As tragic events continue to unfold in Israel, SCoJeC and the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council held a Service of Solidarity in Giffnock Newton Mearns Synagogue. More than 500 members of the community, parliamentarians, civic and faith leaders, and guests joined together to reflect on the events of the last week when we saw innocent civilians in Israel subject to a barbaric attack by Hamas. Innocent men, women, and children have been indiscriminately murdered and many have been have taken hostage including old people, Holocaust survivors, and young children.
Rep Council President Timothy Lovat opened the service by stating powerfully that “Israel may be our homeland, but Scotland is our home. Let’s live and pray together in peace and harmony today, tomorrow, and forever”. He then invited the mother of the late Bernard Cowan, who was murdered in Israel the previous Saturday, to light a memorial candle in memory of her son who was born in Glasgow.
The senior rabbi in Scotland, Rabbi Moshe Rubin of Giffnock Newton Mearns Synagogue, gave a moving address, sharing how difficult the previous days had been since he led the congregation over Simchat Torah. He talked of his own reflections of the events in Israel and shared his hope that the community across Scotland continue to take comfort from one another.
The Provost of East Renfrewshire Council, Mary Montague, remarked that her own roots were in the Gorbals, and reflected on her lifelong friendships with Jewish neighbours from that time. She concluded that all in the Council “share your great sorrow for the losses suffered, and reaffirm our unequivocal support for our Jewish communities.”
Psalms were then led by Rabbi Jacobs from Lubavitch, Rabbi David Rose from Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, and Philip Mendelsohn representing Garnethill Synagogue. The prayer for the injured and kidnapped soldiers and civilians was read by Rabbi Rubin and Dr Mia Spiro, Chair of Jewish Student Chaplaincy Scotland.
Kirsten Oswald, MP for East Renfrewshire, shared her reflections on the previous days, commenting that “Our local area and our whole country is enriched in so many and varied ways because of our Jewish communities. But that same community is now in shock. Hurting and heartsore, and worried about family in Israel, about friends, and about what comes next as innocent lives are lost to the awful terror and violence … We are with you, we share in your worry and your sorrow, and we are here to support you.”
Leaders from across the community then led prayers. Jacqueline Dunn, the Head Teacher of Calderwood Lodge Primary School, Scotland’s only Jewish school, read the Prayer for the Royal Family, Babeth Naddell, Chair of Glasgow Reform Synagogue, read the Prayer for the State of Israel, and Adam Lewis, Chair of the Glasgow Jewish Community Trust, read the special prayer composed by the Chief Rabbi.
Stanley Lovatt, Honorary Consul for Israel, shared his experiences of the previous week and described the work done to support Israelis in Scotland. He also highlighted the many offers of support he has received, and concluded by reading a letter written to the Scottish Jewish Community from the President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, who thanked the community in Glasgow and Scotland more widely for their solidarity, support, and prayers. During the evening, the Choir sang Hashem Ma Adam, Yevarechecha, and lastly Avinu Malkeinu.
Timothy Lovat welcomed the First Minister, Humza Yousaf MSP, who spoke powerfully about his wish to be with the Jewish community that evening, saying “Your grief is my grief.” He spoke of his fears for his wife’s family in Gaza, and joined with the community in praying for an end to the pain caused to so many. As he left the podium, he was embraced by Timothy as the audience applauded his heartfelt speech.
SCoJeC Chair Nicola Livingston gave a vote of thanks, which she closed by acknowledging all that went into making the service possible, and thanking the staff across all of our communal organisations in Scotland who have worked tirelessly to ensure the community received the support it needs in such difficult times.
The First Minister stated unequivocally, "I stand in solidarity with Scotland's Jewish community, who have lost members of their community in the senseless and horrific attacks we witnessed last Saturday in Southern Israel. I want to send my condolences to the victims and the families of all those affected by this desperate situation. At a time of great sorrow and sadness, I want you to be in no doubt whatsoever that I, and the Government I lead, stand with you and with all communities who are mourning the loss of innocent life."