‘Jews used to feel welcome. For many that’s no longer true’
Community leader hits out at rising tide of Scots anti-Semitism
JEWS are “actively considering” emigrating from Scotland over rising levels of anti-Semitism, according to one of the most senior Jewish community leaders.
Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities has told MSPs some have discussed leaving after feeling “alienated, vulnerable and not at home”.
He said: “Mostly the Jewish community used to feel that Scotland was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has reversed.”
Jackson Carlaw, acting leader of the Scottish Tories whose Eastwood seat contains a sizeable Jewish population, said: “Too often concerns over the policies of Israel are conflated with open hostility to Jews resident, visiting or studying in Scotland. Ignorance is the champion of much antiSemitism and ever has it been.
“Ephraim Borowski’s words are a challenge to all of us.”
ONE of the most senior Jewish community figures told MSPs that many Jews are “actively considering” emigrating f rom Scotland over rising levels of anti-Semitism.
Ephraim Borowski, the director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC), said that members of the ethnic minority have discussed leaving after feeling “alienated, vulnerable and not at home”.
Jackson Carlaw, the acting leader of the Scottish Tories whose Eastwood seat contains a sizeable Jewish population, said: “Scotland’s Jews are entitled to feel safe, to feel valued and to look forward with the same optimism as any of us.”
A recent report by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights found that almost 90% of respondents across European countries believed instances of anti-Semitism had increased over the past five years
Only a small proportion of UK-based Jews live in Scotland, but there have been recorded incidents of anti-Semitism north of the Border.
Borowski, who was awarded an MBE for his service on behalf of the Jewish community, made a presentation last year to the Scottish Parliament’s CrossParty Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
The meeting took place in February, but the contents of the discussion were not reported at the time.
The minute recounted parts of his contribution: “The general message is not that it is terrible being Jewish in Scotland.
“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.”
On anti-Semitism more broadly, he said what was most concerning was when Jews were “treated differently” to everyone else and “singled out”.
He cited the Macpherson report, which considered racism in the Metropolitan police force, which he said backed the principle that if a “victim or witness says that a crime was racist then it has to be taken at a prima facie level as racist”.
The minute quoted Borowski adding: “That principle is only challenged in the context of anti-Semitism. People saying that some action or statement is not anti-Semitism.
“This is others trying to define the Jewish communities hurt.”
According to the minute, the SCoJec director also said that the small number of reported incidents did not “necessarily” mean Scotland was more welcoming, noting that the country only has about 2% of the UK’s Jewish population: “Mostly the Jewish community used to feel that Scotland was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has reversed.
“Many Jews actively discuss leaving Scotland because they feel alienated, vulnerable and not at home.”
The claim reflects the figures in the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights report, published last month, which found that 38% of Jews surveyed said that they had considered emigrating from their country over the past five years, with the highest proportions found i n Germany, France and Belgium.
The survey also found that three-quarters of Jewish people in the UK perceived anti-Semitism to be generally a very big or a fairly big problem, with 29% having considered emigrating.
Asked by The Herald on Sunday how widespread the emigration view is in the Jewish community in Scotland, Borowski pointed to SCoJec research f rom 2015 in which one- third of respondents explicitly talked about a heightened level of anxiety, discomfort, or vulnerability.
He also said that, as part of the survey, five people told SCoJec without being prompted that they were considering leaving Scotland.
The row on anti-Semitism in the UK last year focused heavily on the response by the Labour party to allegations of anti-Jewish sentiment, with various members either being suspended or expelled.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who apologised for the hurt caused to Jewish
Mostly the Jewish community used to feel that Scotland was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has reversed
people, was also criticised for his party’s initial refusal to endorse in full an inter national code on anti-Semitism.
Corbyn had originally backed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, but not all of its associated examples. He later performed a U-turn.
Mark Gardner, director of communications at the Community Security Trust, a charity set up to ensure the safety of the Jewish community in the UK, said of the Borowski comments: “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. A similar trend can be seen in Jewish communities across Europe and, in this context, Scotland and indeed the UK as a whole r emain r el at i vely better t han elsewhere.”
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said: “It’s truly horrifying that more and more Scottish Jews do not feel welcome in their own country, and would actually consider moving away.
“The Scotland I love is an open, tolerant and welcoming place for people of all religions and none.
“There should be no place in our society or politics for anti-Semitism or racism. Politicians of all parties must be vocal in condemning the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism.”
Extreme right-wing graffiti on a recent SNP campaign poster
Clockwise from left, Rabbis from the UK and over 300 people from the Glasgow Jewish community attend a special dedication ceremony Garnethill Synagogue, Ephraim Borowski receiving an MBE for his services to the Jewish community in Scotland, far-right marchers and the stunning interior of Garnethill Synagogue Photogrpahs: Jamie Simpson Getty Images