Glasgow shuls draw up merger plans

By Stephanie Brickman, February 18, 2011

Glasgow's two biggest Orthodox synagogues are to consider a merger.

The Giffnock and Newlands and Newton Mearns shuls have set up a joint steering group to explore closer co-operation.

Newton Mearns' new chairman Brian Fox stressed there was no set agenda."It could take months or even years but both shuls wanted to start the process that has been talked about for many years."

The Glasgow Jewish community is in decline and it is widely accepted that, in time, only one Orthodox congregation will remain. In the past 10 years two synagogues have disbanded - Queen's Park and most recently Netherlee and Clarkston Hebrew Congregation, which is winding down its activities.

Both remaining shuls are based just south of Glasgow in East Renfrewshire. Giffnock and Newlands has 850 members; Newton Mearns has 450 and a slightly younger profile. They have gained membership from the closure of other congregations.

"The community as a whole is getting smaller and we need to address this while both congregations are in a position of strength," Mr Fox explained.

"It would be rather short-sighted to just say we are fine. We need to see the community as a whole and work together for its benefit. It may be that we remain as two shuls, it may be that we merge. We are looking at what's best."

His sentiments were echoed by Giffnock and Newlands vice-chair Nigel Allon, who is expected to take over the chairmanship next month.

"Too often people wait until the last minute to embrace change and that limits their choice," he said. "If we merge - and personally I hope that we do - then it will be up to the united congregations to decide where we go from there."

One key issue would be the location of a merged congregation as both shuls have members who are not within walking distance of the other synagogue.

Giffnock and Newlands has a large function suite and is based alongside a Jewish community centre with office provision for various communal organisations.

However, the building is too big for the congregation and is in need of refurbishment.

"The long-term scenario would have to be a common building," Mr Allon said. "The question is at what point do we do that and how do we do it?"

Last updated: 11:43am, February 18 2011