The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem is attempting the first-ever demographic and genealogical study of a national Jewry as a whole, from its inception to the present day. This article describes the project, its aims, methodology and preliminary results. We use specially developed data retrieval methods that enable the access of available online sources, and we demonstrate that the extensive datasets we have generated are amenable to multidisciplinary analysis and interpretation. Utilising detailed information from the Scottish Census in 1841 till the 1911 Census (the most recent available under access regulations) and vital records from the middle of the nineteenth century to date, plus newly digitised Scottish newspaper and court records, a new and clearer picture of Scottish Jewry emerges. In presenting demographic and historical results already available from the study, we challenge some conventional perceptions of Scottish Jewry and its evolution.
[This article was first published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, Vol. 8, No. 1, Spring 2016, 63-83. See also: https://www.avotaynuonline.com/2015/04/a-family-tree-of-scottish-jewry-first-stage-complete/ Note that footnotes below begin at 36, following the numbering used in the print edition]
By way of illustration, the article presents some of the preliminary demographic and historical results of the study, which challenge conventional wisdom. Among other things, the study reveals the migrant and transitory nature of the Jewish population in the nineteenth century and documents its stabilisation and eventual decrease in the twentieth century, on the basis of birth, marriage and death rates; and its dispersal throughout the country, beyond the major concentrations in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Hopefully, this study will serve as a model for other genealogical research into defined groups, religious or otherwise, at the national level.
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in Jerusalem is sponsoring a major project “200 Years of Scottish Jewry – a Demographic and Genealogical Profile.”36 The study’s aim is to research a definable ethno-religious group at the national level – in this case, the entire Jewish community in Scotland, from its emergence as a formal entity in 1816/17, with the founding of a synagogue in Edinburgh, to the present day. As far we know, no similar genealogical analyses of any other national Jewries exist and thus we hope that the project will encourage further studies of Jewish communities of similar size and age. It also may stimulate genealogical studies of other ethnic, religious, or other groups at the national level.
The study endeavours to examine, systematically and for the first time, various aspects of Scottish Jewry as an immigrant group. These include the following:
- Identifying Scotland’s Jews and locating their provenance, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe.
- Ascertaining their numbers over time by analysing birth, marriage and death records.
- Mapping the dispersal patterns of the Jewish immigrants throughout Scotland and the emergence of organised communities in 7 smaller towns and cities. This aspect includes residential shifts within Glasgow and, to a lesser extent, Edinburgh, reflecting progressive socio-economic changes in the two major concentrations of Scottish Jewry.
- Producing occupational analyses and identifying various communal, religious, business, cultural élites, as they emerge.
- Generating a “Family Tree of Scottish Jewry.” The published data will permit users to trace family relationships with Scottish Jews and in many cases with relatives who came from abroad. The creation of such a national Jewish family tree will be totally innovative.
The study also took note of a considerable body of Jews passing through Scotland on their way to the United States and other destinations. These Jews, whom we describe as transmigrants, were far more numerous than those settling in Scotland. The processes of their travel to the country and onward passage that we have revealed have also added to our understanding of Scotland’s Jews.
There are very specific reasons for our decision to select the Jewish community of Scotland for this genealogical experiment. Scottish Jewry is easy to demarcate and define. Its age, just 200 years old, and size, totaling around 70,000 individuals over these two centuries, make the project feasible. By way of contrast, it would have been impossible to attempt a similar project for the much larger and older Jewish community of England since its numbers, over four and a half centuries, run into millions. The primary records and sources for the project are readily available and the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre in Glasgow (SJAC) houses extensive collections of documents and other materials essential to this study.
More critical from the perspective of a modern genealogical study, almost all the vital records (births, marriages, and deaths) are accessible online for the period under review. In addition, the first national censuses of Scotland in a modern form date, every ten years (or decile), from 1841 on – that is, just 25 years after the inception of the Jewish community in Scotland. The censuses from 1841 to 1911 are now in the public domain and accessible online. The numbers of Jews in Scotland from 1816 to 1841 were small, running from a few score at the beginning (many of whom are known by name) to 323 enumerated in the 1841 census. As we shall show, one can identify the Jews in Scotland from 1841 and 1911 with some confidence. A greater problem exists with identifying Jews in the century after 1911. Fortunately, there are other reliable sources at hand to fill the larger part of the missing data. This allows a reliable reconstruction of evolution of the community over the last hundred years with only small and acceptable margins of error, again enabling new understandings of the evolution of Scottish Jewry.
Data Retrieval – Methodology
1.The Project and its IT Challenges
Before the launching of the present study, the present co-author and project PI (principal investigator) had conducted a preliminary investigation37 with the aim of locating and extracting every Jew in the Scottish Census Schedules and Statutory Civil Records from 1841 to 1901, i.e. all the Jews in Scotland in the 19th century, except for 300 to 400 in the decades prior to 1841. This was a huge task, and there are questions at the academic level about the feasibility of the exercise. After all, the Scottish Censuses and Civil Records do not mention religion. Some marriage records noted the religious rites or form of the ceremony and some early death certificates indicate the burial ground or cemetery section, but the online indexes did not include such details and so searches by religion per se were not possible.
The International Institute for Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) in Jerusalem approached the subject from a somewhat different perspective, seeking to elaborate a demographic and genealogical profile of Scottish Jewry since its inception in 1816/17. With the full cooperation of the present author and PI, IIJG decided to adopt the preliminary work and extend it to cover the 20th century, taking advantage of the recently released 1911 Scottish Census and also Statutory Civil Records, which are accessible online up to the present day. This task was fraught with inherent difficulties and methodological challenges, since beyond 1911 there were no “snapshot” lists of the Jewish population in Scotland at hand to use for reference or as starting points. Moreover, much of the study would hinge on tracing Jewish families identified and pursuing Jewish surnames after 1911 when, to complicate matters, many Jewish families begin to anglicise their names and, in so doing, take on surnames commonly used by non-Jews.
2. Censuses and the Search Process
The PI tested various techniques and methods in the preliminary study before settling on the methods employed to extract data from the Scottish Censuses from 1841 on. He designed special tools for searching the Ancestry38 and the ScotlandsPeople 39 (SP) websites that were essential to the study.
Initially, he selected the 1901 Census as a target for analysis, primarily to identify as many Jews as possible living in Scotland at that time. His reasons for this were several:
- When conducting the preliminary feasibility study, the 1901 census was the latest available.
- The 1901 census was accessible through 2 (two) somewhat different data sources– Ancestry and SP. During the data extraction process a third source became available on the FindMyPast40 (FMP) website.
- Ancestry was chosen as the primary site to use. The company could not display the census images due to licensing issues, but they had enriched their online database by extracting/indexing every field from the census returns. Its database also allowed the listing of all members of a located individual’s household.
- Economic and convenience considerations also favoured the Ancestry website. Searches and extractions from it could be done online at any time for a reasonable fee, whereas SP was costly and/or inconvenient.
The mass immigration of Jews from mainland Europe into Scotland took off the 1880s and 1890s. It was therefore expected that almost every Jewish household in 1901 would have at least one family member who had been born in mainland Europe and thus be could be identified by name or in another way, such as place of birth.
Hence, the initial step was to search the 1901 Census on Ancestry for individuals born in various Central and East European countries, plus Palestine. The project used ‘Wildcards’ and other advanced techniques to catch multiple spelling variants of Jewish names. Then, it trawled every separate field of data in the Ancestry 1901 Census database. Next, it compiled the search results into files on Excel spreadsheets. Finally, it merged the files and removed duplicate records. Thereafter, the PI processed all positively identified records a second time and extracted every associated household member. Again the PI removed all duplicate records.
The interim result from these first stages of this process resulted in a consolidated file of around 37,000 records. The PI manually reviewed these records on the basis of given names. Where necessary, he examined other available primary records for identified families, flagging those that were definitely Jewish or possibly Jewish. Of individuals listed as coming from Russia and Poland, the vast majority were clearly Jewish. A negligible number were Russian/Lithuanian miners immigrated in the 19th century to work in coal mines in Lanarkshire, but as they tended to use distinctively non-Jewish given-names and since mining was not a typically ‘Jewish occupation’, they could confidently be rejected. Individuals from Germany were more difficult to classify, as their surnames and given names reflected the greater assimilation of German Jews into the general population at home. Many of these German families entered the final lists on the assumption that they may have had some Jewish ancestry.41
The end result of the process was a file extracted from the 1901 Census, containing around 9,000 individuals, residing in around 1700 households, who were almost certainly Jewish. This multi-step exercise then was repeated methodically for all decennial censuses from 1841 to 1891.
The PI went on to compare the refined 1901 Census file with data provided by the SJAC 42 for Glasgow and Edinburgh derived from earlier, independent research. The list generated from Ancestry had missed a few families, in which every member was born in the UK. These families were in the SJAC data-files. Extractions from the 1901 Census only overlooked some 100 individuals, while it identified around 2,700 more individuals than in the SJAC records.43
Of the 9,000 Jews in Scotland in 1901, approximately 3,000 claimed to be born in the country. The search for these individuals came in the wake of the investigation of births data (below).
The 1911 census became available during the course of the present study and at present (March 2016) is only available on the SP website. It was therefore not possible to use the same techniques as used for the previous censuses on the Ancestry site. Instead, the PI searched comprehensively for every surname in the lists compiled, as well as all combinations of given- name and surname, except for common and shared surnames. This search method proved highly effective on the 1911 census.
The numbers of Jews we have compiled agree reasonably well with those quoted in the Jewish Year Book. We also searched for people mentioned in various books published about Scottish Jewry. In particular, we used Abraham Levy’s The Origins of Scottish Jewry (Glasgow, 1958) and Abel Phillips’ to help identify the earliest, pre-registration period, congregations. In all probability, we have overlooked some genuine Jews, while we have almost certainly included a few non-Jews in our lists.
Overall, however, we believe our numbers are close to the actual numbers (see Assessment below).
3. Births and the List of Surnames
The individuals who claimed in the Censuses 1841 to 1911 to be born in Scotland bore around 700 unique surnames. To this list was added all unique surnames that appeared in the SJAC Scottish Jews database. An automated search was then done on the SP website for births from 1855-2014 for all of these unique surnames to test how common those surnames were in the Statutory Birth Records. The PI reviewed the results and manually divided them into two categories – rare and common surnames. Many of the Jewish families had typically Jewish surnames that we do not find among non-Jews in Scotland or only very rarely (Mandel, for example). Others had surnames that were ‘common’ surnames and not predominantly used by Jews. These searches produced a huge number of birth matches. A few examples of Jewish families using ‘common’ surnames were Alexander (29,000 hits), Baker (4,000 hits), Banks (6,000 hits), and Brown (172,000 hits).
The PI developed scripts to search for relevant Scottish Birth Certificates on the SP website. These scripts automatically extracted pages of index results to Excel spreadsheets with the fields for Year, Surname, Forename, Sex, District, City, County, MR, and Record Reference pre-populated.
The following logic was used to determine scripted searches conducted on the SP website:
- If an exact spelling match was found for a given Jewish surname and it was not a common surname, then all records for that surname were searched for and extracted
- If an exact spelling match was found and it was a common surname, then only that precise “surname + given-name” combinations from the Censuses were looked for and extracted. As a result, some family members in common surnames cases may have been missed – e.g., children who died young or were otherwise missing from the census.
- If an exact spelling match was not located but a ‘fuzzy match’ (see below) was found then only the precise “surname + given-name” combination from the Censuses were searched for and extracted. Again, there is a possibility that a few family members may have been overlooked when bearing the same fuzzy-spelling surname.
- If no match, exact or fuzzy, was found, then certain manual searches were done for badly transcribed names.
- Birth Registrations were searched for using a plus or minus 5-year range around the birth year suggested by the census returns.
Soundex and metaphone searches were not conducted since, for practical purposes, these tools are only appropriate for English names and pronunciation, and not for European Jewish names.
The SP website also accessed “fuzzy matches,” a distance technique developed by Vladimir Levenshtein,44 a Russian Jew. This technique, which forms the basis of most spell-checking systems, compares the similarity of two names and is very successful at finding matches between names corrupted by poor handwriting/transcription or misheard foreign-sounding names in both the Census data and Birth Registrations. Table 1 provides some examples of fuzzy matching at work, where the same parents’ names, occupations and often addresses are found in both the census and birth records and it is almost certain the individuals listed are the same people. We have accepted those cases where the match seems perfect.
The PI manually processed Births Results File to flag all records that were definitely or possibly Jewish. There were approximately 23,000 records in this file. These included Jewish births up to 1901 that did not appear in a census. Reasons for the omissions might have been that these people may have died or left Scotland before their first census date; the census takers missed them; they had assumed a married surname before the census(es); or, finally, they were in fact included in the census(es) but were indexed under mangled and ultimately unrecognizable names.
If, while viewing a record image, the PI noted that another birth on the page was for a Jewish individual and that person did not appear in the Births List, then he added the individual manually to the list. If a birth record contained information that was unclear due to a poor quality image, a damaged record, bad handwriting etc., then the PI looked for and viewed corresponding parents’ marriage record, if held in Scotland, to try to identify the correct information. The full marriage information was extracted into a separate Marriages List.
In total, the PI and a team of extractors examinied about 28,000 birth certificates, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Over 3,500 of the Jewish people listed on these birth certificates were found in the censuses to 1901 – others died young or, in far greater numbers, left Scotland for elsewhere.
he list of Unique Surnames compiled in 2 and 3 above was processed yet again by another script through the SP website, searching for all matching marriages (both bride and groom) in the 1855 to 2014 period. The search results indexes were extracted to a Marriages File for further manual processing. In all, the PI and the team of extractors examined and extracted index results for 13,000 marriages.
The Scottish Birth Registrations referred to many couples, who were wed outside Scotland. Where their marriages took place in England and Wales, most references to their marriage records were found by searching the Ancestry and FindMyPast England and Wales marriage indexes. This exercise also proved useful in determining precise spellings of the names of the groom and bride.
Additionally, the PI searched references to couples married in ‘Poland’ (or towns in southern Lithuania that were once in the Suwalki Gubernia of Poland) in the Jewish Records Indexing – Poland (JRI-PL) databases.45 He only verified a few such matches in this resource. Marriages conducted in other places abroad (especially the former Russian Empire, where most foreign-born Scottish Jews came from) could not be cross-checked.
he list of Unique Surnames compiled in 2 and 3 above was then processed by still another script through the SP website, searching for all matching deaths in the 1855 to 2014 period. The search results indexes were extracted to a Deaths File for further manual processing. All told, the PI and the team of extractors retrieved index results to almost 20,000 deaths and then re- processed them for positive identification.
6. Other Sources utilized to identify Jews in Scotland
Besides the Scottish Censuses and Statutory Birth, Death and Marriage Records, other sources were available to identify people not listed or not (yet) located on those official records. These included:
- England and Wales Censuses 1841-1911 – searching for Jewish families where at least one member was born in Scotland.
- Irish Censuses for 1901 and 1911 – searching for Jewish families where at least one family member was born in Scotland. (Religion was included in the Irish Census).46
- The Jewish Echo weekly newspaper in Glasgow, (1928-1991) – extraction of all “Personal Announcements” into a separate file, for comparison with the data compiled thus far. The announcements extracted for further searches relate to Births, Bar mitzvahs and Bat mitzvahs (for searches into birth registrations 13 or 12 years earlier), Engagements, Marriages and Wedding Anniversaries and Deaths. Since some events announced in the Jewish Echo took place outside of Scotland, not all events were to be found in the Statutory Registrations.
SJAC: Glasgow and other Hebrew Burial Society47 records – examination of almost complete lists of Scottish Jewish burials, for comparison with the Deaths List previously compiled.
SJAC: British naturalizations _ examination of almost complete list of Scottish Jews who became Naturalized British subjects, for corroboration and expansion by searching the online “Discovery” catalogue of the British National Archives48, as well as a parallel database available on Ancestry.
The methodology described above has proved effective in the goal of generating a comprehensive database of Scottish Jews since the community’s emergence early in the 19th century. As regards the 19th century, the list of Jews can be regarded as almost complete, within a reasonable margin of omission. As regards the 20th century, the listings are less complete, mainly because of the absence of accessible Census returns. This deficiency was made up in large part by the availability of statutory Birth, Marriage and Death Registrations, coupled with data extracted from other sources. In brief, a ramified and reliable database, unique of its kind, has been generated, which can serve as a solid basis for multi-disciplinary analysis and interpretation, whether genealogical, demographic, statistical, historical or sociological.
Creating an Historical Narrative: What the Data Tells Us Earliest Jews and the Beginnings of Community
The story of Jewish medical students, mainly from England, but also from the United States of America and the West Indies, who were studying and graduating at the University of Edinburgh from 1779, has been known for some time.49 They were attracted mainly by the absence of the religious tests, which prevented their entry to Oxford and Cambridge. However, it is the online searches of Scottish Court Cases which have revealed the presence of a previously unknown group of Jewish artisans residing in Edinburgh during the 1780s. One of their number was dispatched to London for training as a shochet (ritual slaughterer) to provide kosher chickens for the fledgling community. Digitized press publications have enabled the identification of the date for the formation of the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation and its first synagogue, the first official Jewish body in Scotland. This study has determined the year of establishment as 1817, rather than 1816 as previously held.50 Similarly, we have determined the date for the first account of the Glasgow Hebrew Congregation to be 1821, at the time of a visit to the city by Sir Moses Montefiore, rather than a couple of years later, as generally accepted previously.51
Immigration and Population Growth
The Jewish community in Scotland expanded steadily, and at times rapidly, throughout the 19th century, mainly due at first to immigration from Germany or Holland. In the last quarter of the century, the bulk of immigration came from Central and Eastern Europe. Table 2 illustrates a rapid rate of community growth coupled with a low level of ‘persistence” (continued residence in Scotland), indicative of the high percentage of Jews moving on, often to England but more usually across the Atlantic.
Table 2: Jewish Community Growth during the 19th Century
As shipping records indicate a drop in travelers reaching or passing through Scotland after 1911 we have been able to show, using figures for births and deaths, that subsequent population growth was largely a function of natural increase rather than inward migration, apart for the arrival of around a thousand refugees from Central Europe during the 1930s.52 By the beginning of the 20th century the Jewish population in Scotland became more settled and more stable. The study has confirmed a relatively young Jewish population with a comparatively high birth rate and low death rate. This ensured that natural growth would more than compensate for an almost complete halt in immigration with the outbreak of World War I. In the absence of Census returns, it is not possible to achieve absolute numbers for the Jewish population of Scotland for the century between 1911 and 2011. However, with the aid of Statutory Birth, Marriage and Death records and extensive data drawn from other sources mentioned in the Methodology section above, its parameters can be clearly delineated and its order of magnitude can be ascertained. Within that broad framework, we can observe certain trends:
(1) The number of Jews in Scotland peaked in the 1930’s at about 20,000, a level that was maintained till around 1960.
(2) The inflow of Jewish refugees from Central Europe during the 1930s and 1940’s, including the Kindertransport children admitted to Britain following Kristallnacht in November 1938, was balanced by migration to England and the United States, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.
(3) The Jewish population began to diminish in the 1960s. The number of births was decreasing, deaths increasing and an increasingly well-educated population was moving south or emigrating. This decrease has continued in recent decades, reflecting a rapidly aging population, ongoing emigration and assimilation.
(4) We have precise figures for self-declaring Jews in the Scottish Censuses of 2001 and 2011. Besides the numbers of Jews who identified themselves as Jewish – 6,448 in 2001 and 5,887 ten years later – we can consider, based on Census research elsewhere that possibly as many as a third more can be added to these numbers.53
Dispersal of Jews and Emergence of Smaller Communities
The methodology employed in this study enabled us to track the dispersal of Jews throughout Scotland and indeed to follow certain families and their movements over several generations. At the turn of the twentieth century there were small groups of Jews in the towns of Falkirk, Dunfermline, Greenock and Inverness.54 This study has indicated that communities were established in these towns, sometimes with as few as thirty Jews, or about a dozen families. They would often employ a minister, a religious functionary not always possessing semicha (rabbinical ordination), who would act also as shochet and cheder (religious school) teacher to educate the community’s young. They opened small synagogues, frequently no more than a room in the minister’s flat. Jewish communities were often slow to declare the formal, and necessarily public, establishment of a ‘Hebrew Congregation’, the title taken by all official Jewish communities throughout Scotland. Thus, in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, and in the other small communities, synagogues were regularly in existence for a number of years before public exposure, often due to concerns over possible expressions of prejudice in the wider population. In Aberdeen, for example, there were already sufficient Jews in 1871 to found a community but the actual formation of the Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation dates only from 1893.55
Most of these regional communities experienced major numerical decline in the period after the Second World War. Table 3 shows that of the seven smaller communities, only those in Aberdeen and Dundee, still exist today.
Provincial Jewish Communities in Scotland
Note: A community’s demise is often hard to determine. The asterisk (*) in the Present Status column indicates when all community activity clearly ended<
Jewish Population Shifts within Glasgow
The accurate identification of Jews in Glasgow on a city-wide basis has enabled us to chart the movement of Jews out of the initial areas of settlement, as the community expanded and more prosperous elements emerged. The first Jews in the early 19th century were concentrated north of the River Clyde around the city centre, in the Blackfriars area. Gradually, a movement westwards occurred to larger houses and away from the tenement buildings in the centre of Glasgow. Later arrivals, from the 1880s, tended to settle south of the river, in the Gorbals area. Figure 2 illustrates the pattern of settlement of the core of the 6,900 Jews in Glasgow identified in the 1901 Census. Of interest is the substantial Jewish element just to the north of the river, who felt a greater cultural affinity with the new institutions and synagogues being formed, often on an East European model, in the Gorbals, rather than with the “cathedral” synagogue of the established community at Garnethill in the north-west of the city.
Figure 2. This map, derived from the 1901 Census, indicates where Glasgow Jews resided by Census Enumeration Districts. The highest concentrations are coloured black and the next level in red. The smallest concentrations are coloured yellow and green with intermediate areas in blue.
Births, Marriages and Deaths
As Statutory Birth Registration only began in Scotland in 1855, we cannot regard the earliest data as completely reliable, since some births were not recorded properly or even not registered at all. Nevertheless, it can be seen from Figure 3 that, in the decades between 1841 and 1881, around 40% of the community were born in Scotland.
The remarkable growth in the number of Jewish births that occurred throughout the latter half of the 19th century can be observed in Figure 3. While only 106 Jewish births were identified for the 1850s, the number grew to 583 during the 1870s on the eve of the great migration of Russian Jews that began in the 1880s. Twenty years later, during the 1890s, 2,785 births were recorded. The number reached a peak a decade later, between 1900 and 1909, when there were 4,576 births. In other words, from 1900 on, natural increase had become a larger factor in community growth and stability than immigration, a development not identified in earlier community studies.
Table 4: Jewish Births, Marriages, Deaths, and Natural Population Change in Scotland 1910-2000
Table 4 illustrates the significant Jewish population growth through natural increase, especially during the two decades after 1910, a trend that continued through the 1950s. This natural increase of around 5,000 between 1910 and 1960 explains the growth and subsequent stabilisation of the Jewish population in Scotland. The year 1946 represented the beginning of the baby boomer era, which raised the number of Jewish births and maintained community numbers. However, from the 1960s on, the number of deaths exceeded the number of births and the Jewish population began to diminish. The numbers of births dropped steadily during the 1990s and beyond, falling to under 400 during the first decade of the twenty-first century.
The mapping of the places of marriage for the Jews living in Scotland has provided important data regarding the geographical origins of Scotland’s Jews. During the course of the nineteenth century, most marriages of Jews who came to settle in Scotland took place in Poland and the Russian Empire (mainly Lithuania, and to an extent Latvia). These areas had the geographical advantage of easy access to Baltic shipping ports and although the geographical spread of migrants expanded from the 1890s, the great majority still hailed from Poland and Russian Lithuania. Following the expulsions of Jews from Moscow and tensions in St. Petersburg in 1891, small numbers of Jewish immigrants of means from those cities arrived in Scotland.
Figure 4. Origins of Scottish Jewry on the basis of marriages abroad.
As many of the immigrants were young couples with small children, it took longer for the numbers of local marriage to grow. They increased very gradually and peaked only in the 1940s, when around 1,600 Jewish weddings took place in Scotland. Thereafter, there was a slow but steady decline in the number of marriages, falling to under 350 in the 2000s. The reasons for this phenomenon were several. There was all but no immigration after World War II, while many of the wartime refugees moved on. The community at large was aging and beginning to decline in size. From the 1960s on, more Jewish school-leavers received a higher education and chose to study at English universities in cities such as Manchester and Leeds, where there were large Jewish communities. Few returned to set up homes in Scotland. Indeed, many of the marriages were made up of couples in which one partner was from outside Scotland, further inducing the newlyweds to revert to and remain in England. In the last 20 years, the reduced numbers may also have been affected by increased social mobility, a gravitation of young people to London and the effects of modern lifestyles, including partnering and late marriage, plus a tendency to wed outside Scotland, all in keeping with trends in the wider society.
Death figures for the nineteenth century bear witness to a high child mortality rate.56 In the 1870s, before mass migration from Eastern Europe was underway, about half of all Jewish deaths occurred in those aged under 16 years, with a majority aged less than 1 year. While figures were comparatively small in the 1870s, the growth in the size of the community over the next two decades and concomitant rise in the number of deaths permits a clearer assessment of patterns and trends. Infant mortality remained high until after the World War I, although Jewish fatalities were perhaps less than those in the wider community.57 Only in the 1930s did the number of child deaths begin to fall significantly, eventually dropping to negligible rates in recent decades. Thus the number of births came to far outstrip deaths, for some 30 years. The 1950s were, however, the last decade in which births exceeded deaths. The number of deaths peaked in the 1970s, when a distinct trend indicated an ageing population, unable to sustain itself by natural growth. While the number of deaths gradually began to fall – to around 1,600 between 2000 and 2009 – it was clear that overall demographic shift and decline was accelerating, as Table 5, which takes three representative post-war years, shows.
Note: These figures do not include marriages where just one partner was Jewish and births and where the child was not recognized as Jewish by religious law.
Census returns have provided easily tabulated information on the occupations of the individuals living in Glasgow from 1841. In the early years, the predominant occupations among the Jews population were described as merchants or agents, usually dealing in goods demanded by Glasgow’s developing middle class, such as clothing, furs and jewelry. There was also ready employment for the Jews arriving in the city in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, engaged in the so-called ghetto trades of tailoring and furniture-making. Tailoring became the dominant Jewish occupation from 1881. In a list submitted to a House of Lords Select Committee in 1889, Jewish master-tailors in Glasgow numbered twenty-eight, of whom about half were located in the Gorbals district.58 Interestingly, a short time after 1891 almost 14% of the Glasgow’s Jews moved into occupations associated with the thriving tobacco industry (though this percentage rapidly reduced in subsequent decades with the acquisition of more occupational skills).
Hawking and peddling became a common form of activity from 1881 onwards, not only as a primary immigrant occupation but also as a means of making initial business contacts and even laying the ground for setting up in business independently.59 In 1881, more than a quarter of the Jews in the Gorbals lived by this occupation. Ten years later, their numbers exceeded that of tailors. In 1911, the number of Jewish peddlers, hawkers or travelling salesman in Glasgow alone was over 500, indicating the pervasiveness and persistence of this precarious way of life. The proportion in Edinburgh was reported to be even higher.60 Small shop-keeping in the Gorbals also became significant by 1891. About a third of the shops were butchers, bakers and grocers, probably catering in large part to the kosher food needs of the Jewish population. General merchants, small manufacturers and traders multiplied in the first decades of the mass migration from the Russian Empire but their numbers declined as the twentieth century progressed as the shape of business changed. Less predictably, the community included blacksmiths, tinsmiths, bricklayers, coal merchants, a postman and a golf club maker. One woman, Martha Green, was identified as a nut-cutter in a biscuit factory.
>With the detailed data generated by the study we can now understand the factors that led all of Scotland’s Jewish communities, even the smallest, to set up a wide range of organisations. Most had welfare societies, providing support for their poorest members. Many also had educational, social, cultural and political groups. In Edinburgh, the multiple social, cultural, educational and welfare activities were organised through the synagogue. In Glasgow, with its greater size and resources, many of these bodies had independent identities. Thus, the Jewish Board of Guardians, Talmud Torah (afternoon and Sunday religious school), the Jewish Old Age Home, the Maccabi sports club, the Glasgow Zionist Organisation and Youth Movements, such as Habonim and Bnei Akiva, had their own premises. Women’s societies were active in raising funds for worthy Jewish charities and encouraging the participation of women in communal activity. Despite small numbers, such activities took place in communities from Ayr to Inverness, indicating the attachment of these small, often remote groupings to Jewish traditions and values. Over time, the<
Development of Religious, Business, Professional, Cultural Elites
In describing the changes in the character of the Jewish community brought about by the large scale immigration, the narrative of the emergence of the various elites sheds light the nature of the evolving community. Rapid acculturation, educational achievement and professional aspiration were powerful factors in the social transition of the community from the ‘ghetto trades’ of peddling, tailoring and cabinet-making into large-scale commercial enterprises and later into the professions, especially medicine.
The first Jewish businesses reflected a move into more conventional retail activity. Most remained relatively small but others, such as the chain of department stores run by the Goldberg family, showed considerable innovation in commercial enterprise. Some families became involved in the Scottish distilling industry. A leading figure in the whisky trade, Sir Maurice Bloch, was highly active in community organisations, local politics and philanthropy. One of the most prominent British Jewish entrepreneurs, Sir Isaac Wolfson, grew up in Glasgow and in addition to his ownership of hundreds of businesses of different kinds, he was a renowned supporter of Jewish and university charities, eventually honoured with colleges in his name in Oxford and Cambridge. Scottish Jews moved into the legal profession in substantial numbers after World War II.
Such a professional element as existed in the early community was composed mainly of the rabbis, reverends and other religious functionaries who officiated in the various communities around Scotland. An examination of digitised newspaper reports and city directories has corrected accounts of the early religious leadership in Edinburgh and established that the first minister in Edinburgh was Meyer Rintel, while his contemporary, Moses Joel, served the community later in the century. Joel and Rintel were to be the first of upwards of 250 rabbis and ministers who have served the various Scottish communities until present. While the smaller communities did not possess the resources to retain ministers for more than a short period, leading to a high turnover rate, Glasgow and Edinburgh were home to many distinguished rabbis and chazanim (cantors), over the years. Rabbi Samuel Hillman, who was the communal rabbi in Glasgow from 1908 till 1914, became a dayan (religious judge) in the London Bet Din (rabbinical court). Rabbi Salis Daiches led the Edinburgh community with great distinction between 1918 and 1945. He did much to acquaint the wider Scottish public with the Jewish community and its concerns, as did Rev. Dr. I. K. Cosgrove in Glasgow. Other rabbis, including Rabbis Naftali Shapiro, Benyamin Beinush Atlas and Jacob David Lurie, were proud representatives of a more traditional religious orthodoxy of the Eastern European kind. Rabbi Dr. Wolf Gottlieb, a refugee from Vienna, was head of the Glasgow Bet Din from 1956 to the early 1970s and combined strict Orthodoxy with an openness to secular intellectual enquiry.
There were a few medical practitioners in Glasgow and Edinburgh from the middle of the nineteenth century on, their numbers only becoming significant in the twentieth century. Thus, among 62 Jewish medical workers identified in the 1911 Census, there were 30 medical students as well as the first four Jewish doctors to practise permanently in Scotland. The sons and daughters of immigrants arriving in the 1880s were the first to take advantage of the open nature of the Scottish education system. By 1912, Jewish student societies had been formed at the universities in Glasgow and Edinburgh, with a majority studying medicine and smaller numbers planning to take up other professional callings, among which teaching was prominent.62 Many of the Jews who entered the medical profession distinguished themselves, with such outstanding figures as Noah Morris and Sir Abraham Goldberg, both appointed Regius Professors of the Practice of Medicine at Glasgow University. Refugee psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners, especially the analyst Karl Abenheimer and the neurosurgeon Joseph Schorstein, who arrived from Germany and Austria during the 1930s, made an acknowledged contribution to a previously underdeveloped speciality in Scotland.63
At one time, the Scottish High Court of Justice boasted several Jewish members, including Sir Gerald Gordon, a leading exponent of Scots law, and Lady Hazel Cosgrove, the first woman to serve as a High Court Judge. The Scottish art scene was also enhanced by Jewish immigrants. Benno Schotz came to Glasgow from Estonia in 1912 and entered Glasgow’s renowned Charles Rennie MacKintosh School of Art, eventually to become Professor of Sculpture and the Queen’s ‘Sculptor-in-Ordinary’ in Scotland. Schotz nurtured the talent of refugee artists, like Yankel Adler and Josef Herman, who passed through Glasgow during the war years.
The study has revealed that most Jews reaching Scotland from the middle of the 19th century until the outbreak of World War I were in fact transmigrants, that is migrants who used Scotland as a staging post on the route to North America. We have already noted the low level of persistence though the nineteenth century, indicating that only a minority of Jewish newcomers in Scotland remained there a decade later. An interesting statistic that confirms the fluid nature of the Jewish population in Scotland is that in 1901 there were only 14 Jews over the age of 46 years who were born in Scotland before Statutory Birth Registration was introduced in 1855, since all other Scottish-born Jews in that age-bracket had departed. Generally speaking, most of the Jewish transmigrants crossing Scotland and Britain were drawn by the attractive prices for onward passage offered by English and Scottish shipping companies. Throughout the period of the great migration, Glasgow was a popular port for transmigrants heading for North America, especially New York, second only to Liverpool. This remained the case despite the alternative option of sailing directly to North America from Hamburg or Rotterdam, and even from the Baltic from 1903 onwards. Following a serious cholera outbreak in Hamburg in 1892, which led to over 8,000 deaths there, transmigration patterns within Britain changed dramatically. Most migrants reaching Glasgow did not dock at Leith on the east coast of Scotland but landed instead in the English ports of Grimsby or Hull, where trains were at hand to transport them to Liverpool or Glasgow. The numbers of transmigrants travelling via Glasgow peaked in 1906 and 1907, due to the Allan Line’s success in drawing passengers to Glasgow to sail its North America routes
This project set out to construct a detailed demographic and genealogical profile of a national Jewish community. With its accurate detailing of community size, population growth, movement, settlement and dispersal, a picture of the Jewish community in Scotland has emerged which has challenged and changed many previously held perceptions. The statistics for births, marriages and deaths have shown how natural growth fuelled an increase in community size after immigration tailed off after 1914. It has shown how the number of Jews in Scotland has contracted dramatically in recent decades, as an ageing population produced an excess of deaths over births and younger elements moved elsewhere. The study has also indicated the attachment of immigrant Jews to religious life even in the small centres around the country, where groups of just thirty people were enough to establish a community with a synagogue and a minister. The review of digitised newspaper archives has revealed how Jewish events were recorded in the national and local Scottish press and has cast fascinating new light on the beginnings of Jewish life in the country. In brief, our understanding of the history and the social narrative of Scottish Jewry has been decisively revised.
About the Authors
Dr. Kenneth Collins, formerly a general medical practitioner in Glasgow is currently Visiting Professor in Medical History at the Medical Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Senior Research Fellow, Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Glasgow. He has published widely on the history of the Jews in Scotland and is Chairman of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.
Dr. Neville Lamdan studied at Glasgow University, Dropsie College, Philadelphia, and Oxford University (D.Phil. 1965). A retired Ambassador, he served in the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1965-1971) and the Israeli Foreign Ministry (1973-2003). He helped found the International Institute for Jewish Genealogy in 2006 and is currently its Chair. He is a well-known proponent of the scientific study of genealogy and its recognition as an academic discipline.
Michael Tobias studied at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities and qualified as a Fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries. He is Vice President Programming of JewishGen, Inc., and Co- Founder and Board Member of Jewish Records Indexing – Poland. He was Database matching consultant to the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims. He was awarded the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Lifetime Achievement award in Washington in 2011.
This project has produced detailed demographic and genealogical information on the Jewish community of Scotland since its inception 200 years ago and has permitted comparison with national Scottish data obtained from birth, marriage, and death records and from Census information. We pose here some discussion questions that arise from the study and its findings:
The methodology in this study was designed to identify members of a specific religious group. Would it need to be modified to apply to members of a national or ethnic group and, if so, how?
Could the approach in this study apply to national Jewish communities of similar size such as Denmark and Switzerland, or larger Jewish communities whose geographical roots are similar to those of Scotland, such as South Africa?
Could the data generated by this study by used to build a Family Tree of Scottish Jewry and if so, what would be its likely characteristics?
>Like many other countries in Europe, Scotland has experienced significant immigration over the past decades. These communities, mainly from the Indian sub-continent and from Poland, have distinctive national and religious affiliations, and experience the same pressures of settlement, dispersal and acculturation. Can the Jewish experience in Scotland serve as a model for their integration into in Scottish society and its life?
<To Cite this Article: Collins, K., Lamdan, N., & Tobias, M. (2016, Spring). 200 years of Scottish Jewry: A demographic and genealogical profile. Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 8(1), 63-83.
36 The mission of the International Institute of Jewish Genealogy (IIJG) is to advance Jewish genealogy and promote it as a recognised branch of Jewish Studies at the university level. It has sought to move well beyond the study of individuals or family units into areas with wider scope and relevance.
37 Michael Tobias, (2012). A Study of 19th Century Scottish Jewry, M.Sc., Genealogical, Palaeographic, and Heraldic Studies, University of Strathclyde.
38 Ancestry.com – http://www.ancestry.com Last accessed 14 December 2015.
39 ScotlandsPeople – http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk Last accessed 14 December 2015.
40 Find My Past – http://www.findmypast.co.uk Last accessed 14 December 2015
41 C. C. Aronsfeld, German Jews in Dundee, Jewish Chronicle, 20 November 1953, p. 15.
42 Scottish Jewish Archives Centre – http://www.sjac.org.uk Last accessed 14 December 2015
43 A History of the Origins of the First Jewish Community in Scotland: Edinburgh, 1816 (Edinburgh, 1979)
44 Vladimir I. Levenshtein, Biography, http://ethw.org/Vladimir_I._Levenshtein Last accessed 14 December 2015.
45 Jewish Records Indexing – Poland. http://jri-poland.org Last accessed 14 December 2015.
46 National Archives of Ireland – http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie Last accessed 14 December 2015.
47 Glasgow Hebrew Burial Society – http://glasgowhebrewburialsociety.org Last accessed 14 December 2015.
48 The National Archives – http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk Last accessed 14 December 2015.
49 Kenneth Collins, Go and Learn: the International Story of the Jews and Medicine in Scotland: 1739-1945 (Aberdeen, 1988), pp. 43-44; Kenneth Collins, “Levi Myers (1767-1822): An eighteenth century Glasgow medical graduate from South Carolina,” Journal Medical Biography, 2014, epub 0967772013518471. Matriculation records for all medical students at the University of Edinburgh give details on the origins of the students from 1740, Edinburgh University Library Archives.
50 Abel Phillips, A History of the Origins of the First Jewish Community in Scotland: Edinburgh, 1816, Edinburgh, 1979.
51 See Kenneth Collins, Second City Jewry: The Jews of Glasgow in the Age of Expansion 1790-1990, Glasgow, 1990, p.19, where he mentions both dates.
52 Estimated to be ‘thousands’ by Rayner Kolmel, German Jewish Refugees in Scotland, in Kenneth Collins, editor, Aspects of Scottish Jewry (Glasgow, 1987), p. 57. Other estimates put the figure around 1,000. See Kenneth Collins, The Growth and Development of Scottish Jewry, 1880-1940, p. 50, also in Aspects of Scottish Jewry.
53 Marlena Schmool, Jews in Scotland: The 2001 Census, in Kenneth Collins with Ephraim Borowski and Leah Granat, Scotland’s Jews: A Guide to the History and Community of the Jews in Scotland (Glasgow, 2008), pp. 56-59. Marlena Schmool was Community Research Director for the Board of Deputies and based on a 13% rate for Jews not answering the voluntary question in Leeds, a community of similar size and with a similar age profile she estimated the 2001 Jewish population in Scotland at 7,450. This left a further 1,785 Jews who answered another question in the Census saying their upbringing was Jewish but they now followed no religion. The Director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Dr. Ephraim Borowski, suggested in a footnote, based on the Canadian Census, that the number of undeclared Jews, based on a religion question, rather than an ethnic one, could be as high as 33%.
54 The only detailed published account of the small Jewish communities in Scotland is: Nathan Abrams, Caledonian Jews: A Study of Seven Small Communities in Scotland, Jefferson, NC, 2007.
55 Nathan Abrams, Caledonian Jews, pp. 20-21
56 Kenneth Collins, Be Well! Jewish Immigrant Health and Welfare in Glasgow 1860-1920 (West Linton, 1920), p. 80, indicated that Jewish infant mortality was around a third lower than in the wider community.
57 Kenneth Collins, Be Well!, pp. 78-82.
58 Julius Pinto, “Jewish Master Tailors in Glasgow,” Fourth Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Sweating System, 1889 (Henry Hansard and Son printers, Eyre and Spottiswoode, London, 1889), col. 26056.
59 David Daiches, Two Worlds: An Edinburgh Jewish Childhood, Edinburgh, 1954. See also Kenneth Collins, Second City Jewry, pp. 47, 62, 153.
60 Lloyd P. Gartner, The Jewish Immigrant in England 1870-1914 (London, 1960), p. 60.
61 Kenneth Collins, Be Well!, pp. 50-77. See also the comparison between Jewish provision for care of patients with tuberculosis in Glasgow and London, pp. 86-90.
62 Kenneth Collins, Go and Learn, pp. 83-97.
63 Kenneth Collins, “Joseph Schorstein: R D Laing’s Rabbi,” Journal of the History of Psychiatry, June 2008, 19 (74:2), pp. 185-201. Kenneth Collins, The Glasgow Department of ‘Psycho-Semitics’ 1940- 1960: “The Jewish Thought of Joseph Schorstein and Karl Abenheimer,” Jewish Historical Studies, 45, pp. 23-40.