Scots are fired up by national get-together

First Jewish Gathering attracts people from around the country


Organisers of the first Scottish Jewish Gathering, held in Edinburgh over the weekend, say it “captured interest in a way we had not imagined”.

Around 160 people from across the country, and of all shades of observance, took part in the three-day programme, described as a combination of a Shabbaton and a Limmud. There were discussions, guest speakers, musical and cultural activities — and being Scotland, a whisky tasting.

John Danzig, chair of the host community, Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, said the weekend had “created a better sense of identity and strengthened communal ties. It also raised the profile of Jewish Scotland. Many people don’t register that there is a lot of positive stuff happening.”

Children and teenagers accounted for close to a fifth of the turnout and one benefit of the weekend was a pledge to bring young people from the different communities together on a more regular basis.

A key session focused on Jewish schooling. Calderwood Lodge Jewish Primary in Glasgow shares a campus with a Catholic school in a pioneering venture and Mr Danzig is keen to explore the Jewish educational possibilities for Edinburgh.

Debating ways to grow Jewish Scotland, participants stressed the need to promote young people into positions of responsibility and the importance of social media.

Guest contributors included Scottish Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf, who spoke of the commitment to protect minority groups against hatred. Board of Deputies vice-president, Iraqi-born Edwin Shuker, discussed Jewish migration. Other sessions covered student life, mental health and women in Judaism.

There was also significant involvement from SCoJeC, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. Its director, Ephraim Borowski, said the event had been “incredibly ambitious and successful. The buzz was palpable, despite the pall cast by the news from Pittsburgh.

“There were people from the south west to the north east, and even the Outer Hebrides, some of whom have never previously had the opportunity to attend communal activities.

“People found out that they are not the only Jews in their area. Many, especially the children, struck up new friendships and communal leaders discovered they have more in common than divides them.

With participants wanting more, “planning starts next week for 2019’s Scottish Jewish Gathering”.

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