History of the Jews in Scotland

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Religion in Scotland

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Church of Scotland
Roman Catholic Church
Associated Presbyterian Churches
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Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
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Scottish Reformation
History of the Jews in Scotland

The earliest date at which Jews arrived in Scotland is not known. It is possible that some arrived, or at least visited, as a result of the Roman Empire's conquest of southern Great Britain, but there is no direct evidence for this. What the Romans referred to as "Caledonia" was never integrated into the Empire, although there was a short-lived occupation of southern Scotland, but Roman influence and trade continued after the withdrawal of their troops. Most histories of Jews in Scotland deal with the subject matter from a British perspective, and the Scottish aspect tends to be marginalised.

The vast majority of Scottish Jews are Ashkenazi with many from Lithuania.


[edit] Middle Ages to Union with England

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While England during the Middle Ages had state persecution of the Jews, culminating in the expulsion of 1290 (it has been suggested that Jews may have arrived in Scotland after this date)[citation needed], there was never a corresponding expulsion from Scotland. Indeed the eminent Jewish-Scottish scholar David Daiches states in his autobiographical Two Worlds: An Edinburgh Jewish Childhood that there are grounds for saying that Scotland is the only European country which has no history of state persecution of Jews. Evidence of Jews in medieval Scotland is fairly scanty, but in 1190, the Bishop of Glasgow forbade churchmen to "ledge their benefices for money borrowed from Jews". [1] This was around the time of the Anti-Jewish riots in England so it is possible Jewish refugees lived in Scotland for a brief time, or it may refer to English Jews' interests in Scotland. Aberdeen and Dundee had close links to Baltic ports such as in Poland and Lithuania known as Scottish merchant trade routes. It is possible that Jewish people may have came to Scotland to trade with their Scottish counterparts[2].

Like many Christian nations, medieval Scots believed themselves to have a Biblical connection. The Declaration of Arbroath (6 April, 1320), which was sent as an appeal to Pope John XXII, confirmed Scotland's status as an independent, sovereign state and asserted its right to use military action when considered unjustly attacked. It was sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles. It is still periodically referenced by British Israelitists. The text asserts that in the eyes of God:

cum non sit Pondus nec distinccio Judei et Greci, Scoti aut Anglici
("there is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or English")

The Stone of Destiny (Lia Fáil) is also supposed to be the pillow stone said to have been used by the Biblical Jacob.

The first recorded Jew in Edinburgh was one David Brown in 1693, shortly before the Union [3], who made an application to reside and trade in the city.

[edit] Post-Union

The majority of Jewish immigration appears to have occurred post-industrialisation, and post-1707, meaning that Jews in Scotland were subject to various anti-Jewish British laws. Oliver Cromwell readmitted Jews to England, Cornwall and Wales in 1656, and would have had some influence over the Scottish situation. Scotland was under the jurisdiction of the Jew Bill, enacted in 1753, but repealed the next year.

The first graduate from the University of Glasgow who was openly-known to be Jewish was Levi Myers, in 1787. Unlike their English contemporaries, Scottish students were not required to take a religious oath.

In 1795, we learn of Herman Lyon, who bought a burial plot in Edinburgh. He was of German nationality originally, and was a dentist and chiropodist. He had moved to Scotland in 1788. There is no trace of the burial plot on Calton Hill today, but it is marked on the Ordnance Survey map of 1852 as "Jew's Burial vault".[4]

The first Jewish congregation in Edinburgh was founded in 1816, and in Glasgow in 1823 [5]. That of Aberdeen was founded in 1893. The Jewish cemetery in Dundee indicates that there has been a Jewish congregation in that city since the 19th Century.

Glasgow-born Asher Asher (1837-1889) was the first Scottish Jew to enter the medical profession. The only book he published was The Jewish Rite of Circumcision (1873).

By 1878, Jews became attached to the Scottish aristocracy when Hannah Primrose, Countess of Rosebery, one of the Rothschilds, born in England, married Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery. She died at Dalmeny. Her son, Harry, would become Secretary of State for Scotland in 1945 for a year.

In order to avoid persecution in the Russian Empire, Jews settled in the larger cities of the UK, including Scotland, most notably in Glasgow (especially the Gorbals), although there were smaller populations in Edinburgh and to a lesser extent, Dundee, Aberdeen and Greenock. The Russian Jews tended to come from the west of the empire, especially the Baltic countries, and in particular Lithuania. It has been suggested that the Gorbals had a Jewish population of between 10,000 to 20,000, many decades ago although this has not been verified.[6]

[edit] 20th Century

Immigration continued into the 20th century, with over 8,000 Jews in 1905 [7]. The Scottish Jewish community was augmented in the mid-20th century by refugees from Nazism and the Second World War.

Organised British anti-Semitism arose in the form of British Union of Fascists, which met with limited success in Scotland. Oswald Mosley did visit Scotland, but his group was physically attacked on Princes Street in Edinburgh by "Protestant Action", which believed his group to be an Italian (i.e. Roman Catholic) intrusion. In fact, it has been claimed that bigotry was diverted away from Jews by anti-Catholicism, particularly in Glasgow, where the main racist/religious prejudice was against Irish people [8]. The Englishness of many "British" hard-right movements also most-likely alienated many Scots who could have been potential converts. Perhaps the most prominent and vocal supporter of anti-Semitism was the eccentric aristocrat Archibald Maule Ramsay, but it is difficult to link him with any large Scottish tendency. In the Gorbals at least, both Louise Sless and Woolf Silver, recall no anti-Semitic sentiment. [9].

According to the 2001 census, approximately 6,400 Jews live in Scotland, most of whom are in Edinburgh (about 1,000), Glasgow (about 7,000), and to a lesser extent Dundee. Scotland's Jewish population continues to be predominantly urban. The SSPCA came into conflict with the Aberdeen congregation over slaughtering methods at the turn of the 20th century. As with Christianity, the practising Jewish population continues to fall, as many younger Jews either become secular, or intermarry with other faiths. Scottish Jews have also emigrated in large numbers to the USA, England and the Commonwealth for economic reasons, as other Scots have done. Only a handful have moved to Israel[citation needed]. Scotland currently has a strong Palestinian Solidarity campaign, led by the likes of George Galloway, which sometimes is the cause of some friction with Scottish Jews, particularly over fundraising by the Jewish National Fund in the country.

In August, 2006, protests against the invasion of Lebanon by Israel led to their amateur cricket team having to play behind barbed wire at RAF Lossiemouth. However some Scottish Jews actually took part in this protest to show their disagreement with Israel's actions.

[edit] List of Scottish Jews

This page is a list of Jews.
For more on who is considered Jewish, see Who is a Jew?.

Scottish people of some Jewish background:

[edit] People of Scottish-Jewish extraction

[edit] References

JYB = Jewish Year Book

[edit] Further reading

  • Collins, Dr KE - Scotland's Jews - A Guide to the History and Community of the Jews in Scotland (1999)
  • Conn, A (editor) - Serving Their Country- Wartime Memories of Scottish Jews (2002)
  • Kaplan, H L - Jewish Cemeteries in Scotland in Avotaynu, Vol.VII No 4, Winter 1991
  • Levy, A - The Origins of Scottish Jewry
  • Phillips, Abel - A History of the Origins of the First Jewish Community in Scotland: Edinburgh, 1816 (1979)

[edit] Scottish Jewish autobiography

  • Daiches, David - Two Worlds - An Edinburgh Jewish Childhood
  • Shinwell, Manny - Conflict Without Malice (1955)

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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