Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is a city in S.W. Scotland. The first Jew to settle in the city was Israel Loeb Reiss in 1803; however there was no sizable community or synagogue until 1821, when services were held in the house of the shohet, Moses Lisenheim. By 1831, 47 Jews lived in the city, most of them originating from Germany, Holland, and Sheerness in England, though six had already been born in Glasgow.

Four years later the community acquired its first burial ground, which was used until 1851. There was a split in the congregation in 1842 when a hall to Anderson College was leased for religious services; a minority of community members objected, arguing that since human bodies were dissected at the college, it was an unfit place for a synagogue. Subsequent bitterness between the two groups led to court proceedings over the right to use the cemetery; the majority won the case. However, at the election of Nathan Marcus Adler as chief rabbi of Great Britain in 1844, both parties exercised a vote.

By 1850, there were 200 Jews in the city and eight years later they consecrated a new synagogue, known as the Glasgow Hebrew Congregation. In 1879, a synagogue was built for the community at Garnethill, with E.P. Phillips as minister; it was soon followed by two others in the South Side. (In 1979 the Garnethill Synagogue celebrated its centenary.) As elsewhere in Britain, an influx of immigrants followed the Russian persecutions of 1881; in 1897, there were 4,000 Jews in the city and, in 1902, 7,000. Many of the newcomers, who settled in the Gorbals district, were tailors or furriers.

The community was always active in Zionism, supporting Hovevei Zion in the 19th century and Zionist associations in modern times. Mainly because of the stimulus of the Habonim movement, many young Glasgow Jews settled on kibbutzim in Israel. A charity board originally known as the Glasgow Hebrew Philanthropic Society (1858) and later called the Glasgow Jewish Board of Guardians also helped in the organization of the Jewish Old Age Home for Scotland, situated in the south of the city.

The Glasgow talmud torah and Board of Jewish Religious Education organized classes for children (as did the individual synagogues), directed the Hebrew College (for post-bar mitzvah Jewish education), and assisted in running the yeshiva. In 1969, a Jewish day school opened at the primary level and, from the 1940s onwards, Hebrew was taught in two municipal secondary schools; Glasgow University taught both biblical and modern Hebrew.

The Jewish Echo (a weekly published from 1928 to 1992) was Scotland’s main Jewish newspaper until 1965, when The Jewish Times (later renamed Israel Today) was established. The community had many organizations of Jewish interest, e.g., Bnei Akiva, ORT, Habonim and the Jewish Lad’s Brigade (which claimed the world’s only Jewish bagpipe band). Ten Orthodox and one Reform synagogue served the community.

Religious leaders of note included Samuel I. Hillman, Kopul Rosen, I.K. Cosgrove (1903–1973), and Wolf Gottlieb (b. 1910). Among the community’s outstanding members were Sir Maurice Bloch, Sir Isaac Wolfson, Sir Ian M. Heilbron, Sir Myer Galpern (b. 1903, lord provost and lord lieutenant of Scotland (1958–60) and Labor M.P. (1959)), Samuel Krantz (b. 1901) and L.H. Daiches. Notable in the university as well as in the community were Noah Morris (professor of medicine), Michael Samuel (professor of English language), and David Daiches Raphael (professor of political and social theory).

In 1969, the Jewish population numbered about 13,400 (out of a total of 1,045,000). In the mid-1990s the Jewish population dropped to approximately 6,700. In 2001 the British census recorded a Jewish population of 4,224. At the beginning of the 21st century, five synagogues functioned in Glasgow, which also had a range of Jewish institutions, mainly in the city’s southern suburbs. (See also Oscar Slater.)


A. Levy, Origins of Glasgow Jewry, 1812–1895 (1949); idem, Origins of Scottish Jewry (1959), 27–29; idem, in: JHSET, 19 (1960), 146–56; C. Roth, Rise of Provincial Jewry (1950), index; J. Gould and S. Esh (eds.), Jewish Life in Modern Britain (1964), index; C. Bermant, Troubled Eden (1969), index; idem, in: Explorations, 1 (1967), 99–106. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: K.E. Collins, Be Well! Jewish Health and Welfare in Glasgow, 1860–1914 (2001); idem., Glasgow Jewry: A Guide to the History and Community of the Jews (1993); Kenneth E. Collins, Harvey Kaplan, Stephen Kliner: Jewish Glasgow-An Illustrated History, (Scottish Jewish Archives Centre, Glasgow, 2013); Kenneth E. Collins, Aubrey Newman, Bernard Wasserstein, Neville Lamdan, Michael Tobias, (Genealogist), Two hundred years of Scottish Jewry, (2018); Kenneth E. Collins, Second City Jewry (1990).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.
Scottish Jewish Archives Centre.