of Numbers in one of the scrolls. Throughout the event the guests were entertained by Bill along with award-winning klezmer musician Michael Alpert, and SCoJeC provided our traditional kosher bagel and smoked salmon buffet for all the participants.

Tayside and Fife Jewish Community move to St Andrews

After the event, Principal Mapstone said how moved she had been by the occasion, and Emily Michelson, who coordinated the event said, "Thank you all for participating and making our hachnasat Sefer Torah feel so very communal and celebratory."

Michael Alpert wrote: Big thanks to everyone for such a grand event and success yesterday! It's terrific to look at the pics and be reminded of what a great gathering and celebration it was yesterday. Wonderful that all who were present were there, and in such numbers; Sally Mapstone was very moved by the whole thing, and it was very inspiring all around. Mitsvoh gedoyloh l'hiyoys b'simkhoh tomid! [It's a good thing to be happy always!] We are still flying high from it.

Looking at the photos and thinking back on the day, I think we can say that Fife and Tayside is emerging as a third, vibrant center of Jewish life in Scotland, Profound thanks here to Emily and Bill for their years of community building, as well as to Paul for making possible the consolidation of Dundee's Jewish heritage with the vitality and youth of the St Andrews population, and to Ephraim and everyone at SCoJeC for their encouragement of the whole project.

 

   
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Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation no. SC029438