Following the recent local council elections, SCoJeC has launched a programme of briefings for local authority councillors, under the banner of Being Jewish in Scotland, to help them learn more about the wide range of matters within their responsibility that can affect the experience of Jewish people in their areas.
The pilot event, in Giffnock Synagogue, was for councillors in East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire, and Inverclyde Councils, and was hosted jointly with the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council. After a general introduction to Judaism presented by Rabbi Rubin, the Senior Rabbi in Scotland, and a tour of the synagogue, councillors from the SNP, Labour, and Conservative parties spent a full day learning about and discussing a variety of culturally sensitive issues such as education, social care, and how schools and local authorities should mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
Before a satisfying kosher lunch, we were pleased also to welcome Andy Robson, Depute Head Teacher of Calderwood Lodge Jewish Primary School, who spoke about the unique history and ethos of the school, and Harvey Kaplan of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, who gave a brief overview of the history of the Jewish community in Scotland, and the day ended with a presentation from SCoJeC and the Community Security Trust about the demography of the Scottish Jewish commjunity, and antisemitism in Scotland.
Throughout the day the councillors participated fully in a wide range of lively discussions, and many highlighted their own concerns about some of these issues, in particular about the rise in the number of antisemitic incidents in Scotland, and about the issues that can result from reporting them.
Feedback from the participants has been extremely positive. Councillor Owen O’Donnell, leader of East Renfrewshire Council, said, “it was an incredibly valuable day to be a part of, and to hear more about the community. I’m keen to continue this relationship as Leader of East Renfrewshire Council.”
Timothy Lovat, President of Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, said "The Rep Council was delighted to collaborate with SCoJEC on this very important event. It was a great pleasure to welcome so many councillors from the West of Scotland who showed a strong interest in our community and the challenges we face."
Nicola Livingston, Chair of SCoJeC, commented, ‘These sessions are important in building relationships with local councillors, and we’re looking forward to building on this in the coming months. We were very encouraged by the engagement and receptiveness of all of the councillors who attended, and we look forward to rolling out the sessions nationally.”