Scotland's new report on being Jewish

By Jessica Elgot, July 12, 2012
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A major report into Jews living in Scotland, from cities to the Highlands, has found many concerned about anti-Zionism and antisemitism and a hunger for more Jewish contact from those who live far from established communities.

Being Jewish in Scotland, from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (Scojec), found that the majority of 300 respondents had “positive experiences of living in Scotland”, but 80 per cent mentioned the crossover of anti- Zionism into antisemitism as a cause for concern.

The report said: “A significant number began by saying that they had never experienced any antisemitism in Scotland, or indeed that none exists, but then without prompting went on to describe some serious examples.”

One respondent mentioned a time when a party guest asked him if he “killed Palestinian children.” An Israeli woman in her 40s said she “saw the look of disgust” when she mentioned her nationality. “Now, I sometimes say I’m Turkish or Italian rather than Israeli.”

One man, from north east Scotland, said: “I used to be proud to wear a kippah all the time, but when I lived in Edinburgh, I was harassed several times by pro-Palestinians in the city centre.”

The report also found “considerable ignorance in schools about Judaism, and in some cases incomprehension or indifference when this is drawn to their attention”.

Leah Granat, deputy director of Scojec, said the council would use the report to raise awareness about Jewish issues with the NHS, police, schools and burial services.

A major initiative is planned to help Jews living in largely non-Jewish areas, who are often called upon to give talks on their religion, at schools, youth groups and churches.

Ms Granat explained: “Many Jewish people visit schools and other organisations to talk about Judaism, but this is done often by people with little knowledge. We’re hoping to develop resources for people online, which they can use to give these sessions.”

Being Jewish in Scotland has “led to many people rediscovering their Judaism, meeting each other, and sparking off local Jewish events.” Project worker Fiona Frank attended a klezmer event in Dunoon, a celebration of Jewish writing in Inverness and a lecture on immigration in Dundee, to seek out Jews.

Ms Granat said: “In many places we visited, we were approached by someone who would sidle up and say ‘I’m the only Jew in town’. And then another person would come up and say the same thing.”

The project, which is still ongoing, had 153 individual survey responses, and ran 28 focus groups and events, with more than 300 participants in total.

Last updated: 10:51am, July 12 2012