Scottish lawmakers pan anti-Semitism, as many Jews said thinking of leaving

Community leader last year told parliament meeting on religious freedom that small Jewish population is ‘not feeling at home’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. (screen capture, YouTube)
Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. (screen capture, YouTube)

Two members of the Scottish parliament spoke out against the anti-Semitism faced by Jews in the country, after it emerged that many members of the community are considering leaving Scotland due to feelings of alienation and vulnerability.

Jackson Carlaw, the acting leader of the Scottish Tories, said, “Scotland’s Jews are entitled to feel safe, to feel valued and to look forward with the same optimism as any of us,” the Herald on Sunday reported.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine called for lawmakers to condemn local anti-Semitism.

“It’s truly horrifying that more and more Scottish Jews do not feel welcome in their own country, and would actually consider moving away,” she said. “Politicians of all parties must be vocal in condemning the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism.”

Their remarks came in response to a parliamentary committee meeting about the fears of the local Jewish community.

Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJec), told a gathering of the Cross-Party Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief last year that local Jews feel that times have changed.

“Mostly the Jewish community used to feel that Scotland was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has reversed,” he said, according to the minutes from the meeting outlining his presentation. “Many Jews actively discuss leaving Scotland because they feel alienated, vulnerable and not at home.

“The general message is not that it is terrible being Jewish in Scotland,” Borowski said. “But, in recent years, there has been a very worrying increase in the level of anti-Semitism in the country, with the result that many Jewish people report they are actively considering emigrating from Scotland.”

The meeting was held in February 2018, but was not reported on at the time, according to the Scottish Herald on Sunday.

Borowski told the meeting that only about two percent of Britain’s Jews live in Scotland.

The meeting was recorded as inquorate, as there were only two members of the Scottish parliament present.

Asked by the Herald on Sunday about Jewish feelings about possibly leaving the country, Borowski cited a 2015 report by SCoJec in which one-third of the community said they felt increased anxiety and vulnerability.

Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust, said that Borowski’s remarks reflect a general increase in anti-Semitism across Europe, the Herald reported.

“This is an accurate summary of the fact that despite the many positives of Scottish Jewish life, many Jews are still considerably more nervous about the state of anti-Semitism, politics and society than was the case 10 or 20 years ago,” Gardner said.

“A similar trend can be seen in Jewish communities across Europe and in this context, Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole remain relatively better than elsewhere,” he added.

According to a 2011 census, there were around 5,900 Jews in Scotland at the time.

In December, a European Union poll found that nearly 90 percent of European Jews feel that anti-Semitism has increased in their home countries over the past five years, and almost 30% said they had been harassed at least once in the previous 12 months.

Of the more than 16,000 Jews who participated in the online survey, 85% rated anti-Semitism the biggest social or political problem in the country where they live. Thirty-eight percent said they had considered emigrating because they did not feel safe as Jews.

The European Jewish Congress  issued a statement saying the report should serve as a “final warning” to the continent’s leaders, and that action must be taken.

Robert Philpot and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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