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Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future

Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future

June 8, 2014 to October 5, 2014

Photographs by Judah Passow 

Award-winning documentary photographer Judah Passow spent a year photographing Scotland’s Jewish community, producing a portrait that captures the complexity and diversity of the Scottish Jewish life at the beginning of the 21st century.

There have been Jews in Scotland since at least the 17th century, coming initially in ones and twos to study at Scotland’s famed universities and then in increasing numbers through the 19th and into the 20th centuries as persecution in Eastern Europe made Jewish life increasingly precarious.

While maintaining its particular traditions, the Jewish community prided itself in the way it quickly became immersed in Scottish society. The religious, educational, and welfare institutions established were expressions of communal confidence — and confidence in Scotland. Jews had arrived in a land that uniquely for Europe had no history of state-sanctioned antisemitism. They became the largest non-Christian minority, a clan of the Mosaic persuasion added to the mosaic of Scotland.

The sons and daughters of the Scottish Jewish community have gone on to make significant contributions in their fields, producing scientists and doctors, judges and politicians, artists and writers, farmers and foresters and kilt makers and whisky distillers!

It remains a small community, at its height never more than 16,000. Yet it is big in spirit, with a breadth of activity that makes it seem many times larger. Jews came to Scotland seeking refuge — and found a home.


Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future was created and produced by Michael Mail and made possible with funding from Creative Scotland and support from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCOJEC).

About the Exhibit

Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future premiered at the Scottish Parliament in February 2014.

Twenty photographs from the exhibit came to Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership as part of its North American tour.

About the Photographer

London-based photographer Judah Passow has been working on assignments for American and European magazines and newspapers since 1978.

His work has appeared in publications including the Guardian, the Observer, and the Independent in Britain; Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times in America; Der Spiegel and Die Zeit in Germany, and L'Express in France.

A winner of four World Press Photo awards for his coverage of conflict in the Middle East, his photographs have been exhibited in London, York, Leeds, Glasgow, Amsterdam, Paris, Arles, Perpignan, Tel Aviv, New York, and Washington D.C.