Here Fiona reflects on some of the highlights:
Back in August 2011 I had just submitted my PhD, an oral history study of five generations of one Scottish Jewish family (the family that my aunt, artist Hannah Frank, had married into). The Department of Continuing Education at Lancaster University where I’d been working had closed down and made us all redundant, and although I was looking out for my next challenge, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I’d find my ‘dream job’ – a year with SCoJeC, researching the experience of being Jewish in Scotland! Several friends emailed me the job ad when they saw it, and I was very happy to be appointed.
I started a couple of months later, and for the first year my job consisted of running a selection of Jewish cultural events around Scotland, and conducting focus groups with people who turned up, as well as designing a survey, and analysing the responses.
While I was planning this, I went to audition a Glasgow based Klezmer band to play at one of our events, but they auditioned me and I ended up playing concertina and calling with them for two years!
Since we discovered that many Scottish Jews outwith the central belt felt pretty isolated and were very keen to connect with each other, we’ve run events all round the country to make that ‘connection’ happen; we managed an innovative online forum for a few years (till the technology was overtaken by Facebook); we ran a pilot project training students to work with older people, supporting them to use online platforms to communicate with their children and grandchildren outwith Glasgow; and, working with Zoe Jacobs at first, and later with Joanne Gabbay, we trained people to go into schools to run classes and activities about Judaism.
I’ve had a BALL working with SCoJeC over the past nine years. I’ve met Jewish people all over the country; I’ve been able to travel to Invernesshire, to Shetland, to Arran, to Islay, to the cities and the countryside in the pursuit of representing, connecting and supporting Jewish people in Scotland. We’ve conducted two more inquiries into the experience of being Jewish in Scotland, which we’ve used to constantly update our ‘offer’ and ensure that people feel their voices are being heard.
I’ve particularly enjoyed bringing Klezmer music, to wider audiences, and particularly in programming musical events through the years, working with many musicians from Scotland and further afield.
One highlight was a papercutting workshop we held in Falkirk as part of Interfaith Scotland Week in 2017 with a Jewish paper cutter, Abi Pirani, and a Muslim papercutter, Maryam Golubeva. We brought together Jewish and Muslim young people to work with the two artists, and they produced fantastic art work!
In my last two months before retiring, I’ve been working with my successor, Ruby, to set up a Climate Emergency Framework for the Scottish Jewish Community that will support the community to think about a phased return to ‘normality’. This is something that’s very close to my heart and fits in well with the planned COP26 international climate summit that was due to come to Glasgow this November.