Scotlands History

Jewish immigration

Although medieval Scotland may have been visited by Jewish traders and scholars and some Jews may have fled north from persecution in medieval England, there is no firm evidence of any Jewish communities here at this time.

By the end of the 18th century several Jews were working in Scotland as traders or university teachers and there were some Jewish students.

The first Jewish community was formed in Edinburgh in 1816. In the early 19th century the Jewish community in Glasgow included a hatter, an optician, a furniture dealer, a jeweller, an artificial flower maker and a quill merchant. They formed a congregation in the city in 1823.

By the end of the 19th century many Jews came to Scotland to escape persecution and poverty in Eastern Europe. Most sailed on to start a new life in America but many settled in Scotland.

In 1914 there were more than 7000 Jews in Glasgow (0.9% of the total population) - most lived in a thriving community in the Gorbals. In 1939 the Jewish population of Glasgow increased as Jewish men, women and children escaped Nazi Germany and Austria.

Ayr, Dundee, Aberdeen, Dunfermline, Falkirk, Greenock and Inverness become home to Jewish families. Jewish communities in Scotland set up synagogues, founded social and cultural organisations, and educated their children.

The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre is based in Scotland's oldest synagogue - Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow. The Centre documents the religious, organisational, social, economic, political, cultural and family life of Jews in Scotland since the 18th century. It has a permanent exhibition 'A New Life in Scotland'.

  • photograph of the newpaper, the Glasgow Jewish Evening Times
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