The Scottish Jewish population has fallen below 6,000, according to the country’s latest census results. Newly released figures from the 2011 census record the total as 5,887, a fall of 500 from the 2001 survey.
Around 3,500 reside in Greater Glasgow, with 2,400 of those based in the suburb of East Renfrewshire. But this figure is down by 1,000 over the decade. However, the Jewish population in the Edinburgh area has increased to 1,000. The next largest community is Aberdeen and the Grampians, totalling around 300.
The overall figure is disputed by the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities director Ephraim Borowski. He accepted that the Jewish population had fallen but claimed “that in 2001 numbers were around 11,000 and now they are around 8,500. Different studies that have been carried out suggest that around one-in-three Jewish people do not identify themselves as such on the census.
“One of the things that is quite intriguing is that the community in Greater Glasgow has shrunk but in other parts of the country it has actually increased. I think that could be partly due to Scojec as we have provided people who did not have a community before with something they can now feel they belong to. We have been doing a lot of work in rural areas and it shows the value.”
Glasgow Jewish Representative Council president Paul Morron said in a recent interview that “the rate of decline from emigration has slowed. There are also indicators that there is an increase in Jewish students in Glasgow. There is a demand from them to see if we can find internships or jobs. It will be interesting to see how this trend continues but there is a possibility that for the first time in decades we could have an infusion of new blood. We will certainly be doing all we can to encourage them to stay.”
Jewish Care Scotland chief executive Suzanne Neville observed that “young people tend to move away after leaving school to go on a gap year or study abroad and they don’t tend to come back. They marry and set up homes somewhere else — and in some cases their parents follow them once grandchildren are born. It definitely is an ageing community [the charity helps 500 people annually throughout Scotland] but some new people are coming in.
“We still have the school [Calderwood Lodge Primary] although it’s not completely Jewish. We still have events and people wanting to get together. Our appeal is holding up quite well. We have about 1,200 people on our database and about half of them donate. So there’s still potential in the community to bring more donations in. And we get really good support for our events.”
Active Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation member Janet Mundy was pleasantly surprised at the rise in the local Jewish population but added: “We have several Jewish organisations here but membership would not be anywhere near that number.
“With the Edinburgh Jewish Dialogue we have started, we want to try and bring the whole community closer together but it’s still in its very early stages.”