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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)


Meeting with the First Minister
Humza Yousaf MSP

19 May 2023

Meeting with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP

SCoJeC and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council were delighted to welcome the new First Minister Humza Yousaf MSP to our office in Giffnock to meet with communal leaders.

The First Minister spoke about his personal experiences with members of the Jewish community as a pupil at Hutchesons' Grammar School, which then had the largest number of Jewish pupils in Scotland. He noted that his relationship with the community has continued since his school days, and he values those friendships enormously.

One key topic that interested the First Minister was the huge increase in the number of Jewish students choosing to study in Scotland, and he wanted to know more about them, and how we can work together to encourage them to make Scotland a home beyond their university years. The First Minister also reflected on recent reports from the CST and the Antisemitism Policy Trust about campus antisemitism, and assured us of his commitment to push for the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism across further education institutes, and to accept an invitation to meet with Jewish students in the next academic year.

Meeting with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP

On the recent rise of antisemitic incidents in Scotland, the First Minister commented that, to him, an attack on one minority community was an attack on all, and pledged to do all within his power in his role to combat antisemitism. In addition, he stressed his wish not to define the community by the antisemitism it can face, but by the huge contributions made by Jewish people in every walk of life throughout Scotland.

The First Minister spoke frankly about his wife's fears for her family in Gaza, and said he therefore understood all the better the fears of members of the Jewish Community for their family and friends in Israel. We told him that research had shown that more than 90% of Jewish people in the UK regard Israel as part of their identity, and it is "close to their hearts" just as he had said Pakistan is to him. He agreed that people in Scotland should not be held responsible for the actions of a foreign government, and reiterated his predecessor's statement that "Nothing that happens in the Middle East should be used to justify antisemitism in Scotland."

The meeting was followed by a visit to Giffnock Newton Mearns Synagogue, where the First Minister donned his own tartan kippah which had been gifted to him at a communal Burns Supper. Rabbi Rubin joined the group to lead a short tour of the synagogue, and welcomed the First Minister.

Meeting with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP

First Minister Humza Yousaf MSP said: “I have long considered myself a friend of the Jewish community in Scotland, and it was wonderful seeing friends I have known for a very long time such as Ephraim Borowski and Rabbi Rubin. I am grateful to SCoJeC and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council for inviting me to join discussions on issues affecting Jewish communities across Scotland, and I would like to thank those present for sharing their insights. We spoke about a number of issues, first and foremost the importance of tackling antisemitism wherever and whenever it appears. In the fight against antisemitism, the Jewish community in Scotland should be in no doubt that they have an ally in me as First Minister. I reaffirmed my absolute commitment that the Scottish Government will continue to engage with the Jewish community on our collective aim of stamping out antisemitism, prejudice, and hate crime, which have no place in Scotland.

Meeting with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP

Rabbi Moshe Rubin, minister of Giffnock Newton Mearns Synagogue, and Senior Rabbi in Scotland, commented: "I was delighted that one of the new First Minister's first actions was to request a visit to Scotland's largest synagogue. Although he is no stranger, this was the first time I had an opportunity to explain the significance of various beliefs and practices, and to discuss the many points of similarity between his own Muslim faith and Judaism."

Glasgow Rep Council President Timothy Lovat added: “It was a pleasure to meet with the First Minister, and I appreciated his frankness in the discussions regarding issues of communal concern. I welcome his commitments to tackling antisemitism and to supporting the work of our organisations, and know he will be a listening ear to our community. I look forward to welcoming him back at a later date to meet more members of the Jewish community in Glasgow and beyond.

Meeting with the First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said: "We are very grateful to the First Minister for requesting this meeting so early in his tenure, and for giving us so much of his time to hear first hand about the changing shape of the Jewish community of Scotland and the concerns that Jewish people have about living in Scotland.  Both he and his predecessor have been frequent visitors to the community, and it is gratifying to see this excellent relationship continue. We welcome Mr Yousaf's interest in the experiences of Jewish students studying in Scottish universities, and look forward to taking up his offer to meet with them early in the next academic year. We were pleased to hear him assert that the Jewish Community should not be seen through the lens of antisemitism or the Holocaust, and welcome his support for the wider adoption of the internationally accepted (IHRA) definition of antisemitism by public bodies, and his understanding that the vast majority of the community have friends and family in Israel and so are personally affected by what happens there, as well as by fall-out on the streets of Scotland. We are reassured by his desire to engage personally with the Community and address our concerns at first hand and look forward to working with him and his Government to make sure that Scotland is a place where Jewish people can feel welcome, comfortable, and secure."



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