Micheline Brannan: Turning the tide in Scotland

Micheline Brannan, SCOJEC President updates us on the progress made by SCOJEC in recent years...

“Scotland’s a darn fine place to be a Jew,” was the consensus when the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) carried out a Scottish Government funded survey in 2012.  No more, it seems.  By the time we revisited these findings in 2014, many respondents were anxious, talked about being afraid to proclaim their Jewish identity, and felt under attack from virulent antisemitism masquerading as campaigns against Zionism and Israel.  People feel particularly vulnerable as the community has dwindled to less than 10 000 souls scattered all over Scotland.

But there is also good news. After three years of frosty relations, the Church of Scotland has proposed a new dialogue and acknowledged “the damaged relationships arising out of the Church’s involvement in the Balfour Project conference in 2012 and the publication of the “Inheritance of Abraham?” in 2013”.  Thankfully, politicians also seem to be concerned about promoting good community relations, and there is a new Cross-Party Group on “Building Bridges with Israel”.  SCoJeC has received considerably increased funding from the Scottish Government to support our work to reach isolated and vulnerable Jewish people and encourage civic engagement by other minority communities.  We are reaching ever more schools through our ground-breaking project to provide “Jewish Objects for Education in Scotland” resource boxes (“JOES boxes”), and we continue to hold Jewish events in places others don’t reach.

With interest in antisemitism at an all-time high, SCoJeC’s director has had articles published by both the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Trade Unions Congress about the findings of our Being Jewish in Scotland reports. We have had very friendly and positive meetings with the Communities and Equalities Secretary, with the Lord Advocate, Scotland’s top Law Officer, and with the highest echelons of Police Scotland, and the First Minister told the Lord Advocate’s conference on hate crime that “I don’t want to be the First Minister, or even live in, a country where Jewish people want to leave or hide their identity.”

With hard work maybe we can reach a turning point, and members of the community will again say that “Scotland’s a darn file place to be a Jew”.