BBC – Being Jewish in Scotland (2022)

BBC – Being Jewish in Scotland (2022)
English | Documentary | Size: 785 MB

The Jewish population has been a well-integrated part of Scottish society for centuries, but their story is not well known. This programme tells their story through a series of intimate, contemporary portraits.

Scotland’s Jewish community dates back as far as the 1700s. Small in number until the late 1800s, it grew to around 20,000 during the 1930s and 1940s, with the last phase of immigration driven by the flight before and during World War II. At one time, Scotland had around 20 dedicated synagogues and was home to countless kosher butchers, bakers and grocers. The community centred around the Gorbals in Glasgow but was spread throughout the country.

Then, as now, there are Jewish people living in every local authority of the country. The population remains vibrant but has shrunk to around 6,000 in number, with only six physical synagogues remaining, though there are smaller congregations and less formal communities on top of that. As younger generations migrated south or abroad for work, they would often stay where they landed, discovering the heady comforts of living in a ‘proper’ Jewish community.

Rabbi Moshi Rubin is Scotland’s most senior religious leader and head of Giffnock and Newton Mearns, the largest orthodox congregation in the country. A Hassidic Jew born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Rubin and his then young wife first came to Glasgow when they were newly married in 1989. Eight children, and hundreds of Glaswegian bar and bat mitzvahs later, they are still happily at the heart of their ever-changing community. The Rubins are just one of families we learn more about in this film.

We also meet Ash, a recent convert who decided to join progressive liberal community Sukkat Shalom due to its queer-friendly atmosphere, and Deborah, born in Glasgow to an orthodox family and now an honorary curator at the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.

For Mark Cohen and his mother, Doreen, food is at the heart of their Jewish lives. As owners of the only kosher deli in the country, they are the custodians of a vital component of Jewish life. For historian Emily, deliveries from the deli help keep her and her family in touch with Jewish life. However, she and husband Bill have concerns – will their children feel they belong as Jews growing up miles from the nearest synagogue?

In Inverness, we meet Kathy, a Holocaust survivor who came to Scotland in the 70s. We also meet Anita, a young professional living in Edinburgh who has finally found her people. Growing up in Aberdeen, Anita was the only Jewish person in both primary and secondary school. It wasn’t always easy, and the bullies often resorted to anti-Semitic tropes.

Rabbi Pete Tobias, sometime leader at Scotland’s only Reform synagogue, tells of how he has returned to guide his small congregation towards the future. It is clear that the fraught subject of who isn’t and isn’t Jewish is becoming more fluid in certain quarters, with the Reform movement encouraging more inclusion.

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