Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond highlighted the Jewish contribution to the nation at a reception at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Tuesday night.
Mr Salmond was guest of honour at the launch of a photographic exhibition by Judah Passow celebrating the country’s Jewish community, which will have its first major display in New York.
Admiring the varied images, Mr Salmond spoke of the long heritage of Scottish Jewry. He noted that the country’s founding document — the Declaration of Arbroath (1320) — specifically mentioned the right of Jews to reside in Scotland.
“It’s a very well-entrenched community in Scotland,” he said. “Not a large one but it’s been here for a very long time, which is why I referred to the Declaration of Arbroath. It’s an amazing phrase to be in a Middle-Ages document and I hope it’s emblematic of the Scottish attitude towards our Jewish community.
“I’ve had a look through some of the pictures and I think [the exhibition is] fantastic. I always liked the idea since I heard about it and it’s turned out extremely well as Judah is obviously a very talented photographer. But even the most talented photographer needs a canvas of people — and from the sheep farmer to the kosher haggis there is lot of interesting stuff.
”It’s been a great joy meeting people within the community. I’m very encouraged by the way things are developing and to my perspective it seems to be becoming an increasingly confident community.”
The 80 images in the exhibition were chosen from over 12,000 Mr Passow took in major centres and remote areas.
Expatriate Glaswegian Michael Mail organised the project to heighten the profile of the community, raising £90,000 from Creative Scotland (the former Scottish Arts Council) and private donors.
“I think, with the community declining, it’s important we acknowledge Scotland’s Jews,” he said.
“[The exhibition] is about the Jewish community but it’s not for the Jewish community. We want to take this story to Scottish society and the world. To have the First Minister coming is fantastic and a great recognition that we are part of the fabric of Scottish society.”