Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
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The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC) is the representative body of all the Jewish communities of Scotland. Its primary function is to act on behalf of Scotland's Jewish Communities to all external bodies. It is also responsible for a variety of activities and publications to support Jews and Jewish Communities in Scotland, and fostering both good community relations and community cohesion.
George Reid, the former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, speaking at the SCoJeC AGM in 2007, said: "SCoJeC is an example to other communities. I want to thank the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities for grasping the outstretched hand of the Parliament, and for getting involved. Ephraim and Leah [the Director and Deputy Director respectively] are weel kent figures to Ministers, to MSPs, to the senior civil servants, to the leaders of the STUC. You bring common sense and decency to everything you do. And you do engage – how you engage! In Scotland, your small community has made a remarkable contribution to our national life. Through the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities it has led to your full engagement with our new institutions."
SCoJeC was formed in 1999, principally by the Glasgow Jewish Representative Council and the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, after Devolution to give the Jewish Community of Scotland a single democratically accountable voice in dealings with the Scottish Parliament and Government, other communities, and other statutory and official bodies. The intention, when it was established was for it to stand in the same relationship to the Scottish Government as the Board of Deputies of British Jews does to Her Majesty's Government.
Consequently the Council is autonomous in matters devolved by the Scotland Act, such as justice, health and welfare, and community relations, whilst the Board of Deputies speaks for all Britain's Jews on reserved matters such as foreign affairs and equality legislation.
SCoJeC is a democratic representative organisation, and the members of its Council are the elected representatives of each of the formally organised Jewish communities in Scotland – Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee – as well as two other informal groups, the Jewish Network of Argyll and the Highlands, and Jewish students studying in Scottish Universities and Colleges. There are also six coopted members of Council, who have wide experience of various aspects of public life in Scotland; these have included a former judge and law professor, a senior member of a local authority social work department, a professor of social policy, a consultant physician, and the head of a civil service department. In addition members of the community who are office-bearers of organisations to which SCoJeC is affiliated, such as the Board of Deputies and BEMIS are invited as observers.
The Council meets at least three times a year, and the Executive more frequently. The Council also consults widely within the Community, both with relevant communal organisations and with the orthodox, Reform, and Liberal communities before it makes representations to Government or others, and only does so when there is a clear consensus. Where opinion is diverse and deeply divided, as for example on matters relating to Middle East politics, the Council does not express an opinion unless there is an effect on the Community in Scotland.
SCoJeC is registered as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (no. SC 029 438 ).
SCoJeC's functions generally fall into four key areas:
- Representing Scotland's Jewish Community to other external organisations, and working with other communities and umbrella groups to improve community relations;
- Community work, organising activities and producing publications to connect Scotland's Jews with each other and their communities, and providing support for their activities.
- Interfaith work, aimed at fostering positive relations with other groups in Scotland
- Producing resources geared towards educating and enhancing understanding on Judaism and life of Jews in Scotland, both to the people they represent and to those outside the Jewish community.
SCoJeC's representative work is as wide-ranging as the areas of Scottish Government responsibilities that have the potential to affect Jews and Jewish life in Scotland, ranging from education through health and social care, to criminal justice and family law. Its main work includes promoting the understanding of Jewish religion, culture and community, and working to provide information and assistance to local authorities, other faith and ethnic communities, and educational, health and welfare bodies across the country. Furthermore SCoJeC makes representations on behalf of the Jewish Community in Scotland to the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliamentary committees, MSPs, and other bodies on issues concerning Jews in Scotland. Examples of this are as follows:
- Responding to the 2011 'Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill)'.
- Criticising the 'postcode lottery' of invasive detailed autopsies in Scotland, and organising a meeting with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in order to discuss alternatives to invasive post-mortem
- Taking part in a Seminar on Race Equality in Scotland at the Scottish Parliament
- Responding to the 'Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Bill'
- Raising concerns about the Scottish Government's plans to re-use graves
- Consulting on and contributing to Scottish Government implementation groups concerning the 'Protection of Vulnerable Groups Act: consultation on draft guidance and secondary legislation'
- Contributing a Hebrew Prayer at the 2007 and 2011 Kirking of Scottish Parliament in the presence of the Prince of Wales and Duke of York respectively.
- Meetings with the STUC over concerns about antisemitism in Scotland, and contributing an essay to their yearly anti-racism brochure.
- Speaking at a conference on hate crime organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Solicitor General
SCoJeC's work in the community enables the Jewish communities in Scotland, and Jewish individuals living outwith any settled community, to connect with one another.
- Four Corners – a quarterly newsletter providing information about Jewish events and issues throughout Scotland.
- "Being Jewish in Scotland" – a small-scale inquiry carried out by SCoJeC, with funding from the Scottish Government, to find out more about the variety of experience of Jewish people in Scotland, and encourage them to identify the issues that are important to them.
- A 'Kosher Ceilidh' tour to places such as Maybole, Lochgilphead, Skye, St Andrews, and Aberdeen,
- A barbecue at Dundee Synagogue
- A Chanukah party in Lochgilphead
- Supporting joint events between Jewish students studying in Scotland and the local communities, such as a Succot event hosted by the St Andrews University Jewish Society.
- Working in partnership with other Jewish community organisations in Scotland such as Northern Region Jewish Chaplaincy, the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation and Limmud Scotland in promoting outreach.
Promoting good community relations
SCoJeC works in partnership with other organisations to develop good relationships between communities. Activities include:
- Organising the Scottish Interfaith Pilgrimage to Israel, supported by First Minister Alex Salmond, and covered by both BBC Scotland and the Herald newspaper.
- Sponsoring a Symposium jointly with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow, to mark the 45th anniversary of the historic Nostra aetate.
- SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski having been appointed Convener of BEMIS, the ethnic minority infrastructure body in Scotland.
- Being represented on the Executive of the Scottish Interfaith Council.
SCoJeC also produces a number of resources aimed at furthering education on Jews in Scotland, such as:
- The Guide to Jewish Facilities in Scotland which gives information about communities and facilities throughout the country.
- Scotland's Jews, documenting the history and concerns of the Scottish Jewish community, with prefaces by the First Minister and the Chief Rabbi.
- The Jewish Way of Life interactive learning resource for schools.
- MEMO, "a weekly overview of information of interest to minority ethnic communities in Scotland, including parliamentary activity at Holyrood and Westminster, new publications, consultations, forthcoming conferences and news reports; and MEMO+, an occasional series of briefings and reports on a variety of issues of interest to minority communities, both published in association with BEMIS, and supported by the Scottish Government."
- Four Corners Magazine, December 2007
- About SCoJeC
- Who's Who in SCoJeC
- Scottish Herald article on autopsies
- Alternatives to invasive post-mortem
- Report on Runnymede Trust seminar on Race Equality
- STV article on grave shortages
- Prince of Wales reports on 2007 Kirking of Scottish Parliament
- SCoJeC report on 2011 Kirking of Scottish Parliament
- STUC report on meeting with SCoJeC
- Hate Crime Conference
- Kosher Ceilidh
- Barbecue in Dundee
- Chanukah in Lochgilphead
- Succot in St Andrews
- SCoJeC partnerships
- Letter of support from Alex Salmond
- Interfaith group visits Jerusalem (video)
- BBC Scotland Radio interview on Interfaith Pilgrimage (audio)
- BBC Scotland Thought for the Day 4 July 2008
- BBC Scotland Riddoch Questions
- Glasgow Herald article on interfaith pilgrimage
- Nostra Aetate Symposium
- SCoJeC Director elected BEMIS Convener