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Scottish Jews
Edited by Alastair McIntyre from a variety of sources

I note there is a lot of anti-Semitism these days and especially in the Labour Party in the UK. I thus thought I'd produce this page to explore the relations of Scots to the Jewish peoples in our history.

What the World Owes to the Jews
From Good Words 1863 volume edited by the Rev. Norman MacLeod

The Jews are at once the most ancient and the most extraordinary people on the face of the earth. Their history may be traced back without any admixture of fable for nearly forty centuries ; and throughout that long course of ages their ancestral blood has remained unmingled. The other famous nations of antiquity have long ago disappeared, and now survive only on the page of the historian. But the Jews are still an extant people. And in spite of the denationalising influences to which they have been exposed during many centuries of exile and dispersion, they still retain in their physiognomy the indelible features of their ancestors, and abide as unchanged in their distinctive qualities and habits as the mountains which are round about their own loved Jerusalem.

This singular people have not been in the world for four thousand years in vain. Long before their existence as a nation, it was foretold to their great progenitor that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed; and subsequent history, both ancient and modern, shows how completely the prediction has been fulfilled, not only in our blessed Lord who “took on him the seed of Abraham,” but in the ordinary descendants of the patriarch. The Jews have been from the first, are still, and will continue to be, a blessing to the nations.

At first sight, one might suppose that the Jews were unfavourably circumstanced for a world-wide mission, placed, as they long were, under a theocratic government which devolved on them the exclusive custody of the true religion, and debarred them from intercommunion with the idolatrous nations around. But in point of fact, the theocratic institute, so far from being exclusive and sectarian, was singularly elastic and expansive. Instead of being prohibited from admitting Gentiles to their religious privileges, the Jews were enjoined and encouraged to keep the door open for “the stranger.” At the very beginning of their national existence, it was enacted by Moses, that the stranger who might wish to keep the passover should be allowed to “come near and keep it,” and be “as one who was born in the land.” And at the dedication of the temple, when the theocracy reached its culmination, the same liberal principle was solemnly reiterated in the inaugural prayer of King Solomon. “Moreover, concerning a stranger that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name’s sake, when he shall come and pray towards this house ; hear thou in heaven thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for, that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel.” It is true that at a later day the Jews became the sworn enemies of the rest of mankind, calling them Gentile “dogs,” and sullenly refusing even to eat with them; nor is it denied that even apostles of Jesus were for a time so much under the influence of this morose and sectarian spirit, that they believed it to be “an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation.” But the relation towards the Gentile world in which the theocratic institute really placed the Jews, was one, not of antagonism, but of sympathy ; and the office which it assigned them as custodiers of the true riches was not that of misers and monopolists, but that of stewards and almoners. It was indeed necessary that they should be debarred from intermingling with idolaters ; for otherwise they would have been unable to conserve and transmit incorrupt and unimpaired, that sacred deposit of religious truth, with which, for the benefit of all mankind, they had been entrusted. But it was only while their Gentile neighbours remained idolaters, that they were so debarred. The moment idolatry was forsaken they were enjoined to welcome those neighbours to fellowship, and even allowed to intermarry with them. The once idolatrous Ruth had only to say to Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave thee, for thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,” in order, though a woman of Moab, to become "a mother in Israel” — nay, an ancestress of the Messiah Himself. In truth, the position of the Jews as a separate and peculiar people was scarcely at all different from that of the Christian believer who, though forbidden to join with a wicked world in its sins, is yet allowed to hold as much intercourse with it as may enable him to Christianise and otherwise benefit it.

In proceeding to enumerate the chief benefits which the Gentdes owe, under God, to the Jews, I may fitly begin with that inestimable one—the Old Testament Scriptures. In a certain sense, the New Testament also is a gift from the Jews; for the Gospel was originally published by Jewish tongues and Jewish pens. But the Old Testament is an exclusive product of the Jewish soil. Its sacred books were all, with the doubtful exception of the Book of Job, composed by Jewish authors, and transmitted by Jewish custodiers; and its most prominent subjects, moreover, are the institutions and fortunes of the Jews. No other national literature is so exclusively the growth of one people and one country as the Scriptures of the Old Testament.

And what an immense boon has the Old Testament been to the world 1 Think of its value simply as a contribution to history. But for it, we should have been ignorant of the origin of the world, of the creation of man, of the true cause of “the natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” But for it, the history of the fall, of the antediluvians, of the flood, of the original descent and distribution of the nations— nay, of the fortunes of our race for the first two thousand years, would have been to us an absolute blank, or only a phantasmagoria of myths and legends.

Think, too, of its value as a contribution to legislation. The Mosaic books contain the oldest code of laws in the world. And while it is certain that subsequent legislators have been indebted to them for many of their wisest enactments, as well as for the very idea of written law, it is highly probable that from them also has been derived the theory of a constitutional monarchy. This much at least is certain, that in no other ancient writings is that' form of government described. The conception which even the intellectual Greeks had of a king was that of an irresponsible ruler who possessed the right to dispose at his pleasure of the lives and properties of his subjects. The theory of a constitutional king, who should govern, not according to his own personal will, but only according to the laws and within the limits prescribed by the constitution, first meets us in the Book of Deuteronomy, and was first realised under the government of David.

Think, again, of the value of the Old Testament as a gallery of biographical portraits. Is it possible to overrate the benefit which, as a mere study of human nature, mankind have derived from the lives of Abraham, Lot, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel, Nehemiah? Take from us the ideas and associations which these names suggest, and you rob us of half our knowledge of man’s true character and nature. All uninspired biography is so one-sided, so rose-coloured, so untrue to real human life, that it at any rate would furnish but a miserable substitute for those old portraits of actual men—men of like passions with ourselves.

Still more valuable is the Old Testament as a revelation of the Unity, the Supremacy, and especially the Providence of God. As regards this last point indeed it may be doubted if even the New Testament would have sufficed for our instruction and guidance, apart from the Old. It is only in the recorded dealings of God with the Hebrew people that we see the veil withdrawn, which conceals the secret workings of Providence. Other historians confine themselves to a narration of sublunary events and their proximate causes. But the writers of the Old Testament, not content with showing us what is transacted on this side the cloud, convey us beyond it to the highest heaven, and exhibit the Unseen Governor directing and controlling all agents and all events. In the sacred history, as in the classic epos, there is always a supernatual machinery. The reader is made to behold, like Elisha’s servant, not merely the horses and chariots of Syria in the valley, but the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire.

Nor let us forget the benefit which the Old Testament has conferred by its devotional books. Think how many human hearts the Psalms of David have soothed and exalted. Think how often their mingled music and devotion have gone up to heaven alike from the solitary worshipper and from the assembled congregation—from the rafters of the turf-built cot and from the arches of the solemn cathedraL While thousands of literary works of far higher pretensions have perished, leaving not even their names behind, these poems, written thirty centuries ago among the green hills of Judea, still give a voice to devotion throughout the length and breadth of Christendom; yielding to childhood its lisping praise, to manhood its loftiest prayer, to the mourner his choicest solace, to the dying believer his latest accents. And doubtless in the ages yet to run—let the human mind put forth what new powers it may, these holy psalms will continue to furnish the language in which piety shall clothe its heavenward aspirations.

It is not, however, by means of the Old Testament Scriptures alone, that the Jews have been a blessing to the nations. They have been a blessing personally and directly. As the exclusive depositaries of the true religion, they have all along possessed the means of making God’s way known on earth. And, to appreciate their services as propagators of the truth, we have only to take a retrospective glance at their history in its two grand periods—the period before Christ, and the period since Christ.

Even while they were only the bondsmen of Pharaoh, they occupied a position far from unfavourable to their appointed function of blessing the nations. For four hundred years, they had their abode in a land which is universally admitted to have been the fountain-head of ancient civilisation. And it may be safely inferred, alike from the legends of classical mythology, and from the ancient names of the twelve constellations in the zodiac, which singularly resemble the description of the sons of Jacob as given by that patriarch in his dying benediction and prophecy, that the stream of wisdom and science which subsequently flowed forth from Egypt upon the Mediterranean nations, received not a few of its more salutary properties from the theology and traditions of the Hebrew shepherds of Goshen.

In their passage through the wilderness, they were brought into communication with many of the native tribes, as the Amorites, the Edomites, the Moabites, the Midianites. And since we are expressly told that the terror of Jehovah’s name and mighty acts preceded them wherever they went, we may warrantably conclude that their intercourse with those tribes of the desert did much to abate the prevalent idolatry; and that many besides Jethro, priest of Midian, were persuaded to join in their sacrifices, and confess that “Jehovah was greater than all Gods.” Nor is the fact without significance, that during the period of their sojourn in the wilderness, that most valuable of all arts, alphabetical writing, had its origin. It is certain that symbols to denote the elementary sounds of language were then unknown in Egypt; and it is equally certain that they were first carried to Greece, at a period not long subsequent to this, by the Phoenicians who were the neighbours of the Jews. Assume that the Phoenicians derived their knowledge from the Jews ; and how probable is the conjecture, that alphabetic writing had its cradle on Sinai, and was born into the world when Moses brought down the two tables of stone from the Mount.

On entering the Promised Land, the religious impression made by the Jews upon the Canaanitish nations was great and salutary. Of this we have decisive evidence in the conduct of the Gibeonites, who, from dread of Jehovah’s name and judgments, cast themselves on the mercy of the invaders, and purchased exemption from the doom of extermination by adopting the Mosaic religion and laws. The miracles, too, which signalised the first stages of the conquest were evidently designed to inspire the fore-doomed inhabitants of the land with a new religious awe; as was also the long respite of seven years accorded them for repentance. Nor need we hesitate to believe that Kahab the harlot was but one of very many Canaanites who were brought by means of the Hebrew conquest and invasion to believe and confess that “the Lord, the God of Israel, was God in heaven above and in earth beneath.”

During the reigns of David and Solomon, facilities for blessing the nations were greatly enlarged. Both these princes had commercial relations, not only with Phoenicia, Egypt, and Arabia, but also with countries beyond the sea—with Tarshish and Ophir—the West and East Indies of that early time. Such widespread intercourse cannot but have served to extend that divine knowledge which was peculiar to the Jews. The queen who came from the south to hear the wisdom of Solomon must have carried back with her some portions of his heavenly lore. The kings of Tarshish and the isles, who brought presents, must have received gifts in return of higher value than their gold or rubies. Nor is this mere conjecture. It is a well ascertained fact that Abyssinia, the Sheba of the Old Testament, has possessed a comparatively pure theology from a period which national tradition carries back to the age of Solomon. Nay, were there nothing else to mark the reigns of David and Solomon than the commencement of that close intercourse which so long subsisted between the Jews and the Phoenicians, there would be enough to justify the assertion that these reigns were rich in spiritual benefits to countries far beyond the frontier of Palestine. The Phoenicians were then, and for a long period afterwards, the chief maritime people in the world; and being, moreover, a people of considerable literary culture, they were enabled, during their visits to the ports of the Mediterranean for purposes of traffic, to convey to the Greeks and other Western nations, not only the letters of the alphabet and the art of writing, but also many Oriental ideas and opinions previously unknown in the West. Is it supposable that among the ideas and opinions thus conveyed to Europe there were no Jewish ones,—no ideas derived from the Jewish religion and polity ? Recollect how closely the Phoenicians were connected with the Jews, both geographically and commercially. Recollect that they were dependent on “the Jews’ country” for supplies of the staff of life; that their language did not differ farther from the Hebrew than Portuguese from Spanish; and that they were, moreover, in the practice of sending large bodies of their artisans to instruct and assist the Jews in architecture and carpentry. Thus circumstanced, how could the Phoenicians have been unacquainted with the moral and theological tenets of Judaism? And if acquainted with them, how could they have failed to impart the knowledge of at least some of them to the various countries to which their commercial pursuits conducted them? We sometimes come upon passages in the writings of the Heathen sages of Greece, which amaze us by their ethical sublimity and wisdom; and to such passages infidels delight to point as evidence of man’s ability to discover religious and moral truth independently of a divine revelation. But we may safely hold that the real source of such passages, and indeed of all that is good and true in the moral writings of Pagan antiquity, is to be found in those Jewish ideas and opinions which the Phoenician mariners and merchants, so early as the days of David and Solomon, began to diffuse and circulate—thereby scattering on the tops of the mountains that handful of corn, the fruit whereof was to shake like Lebanon.

After the partition of the kingdom, the Jews had additional seals of their ministry—as witness the notable instance of Naaman, the Syrian general. But their largest harvest of Heathen converts was reserved for the period when they were thrown into association with the four great monarchies which successively ruled the East.

With the Babylonian monarchy they were connected by the bond of a seventy years’ captivity. And, by God’s merciful overrulement, that captivity, though humiliating to their national pride, proved the means, not only of weaning themselves from idol worship, but of reforming the religious usages of their captors. Their jealousy for the honour of the one living and true God struck the Babylonians with awe. Their self-denial in temptation and constancy in suffering won the admiration of the luxurious court and city. Though they often sat down and wept when they remembered Zion, and hanged their harps upon the willows, yet it was not always in mockery that “they that carried them away captive,” said to them, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” Nebuchadnezzar, the king, was so impressed with the sublimity of their creed and the splendour of their virtues, that he publicly interdicted “ every people and nation and language ” within bis dominions from speaking anything amiss against the God of the Hebrews.

With the Persian Empire, which rose on the ruins of Babylon, their connection was yet closer. It had been foretold by Isaiah a hundred years before, that Cyrus would overturn the Babylonian power and bid the captive Jews go free; and the event corresponded. Not only did that great monarch empower such of the Jews as wished it to return to their own land, but he elevated many of them to places of trust and authority in his own immediate dominions: and embracing himself the belief of the true God, he encouraged his subjects to do the same. Several of his successors followed his example. One of them, Ahasuerus, had a Jewess for his queen, and a Jew for his prime minister. And for several ages after, as ancient history attests, Persia professed a purer theology than the siurounding Asiatic countries.

When the Persian Empire fell in its turn before the Macedonian, the Jews entered upon a yet wider field of usefulness. Taking advantage of the liberal policy of Alexander the Great, they speedily settled in large numbers, as teachers or as traders, in all the chief cities- of the empire; thus multiplying the centres whence the true light might stream forth into the surrounding darkness. In Egypt, in particular, they soon became, through successive emigrations, a great and prosperous colony. There, foregoing their national unapproachableness, they associated freely with the native inhabitants. There they built a temple, accessible to Gentile as well as Jewish worshippers, in which the whole routine of divine service was performed in the same manner as at Jerusalem. And there, too, with the full sanction and approval of the reigning princes, they executed that celebrated Greek translation of their own Scriptures— the Septuagint—which perhaps did more than all other causes combined, to prepare the world for the advent of the Saviour.

Nor was the last and greatest of the four empires unbenefited by the Jews. Whence sprung that general expectation of a great Deliverer which prevailed throughout the Boman dominions about the time of our Lord’s birth? Whence, but from the previous wide diffusion of the Jewish Scriptures? Tacitus, the most accurate of the Roman historians, speaks expressly of this expectation as drawn from the sacred books of the Hebrew priests; and no; scholar can read the contemporary Latin poems - such as the “Pollio” of Virgil—which foretell and celebrate the coming Prince, without being struck with palpable marks of plagiarism from the Septuagint. It was thus through the leavening influence of Jewish literature and Jewish opinion, that the mind of the Empire became filled with the presentiment of a new and better era. And if, then, the world was now ripe for the epiphany of “the Desire of all nations ”—if the train was already laid all around the Mediterranean, which the first preachers of the cross had only to ignite, in order to set on fire and consume the gigantic fabric of classical Paganism— let not the Jews be denied the praise and honour of thus “preparing the way of the Lord.”

Blessed be the God of Israel for making His chosen people so helpful to the nations of antiquity ! On a first view, the Heathen world prior to the advent of Christ seems a very valley of the shadow of death. But the gloom, as we have seen, was neither universal nor uninterrupted. The lamp of truth, which burned so bright in Canaan, and went with the Jews in all their dispersions, threw its healing rays frequently and far into the darkness. And thousands upon thousands, we may thankfully believe, who were bora to the dark heritage of idolatry, were taught by its light to turn from dumb idols to the living God, and emboldened to breathe out their last sigh in the hope of a blessed immortality.

In now turning to the benefits which the Jews have conferred on mankind during the Christian era, I must not pass unnoticed that small but important portion of the nation, which St. Paul styles “the remnant according to the election of grace.” For to that “remnant” weare indebted for the very choicest of our religious advantages. That “remnant” formed the original stem of the Christian Church—Jesus himself being the root. By that “remnant” the Gospel was originally preached, and the New Testament written. And through fellowship with that “remnant” have the Gentiles acquired their spiritual privileges. We sometimes hear indeed of the Gentile Church as distinguished from the Jewish. But it ought to be remembered that the Christian Church was at first composed exclusively of Jews, and that the Gentiles who have since been admitted • into it, have been admitted, not as a separate and independent body, but simply as an addition to the original Jewish remnant. “Fellow-citizens with the (Jewish) saints”—“Fellow-heirs, and of the same body,” these are the phrases by which the believing Gentiles are described in the Apostolical writings. Nor is it other, therefore, than an abuse of language to speak of the Gentile and the Jewish believers as forming different Churches. It is as “graffed in among” the Jewish “remnant,” that we Gentiles have come to “partake of the root and fatness of the olive-tree.” And hence in counting up the long roll of Jewish benefits, we should never forget that to a portion of that people we owe, under God, the inestimable blessing of Christianity and the Christian Church.

But what of the great bulk of the nation—the unbelieving Jews? Have they also been our benefactors? Certainly, no service to the Christian world was to be expected at their hands. Nay, their very survival as a people after that terrible destruction of Jerusalem Which followed and avenged their rejection of Christ, was a marvel. “Never,” as has been eloquently said, “was vessel dashed upon the rock into smaller fragments than the Jewish nation in that tremendous overthrow. Their heaven-built polity went to pieces; their holy temple was ruined from topmost tower to foundation-stone; a million of their best lives were sacrificed; and all whom the sword spared were sold into hopeless captivity.” One might have thought that so profound a calamity would have made a “full end” of the people. But no. Pfophecy had sealed them for a further mission to the world: and events ere long showed that they had yet a long career of usefulness to run.

It would be interesting, did space permit, to narrate how speedily the scattered fragments of the wreck were collected, and reconstructed into two great communities—the one at Tiberias i-n Palestine, and the other on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. Nor would it be less interesting to trace the subsequent fortunes of these modern Jews—their alternate patronage and oppression by the Roman emperors— their persecutions by Mahomet and their prosperity under his successors—their rise to almost fabulous wealth and power in France and Spain during the Moorish dominion—their depression and sufferings during the Crusades—and their singularly varied fortunes ever since in all quarters of the globe. But waiving historical details it may suffice to indicate in general terms the chief benefits of which the unbelieving Jews have been the source or the occasion.

One very notable thing is the vast influence which, owing to their peculiar bent and aptitude for traffic and accumulation, they have all along exercised on the world’s material and industrial progress. Strange as their possession of great wealth may appear, considering how often they have been peeled and spoliated, it is undeniable that they have been in every land of their dispersion the pioneers of trade and commerce, and in many lands the chief capitalists and financiers. At this hour Jewish bankers form the money-barometers of the world.

For music no less than money the modern world is largely indebted to the Jews. Famous from the earliest times for their taste and skill in that fascinating art, they have been in later times, too, its most successful cultivators. And at the present day many of our greatest composers and performers belong to the Hebrew race.

As educationists, also, the Jews have set the rest of mankind a beneficial example. The rule prescribed by Moses that parents should count it a sacred duty to instruct their children in the national history and laws, seems to have been more or less followed on to the fall of Jerusalem. But it is only since the final dispersion of the people that their educational institutions have attracted the notice, and commanded the imitation of other nations. It was under the Rabbins that the system of tuition was matured, which connected the school with the synagogue. And there can be no doubt that Chris-tendoifi has borrowed from the Rabbins the principle and system of combined secular and religious instruction. The Church of Rome, in particular, owes those -Jewish teachers a heavy debt; for the far-famed schools of the Jesuits are almost an exact copy of the schools of old Rabbinism. And, singular to say—if a digressive remark may be allowed —even Popery itself, considered as a great politico-religious institute claiming universal sway over its adherents, is a wholesale plagiarism from the system established and long exercised by the Rabbinical oligarchy. The Pope of Rome, in claiming implicit faith and obedience from his spiritual subjects, in co-ordinating tradition with Scripture, and even in assuming the title of “His Holiness,” only does what the Rabbinical Patriarch of Tiberias did centuries before him.

But the grand distinctive benefit conferred by the unbelieving Jews yet remains: — They have been for eighteen centuries a standing witness to the truth of the Gospel; certifying all men how just wei’e His claims to faith and obedience, who declared that, for their sin in rejecting Him, they should “be led away captive into all nations,” and their beloved “Jerusalem trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” It is true, the Jews themselves have no idea that they are witnesses on the side of a religion which they contemptuously reject. They mean not to give evidence in its favour. Nay, such an office, if named to them, they would repudiate with all a Hebrew’s bitter scorn. Yet this is their office not the less. And most effectively do they perform it. If there is an evidence of the truth of our religion which makes up to the men of this latter age for the cessation and want of the miracles of the first age, it is the existing condition of the Jewish people. Can any mere natural causes account for such a peculiar condition as theirs ? Is there any other instance on record of a people retaining its nationality, age after age, notwithstanding the entire rupture of all the ties of a common country and a national government? Is there any other instance of a people continuing for centuries in a state of dispersion, without being absorbed in the surrounding races? Look at our own island. Though conquered and colonised by a succession of distinct races— Celts, Saxons, Danes, Normans — yet its inhabitants have long since lost nearly all traces of their separate descent, and become the one undivided people of Britain. Look at the city of London. It is only a few hundred years since a colony of Frenchmen established themselves in its suburb of Spitalfields; and yet these immigrants are now undistinguishable, except by their French names, from the native population of London. Why is it so diametrically the reverse in the case of the Jews ? Nor is it only when cursorily surveyed that the case of the Jews seems anomalous. The longer you ponder it, the anomaly appears the more striking. For what sort of a life is it that the Jews lead in the lands of their dispersion? Is it a life which tends to keep them isolated? Is it a roaming, vagrant, gipsy-like life on the outskirts of society? Quite the contrary. It is a life of close and active communication with other men; it is a life of sleepless traffic and industry in the heart of crowded cities ; it is a life of busy and incessant money-making—the very life of all others most fitted to obliterate original distinctions of race and lineage. And yet they mix thus closely and constantly with other men, without ever amalgamating. They crowd and jostle in the world’s thoroughfare of toil and traffic, without ever crossing that boundary, broad and deep, which their ancestral blood and ancient religious usages draw around them. Even their adherence to these ancient usages is itself an anomaly; for they have now no legitimate grounds for retaining them. Their religion wants its indispensable aids of temple and sacrifice; yet they adhere to it with changeless pertinacity. Their hope of restoration to their own land has no ground of support in the prophecies, as interpreted by cautious expositors; yet they cling to that hope after long centuries of “hope deferred.” And these strange contrarieties—seclusion in the midst of society, addiction to templeworship in the absence of a temple, hope of national restoration without any ostensible ground of hope — are not things of to-day or of yesterday merely, but hereditary and unchanging characteristics of the people;—attending and distinguishing them in every clime, under every form of government, when they live together and when they live apart, in the crowded capitals of Europe and in the lonely isles of the Indian sea. Has such a phenomenon any parallel in history? Unbelievers ask us for a sign from Heaven to attest our religion—a sensible miracle which would leave no room for disbelief. We bid them look at the Jews; we point them to that standing miracle; and we make bold to tell them that if they believe not on its sure and striking testimony, “neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Great and manifold, then, are the services which, during their long and eventful career, God’s ancient people have rendered to the rest of mankind. Ought these services to remain unacknowledged and unrepaid? If we Gentiles are such debtors to the Jews — if to them we owe, under God, our religious knowledge, our helps of grace, our prophets, our apostles, our Church — yea, our blessed Redeemer Himself, what can be more incumbent on us than to repay the debt in kind, by sending them the Gospel of salvation? Too long has it been the habit of Christians to despise the Jew, to deny him the honour due to “all men,” to aggravate the hardships of his lot by pointing at him the finger of scorn. Too long have the Churches of Christendom expended their missionary zeal almost exclusively on their Gentile brethren; emulating that selfish and morose exclusiveness of which the Jews at the beginning of the Gospel set so odious an example. But surely if any branch of the human family has a prior claim to our sympathy and help, it is God’s ancient people — the people whose poverty has made us rich, whose religion differs from our own only as the cold grey dawn from the perfect day, and whose unexampled sorrows enhance their title to our Christian commiseration.

J. M'Culloch

From Good Words 1863 edition



When Scotland was Jewish
DNA Evidence, Archeology, Analysis of Migrations, and Public and Family Records Show Twelfth Century Semitic Roots by Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman and Donald N. Yates (pdf)

Jewish Origins of Bruce, Douglas and Stewart

The popular image of Scotland is dominated by widely recognized elements of Celtic culture. But a significant non-Celtic influence on Scotland’s history has perhaps been largely ignored for centuries. This book argues that much of Scotland’s history and culture from 1100 forward is Jewish. The authors provide evidence that many of the national heroes, villains, rulers, nobles, traders, merchants, bishops, guild members, burgesses, and ministers of Scodand were of Jewish descent, their ancestors originating in France and Spain. Much of the traditional historical account of Scotland, it is proposed, rests on fundamental interpretive errors, perpetuated in order tQ affirm Scotland’s identity as a Celtic, Christian society. A more accurate and profound understanding of Scottish history has thus been buried. The authors’ wide-ranging research includes census records, archaeological artifacts, castle carvings, cemetery inscriptions, religious seals, coinage, burgess and guild member rolls, noble genealogies, family crests, portraiture, and geographic place names. Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman is a professor of marketing at Rutgers University. Donald N. Yates is the founder of DNA Consulting, a company that specializes in correlating genetic and genealogical information. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


The first record of a Jew in Scotland is in 1691 and since then they have been an integral part of the country and its people. Jews in Scotland were not persecuted and there were no national or state sponsored antisemitic laws. When England was burning and exiling its Jews in the Middle Ages, Scotland provided a safe haven from English and European anti-Semitism. Now, after over 300 years, an official Jewish tartan has been created and registered with the Scottish Tartans Authority. It was designed by the only Scottish-born Rabbi living in Scotland, it's 100 per cent Kosher - being a non wool-linen mix. It incorporates many aspects of Scottish-Jewish cultural and religious history, with the colours, weave and number of threads picked for their relevance to Judaism. The blue and white represents the colours of the Israeli and Scottish flag with the central gold line representing the gold from the Biblical Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the many ceremonial vessels. The launch of the new tartan coincided with Israel's 60th anniversary celebration.


Captain Moore, R. N., jocularly asked Dr. Wolff why there were so few Jews in Scotland? Wolff replied, "The Scotchmen are called Caledonians, which proves their Chaldean descent." "And this Dr. Wolff believes seriously; and the Chaldeans themselves say that three Jews are needed to cheat one Chaldean, which may be the reason why so few Jews are in Scotland." — Dr. Wolff's Travels and Adventures,
vol. II


Israel in Scotland:
The Legacy of Scottish Jews Submitted by Isaac Baird in the Clan Baird Society International newsletter of Autumn 2016.

In 2005, the Scottish historian and literary critic, David Daiches, passed away at the age of 92. He left behind a score of books covering literary criticism and history of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Bonnie Prince Charlie. He also wrote an autobiography that captured the life of the prominent Scot, born and raised in Edinburgh, who taught at Cambridge and Oxford. The book, Between Two Worlds:

An Edinburgh Jewish Childhood recounts a unique Scottish experience, the Jewish Scot experience. Daiches, the son of the Orthodox Rabbi Salis Daiches, would later be credited with “reviving Sir Walter Scott” and opening the world to Scottish Jews.

Scotland, described as the first multicultural society by some academics, consists of a mixture of cultures that create Scottish Identity. Historically, Scotland was a combination of Norse settlers, Gaelic Highland inhabitants, Anglo-speaking Lowlanders, French and Flemish immigrants. In modern times, Scotland includes cultures as diverse as Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Irish, Polish, and many others. For the Scottish Diaspora, the numerous experiences of Scottish immigrants expand Scottish Culture and tradition beyond the simple Hollywood tropes of Tartanry.

Although a steady stream of Victorian historical revisionism, and modern Hollywood stereotypes, obscures the multicultural background of Scotland, these varied cultures form the Scottish and Scottish Diaspora experience. Investigating these cultures and how they fit in with the larger multicultural Scotland can inform us about the Scottish experience. By understanding the Scottish and Scottish Diaspora experience, we can gain insights to Baird traditions and heritage.

Of all of the Scottish experiences, one of the most fascinating, yet least studied, is
that of the Scottish Jews. Despite being a small community, Scotland gains immensely from her Jewish sons and daughters. The Jewish community is an historical community of Scotland, that shares and advances Scottish history and traditions, and continues to enhance Scottish and Scottish Diaspora culture in modern times.

Scottish Jews are a community with ancient ties to Scotland. Although it is unknown when the first Jews migrated to Scotland, historical records show Jewish immigration to have occurred before the 13th century. However, the historical documentation for an early Jewish presence in Scotland is sparse. The lack of early Jewish history in Scotland can be attributed to the fact that academic studies of Jewish History in the UK has focused typically on England only.

Another reason may be that Scotland did not show the same hostility toward the Jewish people as the rest of Europe, which resulted in fewer mentions in the historical record. This is not to diminish anti-Semitism in Scotland during the medieval ages or modern times, but rather to note that it may not have been as extreme as seen in England.

For example, Scotland never passed an expulsion act (as in England), and the Declaration of Arbroath noted that in the eyes of God “there is neither weighing nor distinction of Jew and Greek, Scotsman or Englishman…”

Despite this, there does not appear to be a significant Jewish presence in Scotland until the 1700’s. This doesn’t mean that Jews did not live in Scotland during this time. Records exist showing the Scottish monarchy and clergy engaging in business with Jewish financiers.

Prior to the 1700’s, Scottish Universities maintained several language professors,
particularly in the Hebrew language, that are considered by some modern historians to be of Jewish descent or recent Jewish converts. The first recorded Scottish Jew for whom we have a name is in Edinburgh in 1691 when David Brown applied to reside and trade in the city. Initially, he faced resistance but was defended by Hugh Blair, treasurer of the town council, who argued that Jewish Scots were “the ancient people of God and the seed of Abraham... to them belongs the promise.” The town council agreed with Blair, and allowed David Brown to trade in the city.

Elsewhere in Scotland, Jewish students were found attending Scottish Universities between 1691 -1824 for medicine. Scottish Universities attracted these students as they did not require religious oaths.

Several famous Scottish Jews began to emerge during this time. One in particular, a convert to Judaism, was Lord George Gordon. He was the youngest son of Cosmo Gordon, 3rd Duke of Gordon. Cosmo Gordon was also the Earl of Huntly, whose ancestors had brought the Bairds to Auchmedden.

The Duke’s nephew, George Gordon, known as Lord Haddo, married Charlotte Baird, the sister of General Sir David Baird, Bt. Lord Haddo’s grandfather, George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen, had purchased Auchmedden from the Bairds in 1750.

When Lord Haddo brought his wife to Auchmedden in 1782, the famed eagles of Pennan returned. Shortly thereafter, at 27, Lord Haddo died in a fall from a horse and the eagles left.

In 1774, Lord George Gordon attempted to run for Parliament for Invernessshire. He was opposed by General Fraser, the 19th Chief of the Clan Fraser, who raised the 71st Highlander regiment that Sir James Baird of Saughtonhall served during the American War of Independence. Fraser, attempting to buy the election, purchased a pocket borough of Ludgershall for Lord George Gordon. Pocket boroughs were small constituencies who could be controlled by a wealthy patron by evicting any man who didn’t vote the way of the owner. (Secret Ballot did not come about until 1872 and these boroughs were abolished in 1867. Ludgershall had less than 550 people in 1810.) The thought was to neutralize the potential Gordon power by bribing him with an office.

In addition, Lord George, at 22, was considered a political lightweight. When Lord George assumed office, he became the opposite of the expectations. He supported the American cause of Independence and rejected any military involvement in the war.

He converted to Judaism in 1787 and became extremely pious. However, he was charged with insulting Marie Antoinette and fled the country. In 1788, he was forced back to England and sent to prison for five years. His time in prison was remarkable for his religious observance of halakha (Jewish Law) and was permitted to keep kashrut (Dietary law) as well as affixing a mezuzah on his cell door. When his prison term ended, he entered the court. He refused to remove his Kippah, or head covering, and when forced, he pulled a night cap on to cover his head. The court, furious at this, remanded him to his cell where he contracted typhoid and died.

The Scottish Jewish Community continued to grow. In 1795, the first Jewish burial plot was purchased. In 1816, the first Jewish congregation, in Edinburgh, was founded. Aberdeen would establish a congregation in 1893.

Scotland again became a haven for immigrants fleeing Europe. The immigrants moved into the larger cities, such as the poorer part of Glasgow city call the Gorbals. More immigrants came in during the 20th century prior to the end of World War II. During the early 20th century, a Rabbi named Salis Daiches, from Edinburgh, began to vacation in highlands of Scotland, reciting Scottish poetry in Hebrew, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath. It was on these trips that he came across a Jewish tailor that spoke no English and could only communicate in Gaelic and Yiddish.

His son, David Daiches, would document a unique form of Scottish-Yiddish found amongst the Jewish community in Edinburgh. In the 2001 census, 6,448 Jews lived in Scotland. Most live in Glasgow, although congregations and community can be found throughout Scotland including in the highlands.

In 2008, Rabbi Mendel Jacobs certified the first Jewish tartan through the Scottish Tartans Authority. The colors of the tartan, represent the Jewish experience in Scotland. The white and blue, represent the Israeli and Scottish Flags. The gold thread represents the gold found in the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the ceremonial vessels. The silver stands for the decoration adorning Torah scrolls and the red represent the wine used for Kiddush. The tartan and kilt are kosher and made from 100% wool without any linen.

Scottish Jews, and Scots of Jewish descent continue to contribute to Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora experience. The Jewish Lad and Girls Brigade of Glasgow, founded in 1903, still maintains the world’s only Jewish bagpipe band.

Recently the Movie, “The Eagle” starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell, which was shot partly in Scotland and features the Gaelic language, was directed by Kevin Macdonald, a Scot of Jewish descent whose brother produced “Trainspotting”. Marc Knopfler, of Dire Straits, scored and produced the music for the movie “Local Hero” that featured the Town of Pennan in Auchmedden. He is also of Jewish descent. Isla Fisher, born to Scottish parents and who appeared in the hit TV series “Arrested Development” in a kilt with the Los Angeles Scottish folk band Wicked Tinkers, self identifies as an observant Jew. Scottish Jews remain prominent in business, politics, and academics as well as the arts.

Jewish Bairds have also influenced the Scottish Diaspora experience. Carol Davidson Baird, a well-known and respected Jewish genealogist, as well as past president of both the San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society and the North San Diego Genealogy Society aided many genealogists. She has dedicated her time to both Jewish and non-Jewish genealogists, with her lectures, classes, and numerous publications. ZoŽ Baird named as the United States Attorney General nominee in 1993 and a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (1994-2000) was also of Jewish descent. She became the CEO and president of the Markle Foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization concerned with technology, health care, and national security while heralding the unique organization and their initiatives into the internet age.

Her son, Julian Baird Gerwitz, is a Rhodes Scholar, and poet, at Oxford with a PhD in modern Chinese history. Rabbi Justus N. Baird, son of the late Clan Baird Society Quartermaster, Justus Baird, is the director of Center for Multifaith Education at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. Jewish Bairds have contributed in Science and Medicine including Dr. Stephen Baird, the former Director of Pathology at UC San Diego and Professor Emeritus of Pathology at University of California – San Diego (UCSD).

With the approach of the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Bairds everywhere should give a moment’s pause to the lengthy contribution of Scottish Jews to Scotland and the Scottish Experience. Bairds should recognize the role of Scottish Jews in Scottish History and in our own Baird traditions.


Chaplain’s Corner
Samantha Gray, Chaplain, CLSI
Clan Leslie Society International Newsletter April 2014

Usually, the April Chaplain’s Corner, is a remnant of April Fool’s Day with a crossword puzzle, humorous anecdotes and so forth. Now and then, it has dealt with Easter and its ancient cognate, Ostara, a spring equinoctial observance of our ancestor Celts. I have mentioned Passover briefly several times so for this month’s Grip Fast column we will look at the establishment of Jewish communities and, hence the celebration of Passover in Scotland.

There are a number of holidays (originally meaning “holy day”) which occur in the spring, but not all are celebrated on the same date each year as some of them are “moveable”. A moveable feast date simply means that the date of the holiday changes because it’s particular day of occurrence is calculated by lunar cycles. Still other dates are “fixed” and examples of these would be November 16, St. Margaret of Scotland’s Day, or St. Bartholomew’s Day on August 24th. Ostara is always celebrated on the spring equinox which always occurs on or within two days of March 20th. Easter and Passover, calculated by the old moon calendar, may occur on widely differing dates each year. Passover on February 20th, 2013 was the earliest it had occurred since 1899 according to numerous rabbinic sources. The earliest date on which Easter can fall is March 22, and the latest is April 24. The latest date for Passover is April 23rd. Tradition holds that the Last Supper, memorialized in art by Davinci, was in fact, a Passover Seder. Religious historians today believe there is strong evidence for the crucifixion to have been in early autumn, not in the spring, and therefore not around Passover; but the tradition linking Jesus’ last supper on earth with the Seder is powerful (if perhaps suspect, given modern scholarly evidence).

Passover, or Pesach (Pey-Sach - the ‘ach’ pronounced as in “loch”), is the recounting of how the angel of death passed over the homes of Jewish slaves in Egypt while claiming the firstborn of all other households in the land. This was the last and most ghastly of the ten plagues God sent which finally prompted Pharaoh to release the Jews from bondage and allowed them to leave Egypt to find and establish the promised land of Israel. It is one of the three paramount holy days in the Jewish liturgical year and is celebrated by Jews world-wide. The international al Jewish community has persevered in commemorating this celebration of liberty, even in secret during the Holocaust years in Europe. Passover recalls the Lord’s promise to Moses of a land of ‘milk and honey’ which the Jewish people will inherit after long travail in the desert. Although the Jewish population in Scotland is small, it is very active and Pesach is celebrated well, and has been for at least the past 300+ years. According to the Virtual Jewish Library online, there has been evidence of Jewish families living in Edinburgh since 1641 and in Glasgow since 1740. When, during a period from the mid-1100’s to late 1200’s,Jews were severely and deliberately persecuted in England and the Act of Expulsion drove them from English lands, many fled north across the border into Scotland for safety and shelter. According to this source “Jews have experienced great tolerance, acceptance and friendliness, and generosity from
fellow non-Jewish Scots” ever since.

Many authors have written about the strong parallels between Israel and Scotland - two tiny, continually besieged nations which persevered - despite domination and attempts at suppression by foreign powers - to become self-governing lands of freedom, which produced some of the greatest scientists, philosophers, innovators and scholars in numbers far beyond average, and gifted the entire world with remarkable breakthroughs in medicine, mathematics, literature, and even military theory among other achievements. The Declaration of Arbroath reflects the tolerance and freedom Scottish Jews have enjoyed for centuries as it states “There is neither bias nor difference between Jew or Greek, Scot or English” when speaking of individual worth of all people in the Eyes of God. And religious scholars recognize that 17th Century Protestant thinking in Europe revered and included the basic tenets of Judaism into what would become the most fundamental and enduring of Protestant principles during the Reformation.

The largest number of Jewish families is now in Glasgow, followed by Edinburgh. It is of interest to note that of the various “denominations” - a not quite accurate description of the different beliefs and worship traditions within Judaism itself - the one and only Reformed Synagogue (the most liberal, modern interpretation of Jewish belief) in Scotland is in Glasgow, drawing it’s congregation from as far away as Edinburgh and Aberdeen and Dundee. There are other synagogues which are both Conservative (moderate) and Orthodox (strictest traditions) throughout Scotland.

Passover is celebrated for a week, but the first two nights are particularly important because of the Seder tradition. The Haggadah is read in Hebrew or English by all who gather around the Seder table, retelling the story of the holiday.

There are songs, the Four Questions to be asked of the children (“Why is this night different from all other nights?...”) and special foods which are symbolic of the hard labor and grief in Egypt and the long years in the desert, and the sweetness of freedom and the promised land. Matzoh, the unleavened bread of the flight from Egypt, is served. No leavened bread or grain which might produce leavening may be used (nothing of wheat, barley or rye) and in very observant homes, there is a ritual hunt with the kids carrying dustpan and brush to scour the home for any crumbswhich dare to remain after the house has undergone a rigorous Passover cleaning! On the beautifully appointed Seder table is Elijah’s cup with a bit of wine for the Prophet, and at a special point in the ceremony during dinner, someone must go to the door and open it to invite Elijah in. In Reformed homes, there is often a Seder cup for the matriarch
Miriam as well.

After dinner there is another kind of hunt that the kids love: the afickomen, a piece of matzoh, wrapped in a linen or cotton cloth, is hidden before the family and guests arrive, and whichever child finds it gets to demand a ransom, with Grandfather or Dad offering a small sum of money. When my own children were small, it was five dollars, American. I cannot imagine what the ransom is today if inflation is factored in, but suspect that five or ten dollars is still the going rate. Living in a multi-religion home, we had fun sharing traditions of several faiths. I encourage any Grip Fast readers who have the opportunity to attend a bona fide Seder to do so. You will find many parallels to Christian Eucharist services. In the last twenty years, it has become popular for churches to hold ‘Christian Seders’ incorporating the wonderful story of Pesach and Easter as reflections of deliverance and hope and blessings in abundance. The ritual Seder is a shared spiritual experience that is at once uplifting and serious, yet at the same time joyous and fun as well as delicious! Pesach Shalom to all Jewish members of CLSI, and Happy Easter to the Christian members. May Peace and harmony bless us all.


The True Roots and Origin of the Scots
A Research Summary and Pointers towards further research by Craig M. White (pdf)

Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839 (Second Edition), Vol.1 | Vol. 2 by The Church of Scotland


Scots Jews

Being Jewish in Scotland

Jewish Renaissance
A Fresh Perspective on Jewish Culture
Jewish Scotland

David Daiches
Prolific scholar and teacher whose works showed his mastery of literary criticism, history and culture

As a small boy, the distinguished literary scholar and historian David Daiches, who has died aged 92, decided he would become the second Shakespeare, and his published writings certainly exceeded the bard's in length. At 11, he discovered that his father had, without telling him, given his poems to his school magazine, and the publication of one of them in a serious journal with no juvenile section attracted much attention.

But although he was to produce some creative literature of his own, it was as a teacher, critic, historian and scholar that Daiches was to make his mark. As director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at Edinburgh University (1980-86), and earlier at Sussex University, where he was professor of English (1961-77) and dean of the School of English Studies (1961-68), he became one of the most prolific and respected academics of his time.

Daiches was born in Sunderland, but moved, at the age of six, to Edinburgh, where his father became rabbi to the city's two synagogues and de facto chief rabbi of Scotland. Being brought up in an Orthodox Jewish family in Scotland after the first world war was an experience he entertainingly described in Two Worlds (1956), an account of his schooldays and a moving tribute to his father, a powerful speaker, campaigner and scholar, who did much to integrate Scottish Jewry into Scottish life, while preserving its distinctiveness.

The Daiches had come from Lithuania, and a long succession of rabbinical scholars. David was the middle child of three, his brother Lionel having a distinguished career at the Scottish bar, and he grew up as a normal, middle-class Edinburgh boy, unable only to take part in sports on Saturdays.

"Being a Jew," he told the Guardian three decades ago, "was not as paradoxical or difficult as might be imagined. Children accept the world into which they are born, and it seemed to us that there was the secular world outside and the internal closed Jewish world of festivals and synagogue services. We were equally at home in both."

At George Watson's school, Daiches excelled in English, languages and history, won a scholarship at 15, and left with many prizes and a further scholarship to Edinburgh University. He distinguished himself there, too, won the prestigious Elliot prize and went on to Balliol College, Oxford, where he was the Elton exhibitioner. He returned to Edinburgh in 1935 to start his academic career as assistant in English, and was made a fellow and lecturer at Balliol the following year.

His first book, The Place Of Meaning In Poetry, was published in 1935. This was followed by New Literary Values (1936), Literature And Society (1938), The Novel And The Modern World (1939) and Poetry And The Modern World in 1940.

In 1937, he had gone to Chicago University as assistant professor of English, and was asked to stay there during the war. His next book, The King James Bible: A Study Of Its Sources And Development (1941), was followed by Virginia Woolf (1942). He stayed at Chicago until 1943, simultaneously producing pamphlets for the British Information Service - they were models of their kind - and, in 1944, became second secretary at the British embassy in Washington.

The then ambassador, Lord Halifax, was a rather stiff figure, and the embassy's main functions were to give out information about Britain, curry favour with President Roosevelt and report back to London on American politics. Isaiah Berlin did the latter in a witty and concise weekly brief; he, Daiches and a few coopted British journalists had to fight to get anything done in the atmosphere of aristocratic, old-boy red tape.

Because Halifax and his senior diplomats were often not up to it, Daiches had to provide, and often make, important public speeches in Washington. He had become, like his father, an eloquent speaker, able to explain British foreign policy and institutions in uncomplicated language, and he was also in demand for addresses at Burns' nights, formal dinners and business, university and special interest clubs, where he could exhibit his wide knowledge of literature, the arts, history and folklore.

After a brief period in Britain at the end of the war, Daiches and his family went to Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York state, where he was professor of English from 1946 to 1951. There were more books too, Robert Louis Stevenson (1947), A Study Of Literature (1948), Robert Burns (1950) and, in 1951, Willa Cather: An Introduction. That same year he was was appointed as an English lecturer at Cambridge, becoming a fellow of Jesus College in 1957. He none the less returned frequently to America; he was visiting professor of criticism at Indiana University from 1956 to 1957.

During all this time, Daiches continued to turn out a stream of critical books and essays, and works on British and other authors. Critical Approaches To Literature and Literary Essays (both 1956) were followed by John Milton (1957), The Present Age (1958) and A Critical History Of English Literature in 1960.

Daiches had always been a liberal with a belief in wider educational opportunity, and this aspect of his enthusiam came into his own in the early 1960s. He threw in his lot with the expansion of higher education, inaugurated by the Conservatives. Six new universities were created and at Sussex, the first of them, he became professor and dean of English studies.

That move to Brighton had begun in Hyderabad, when, on a British Council tour, Daiches had met Asa Briggs, the man who was to become pro-vice chancellor at Sussex in 1961. As the two downed dry Martinis, Briggs became more and more eloquent about the new institution's prospects. "It was going to be the greatest thing since the foundation of the University of Bologna," Daiches recalled. "So I said, who is going to set up your English department, and he said something like, "You are, dear boy.'"

While at Sussex, Daiches also lectured at McMaster University, in Canada, at Wesleyan University, Ohio, and at the University of California. In 1966, he was a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota. He published George Eliot's Middlemarch in 1963 and, a year later, besides editing The Paradox Of Scottish Culture, documented some of his educational views in The Idea Of A New University.

In 1969, he published Scotch Whisky. Two years after that came A Third World, a second autobiographical volume, in which he voiced his reservations about the US and its educational failings. That year, too, there was Sir Walter Scott And His World, and the Penguin Companion To Literature: Britain And The Commonwealth. He was also joint editor of Robert Burns And His World. After the six volumes of Literature And Western Civilisation (1972-76), in 1977 came his social, economic and cultural history of Glasgow.

In 1980, two years after the appearance of his book on Edinburgh, Daiches moved back to the city. In the 1970s, he had recalled that, as a young man, he thought there were only two places he could root himself in - Jerusalem and the Scottish capital. He had always kept up his Scottish connections and knew everyone in literature there.

As he recalled: "My childhood memories, my feelings of growing up, of my holidays on the Fife coast, of walking on the Pentland hills - all that is most moving and vivid to me about a sense of place is of Scotland. I always wanted to return to Edinburgh."

In 1981, his Companion To Scottish Culture was published, and his last work, A Weekly Scotsman And Other Poems, appeared in 1994. But even in retirement, he never stopped writing.

He is survived by the two daughters and a son from his first marriage, to Isobel Mackay, who died in 1977. His second wife, Hazel Neville, whom he married in 1978, died in 1986.

∑ David Daiches, critic, historian, writer, born September 2 1912; died July 15 2005

Ida Schuster, legendary Scottish actress and world’s oldest podcaster

Ida Schuster, actress and director. Born: 28 September 1918 in Glasgow. Died: 8 April 2020 in Glasgow, aged 101.

Superb timing is an essential feature of a successful acting career; and the much-loved actress Ida Schuster, who has died in Glasgow aged 101 after a suspected encounter with Covid-19, possessed it to the last. Her career as an actress spanned nine decades, from the early 1930s to her final appearance on the Citizens’ stage in 2015; she played stage roles ranging from brothel-keeper Madame Irma in Jean Genet’s The Balcony at the Citizens’ Theatre, to Sadie the tea lady in the original Traverse production of John Byrne’s The Slab Boys, and went on to appear in TV series including Garnock Way and River City.

And she also, in the last months of her life, became the world’s oldest podcaster, recording – with undimmed sharpness and eloquence, at the last moment before her final exit – a series of podcasts for Janice Forsyth’s Big Light company, under the title Old School, that now form a precious and inimitable record of a life in theatre, and at the heart of Glasgow’s Jewish community, that spanned a vital century of Scottish and European history.

Ida Schuster was born in Glasgow in 1918, the youngest of nine children of Dora and Joseph Schuster, who had arrived in Glasgow from Vilnius in 1899. They joined what was by that time a well-established Jewish community in the south side of Glasgow, dating to the mid-19th century. Ida’s earliest memories, vividly recorded in her podcasts, involved her life as the youngest of a big family – “partly bullied, partly spoiled”– and the wider life of that Gorbals community. She recalled the wonderful smells of her mother’s cooking spreading through the flat, on the eve of the great Jewish feasts; and believed she first began to perform for an audience when she and the other children in the block would play out together in “high back” of their tenement, a natural arena surrounded by windows from which women would “hing oot”, to check on their children below.

As she moved into her teens, her life began to revolve more around the new synagogue and Jewish Institute in South Portland Street, the social hub of the Jewish community. When she was ten, her sister Ray married tailor Avrom Greenbaum, who belonged to a family of intellectuals and musicians, and was a gifted theatre director. By the mid-1930s his Jewish Institute Players had established themselves as leaders on the Scottish amateur drama scene, performing a rich repertoire of European classics and new American drama, mainly by left wing writers such as Clifford Odets and Sylvia Regan.

In 1936 they were runners-up at the annual Scottish Community Drama Association festival with Greenbaum’s own play, The Bread of Affliction, about one of the pogroms which had driven the mass emigration of Jews from central and eastern Europe. In her teen years – while pursuing a day job as a trainee hairdresser in the salon run by brother Michael and his wife – Ida was at the centre of this ferment of creative activity, playing a huge range of roles. “Everyone was a socialist in those days,” says Ida in her podcast, “but as the youngest, I was always more of an observer than an activist. And that was useful, when it came to acting.”

It was also through the Institute that Ida met her future husband, a medical student called Allan Berkeley, who went on to become a well-known Gorbals GP, and doctor to the Citizens’ Theatre Company. During the Second World War, Ida served in the WAAF, while Allan was posted to the Far East, where he endured the horrors of a Japanese prison camp, later documenting his experiences of Japanese war crimes in papers still held in the Glasgow Jewish Institute archive.

Ida wed Allan in 1945, and gave birth to sons Howard and Peter in 1947 and 1949, while helping her husband run his busy GP practice; but she remained passionate about theatre, making time even when her children were small to take part in the postwar revival of Glasgow theatre, eventually turning professional in the 1950’s. Thereafter, as she put it, it was “work as an actor when I could get it, look after the family, and do charitable work in the community when I had time,” as she juggled her many commitments.

The cultural world Ida came from and represented, though – proudly Scottish and Glaswegian, yet alive with connections in both Europe and America – had become a vital element of Glasgow life; and when, in the late 1960s, first Michael Blakemore, and then the great triumvirate of Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald, became artistic directors of the Citizens’ Theatre, Ida Schuster emerged, in her fifties, as one of the guiding spirits of what became one of the most remarkable, acclaimed theatre companies in Europe, playing roles that ranged from Mary Queen of Scots’s devoted waiting-woman Hannah Kennedy in Philip Prowse’s magnificent 1985 production of Schiller’s Maria Stuart, to Lady Hunstanton in Wilde’s A Woman Of No Importance.

She was always recognised as a character actress, rarely playing leading roles; but she was a magnificently accomplished performer, a lover and supporter of theatre who never missed a first night even when she was not on stage, and a superb company member, offering constant words of comradeship and comfort to her fellow actors, while maintaining her formidable fitness regime by eating endless oranges in the dressing-room, and often standing on her head in preparation for a performance.

Beyond her close association with the Citizens’ Theatre, Ida continued to work in film and TV, directed shows at the Tron Theatre when it opened as a club in the early 1980s, and appeared with many other Scottish theatre companies, playing an entire season at Pitlochry in the early 1970s, and, in 1987, becoming the first-ever Mrs Culfeathers in Tony Roper’s The Steamie.

After Allan’s death in 1990, Ida gradually moved towards something more like retirement. Yet she retained both her huge enthusiasm for theatre and her immense charm and magnetism as a performer, and at the age of 95, during the 2015 celebrations of the Citizens’ Company’s 70th anniversary in its Gorbals street home, almost stole the show from a glittering gala line-up of ex-Citizens’ stars that included John Cairney, Celia Imrie and dozens of others.

Until her health compelled her to move into a care home late last year, Ida remained at home in Glasgow, greatly enjoying theatre trips and other travels with her sons, when they visited from their homes in the Netherlands and Israel, and with her nephew Trevor, son of her older brother Michael, who spent much time with her in her latter years. Sadly, Howard died in the Netherlands of Covid-19 just a few days before his mother; but Ida is survived by son Peter and nephew Trevor, by six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, by a Glasgow Jewish community for whom she formed a vital link to its remarkable 20th century history, and by the whole world of Scottish theatre and drama, which she had both represented and supported with such charm and energy, for so many decades.

At the end of her final podcast, the 101-year-old Ida bids farewell in typically forthright style. “God bless you all,” she says. “And what more can one say? Let there be no more wars. Will that do?”

You can hear Ida Schuster’s Old School podcasts, along with a tribute, at

Learn more at Wikipedia



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