Scottish Jewry: Hiding our identity 'to avoid abuse'

Scottish Jews hide their religious identity to avoid abuse and attack, a wide-ranging survey has found.

Israelis living in the country reported that they often pretended to be French or Turkish to "avoid uncomfortable situations".

Being Jewish in Scotland was compiled by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. The organisation spoke to 240 Scottish Jews across the country to gauge their views on topics including culture, religion, food and education.

Report author, Fiona Frank, said: "We believe that the inquiry has already contributed to making the scattered Jewish community of Scotland feel safer and stronger, both by the simple fact of reaching out to them, and by signalling that there is somebody here to listen and help."

Israelis pretend to be French or Turkish in Scotland

She said making people recall experiences such as being forced to eat non-kosher food during a hospital stay or singing a Christian hymn in a school choir was vital in understanding how Jews lived and worked in Scotland.

SCoJeC's interim report, published this week, found that among non-Jews there was a lack of understanding about Jewish issues, with many respondents claiming that they were often told they were "the first Jewish person" a non-Jew had met in Scotland.

The survey reinforced the commonly-held belief that Jewish communities were being depleted by the departure of young graduates who left home and did not return, and further hampered by their parents soon following them, usually to London and also to Israel.

Abusive behaviour at schools was highlighted as a particular concern, with the study revealing that "you Jew" was often used as a general derogatory term in playgrounds.

Parents reported that when they had requested that their child was exempted from a school's Christian services or Christmas activities, teachers had responded with "incomprehension – or worse".

Further problems were experienced on university campuses. Anti-Israel sentiment made Scottish Jews "feel insecure and vulnerable".

Community members said they wanted to see better kosher food provision, wider Jewish education and more social activities outside Glasgow, the country's largest Jewish community.

Ms Frank said the findings might also be used to help other minorities.

    Last updated: 4:27pm, March 22 2012