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

SCoJeC AGM 2019
“SCoJeC is the community”

 
2 June 2019

SCoJeC was delighted to hold its 2019 AGM in the newly refurbished synagogue and community centre in Aberdeen. Following meetings in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and St Andrews, this means we have held Council meetings in all our affiliated communities during the past year. 

The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett at SCoJeC's AGM 2019

Before the formal business, SCoJeC Chair Micheline Brannan welcomed the Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett, who spoke about his strong support for the local community before taking questions from participants. These covered a wide range of topics, including how the police had handled intimidation directed at a local Jewish businessman, antisemitism in the Labour party, interfaith activity, and his personal interest in the history of the Scottish community.  He also agreed to support the adoption of the internationally accepted (“IHRA”) definition of antisemitism by Aberdeen council.

Much of the AGM was taken up with a discussion of how the Jewish Community in Scotland and elsewhere is changing. Paul Spicker, Chair of the Tayside and Fife Community, referred to the inauguration of the new facility in St Andrews following the previous SCoJeC Council meeting, and the ceremony that evening to mark the closure of the Dundee synagogue, which had existed since the 1880s. He said that most local Jewish people would not have met had the synagogue not existed, but most of Jewish life in Britain is locked into an old model that no longer reflects reality. Communities are changing and now it is networks like SCoJeC that make it possible for people to meet and to live a Jewish life wherever they are. SCoJeC has taken huge steps in that direction. What is needed is a reorganisation of community life; instead of talking about “small communities” we should recognise that SCoJeC is the community. 

SCoJeC AGM 2019

Some people felt that communal buildings do provide an important focus, but Gillian Raab of the Edinburgh Sukkat Shalom Liberal Community said that buildings can be a liability if too much effort goes into maintaining the building, and not enough into supporting people.  She added that connecting Jewish people and supporting Jewish life throughout Scotland is exactly what SCoJeC has been doing – and yet some people criticise us for doing so.

There was also discussion about support for other groups, including Inverness, where there might be more Jewish people than in Aberdeen, for the estimated 1,000 Israelis in Scotland, for minority groups within the community, and for Jewish students on Scottish campuses.

The meeting approved the formal Annual Report and Accounts for 2018, which showed that we had had another extremely productive year, and had almost exactly broken even financially.  Micheline particularly expressed thanks to Director Ephraim Borowski who continues to work more than full-time in a voluntary capacity, to Leah Granat for all she does, from producing daily and weekly briefings to responding to huge numbers of miscellaneous enquiries; to the JLC Scottish Public Affairs Manager, Danielle Bett, for her support for our political engagement; to Fiona Frank and Joanne Gabbay and their team for delivering so many successful events; to all the volunteers who represent Judaism in schools; to the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council for their excellent collaboration; and to our own Executive and Council members for all their support.

The following office-bearers were elected:
Chair: Micheline Brannan
Vice-Chair: Fiona Brodie
Secretary: Simon Dover
Treasurer: Philip Mendelsohn

Click here to read the AGM reports and accounts.

Following the formal meeting, there was an informal meeting with members of the Aberdeen Community, and we were delighted to hear more positive news than we have for some time about their building and their plans for the future of the community.

Several Council members then travelled to Dundee to participate in the ceremony to mark the closure of the synagogue. Paul Spicker, Chair of the Tayside and Fife Jewish Community, reflected:

The decision to close the shul in Dundee has been prolonged and difficult; the shul has helped to bring a community together, and it has been a happy place. We have kept going despite the odds, but we have known for years that we could not go on indefinitely.

Dundee Synagogue: closing ceremony

The closing ceremony was remarkable, if bittersweet. It began with reminiscences from the longest standing members; there was with a Dvar Torah [homily] from Bill Shackman, who has been instrumental in developing the community in St Andrews; then the Minchah service and removing the Torah scrolls from the ark were led by Rabbi David Rose.

Many of the community’s things are moving to our new facility in St Andrews, where there are two Sifrei Torah, prayer books, and bibles. But there is a great deal we will no longer have room for. One of our central aims is to promote Jewish life in Scotland. One scroll has gone to Edinburgh, for use by Sukkat Shalom and Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation; one to Garnethill shul in Glasgow. Our records and war memorial plaque are with the Scottish Jewish Archives. Our chairs and much of our kitchen equipment will be going to Aberdeen. We are part of a wider Jewish community, and we should be able to rely on each other – if we can still help others, we will.

The shul now is half empty, and the sifrei torah at its heart are now in other places. After the closing ceremony, my last act before leaving was to turn off the Ner Tamid, the eternal light.

 

   
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