UK's most northerly shul faces new crisis over repairs

Following a major appeal over flood damage, Aberdeen Synagogue now needs to find £40,000 for essential roof work


After years of problems and financial hardship, the UK’s most northerly synagogue, Aberdeen, is struggling to find funding for major roof repairs.

The shul has taken a loan of £20,000 towards the £40,000 cost. With a donation of £5,000 received, the small community needs to find another £15,000.

Repairs had begun before the lockdown, builder Louise Paterson having taken on the job knowing the synagogue could not pay her until the middle of next year. Treasurer Mark Taylor told the JC that one of the two rented properties attached to the synagogue, which account for most of the shul’s income, had been vacated and they had not been able to re-let.

“We’re trying desperately not to close the synagogue. We don’t want to follow Dundee, which closed last year, but it is a challenge to say the least.”

Unable to stage planned fundraising events because of Scottish government restrictions, the situation was “quite difficult”.

Only a few years ago, the shul had to raise £21,000 following a major flood and Mr Taylor acknowledged: “I can’t keep going back to the same funding bodies because they’ve been so generous to us in the past.”

After their plans for fundraising events were dashed, Scottish communities’ council SCoJeC put on three livestreamed talks with Scottish Jewish authors, raising just under £3,000 towards the remaining £15,000.

Speakers at the Zoom talks, which attracted a global audience, included cookery writer Ethel Hofman, who spoke about growing up Jewish in the Shetland Isles. Professor Nathan Abrams of Bangor University discussed 75 years of Dee Street — the history of the Aberdeen Jewish community.

Ms Hofman, who rustled up a “confinement” chocolate cake for the occasion, recalled her mother telling her about arriving in the Shetlands from Glasgow and asking her father: “Why did you bring me to such a God-forsaken place?”

During Prof Abrams’ talk, audience members recounted personal stories of the Aberdeen shul.

Synagogue vice-president Debby Taylor said that despite the income from the SCoJeC events, leaders needed to “think hard about what we’re going to do to fundraise over the next few months, bearing in mind we are dealing with Covid-19 as well”.




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