Yesterday was Festival Sunday at the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, where Jewish-themed Fringe acts delighted the community with trailers to their shows. The annual event was paired this Sunday with a celebration of Edinburgh’s Jewish history as part of the J200 programme of events. Together with the oldest Jewish cultural organisation in Scotland, the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society, Jewish Lives, Scottish Spaces hosted a walking tour of the city which led participants on a journey along landmarks of two centuries of Jewish life in Edinburgh.
Tourists joined residents in exploring the move of Jewish community from the Old Town (Canongate) to the St Leonard’s area which was densely populated with new immigrants from the 1880s onwards. With increasing economic stability, the community moved further south into Newington, Marchmont, and even into the Grange, while shops such as bakeries and butchers remained in the area of the Bridges.
Walkers encountered residents through memorable stories, involving court cases, and burial sites, and many individuals such as the Lipetz brothers who ran a GP practice in Roxburgh Street in the middle of the twentieth century, and who were early advocates of the NHS and a multi-disciplinary approach to health and social care; and about Arthur Kleinberg whose bakery was on East Crosscauseway. Arthur shared his challah recipe when it became clear that his bakery had to close for want of a new proprietor. Tour participants heard about Joe Lurie, the last kosher butcher in Edinburgh and soul of the community, whose father Abraham served in World War I as part of a British Jewish Battalion, and whose brother was a GP in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas.
Crossing the Meadows, the walk stopped at the bench facing the tennis courts to hear Berl Osborne’s recollection of the ‘Yiddish Parliament’ which involved shabbat afternoon gatherings of Jewish men to kibbitz about community affairs, while the community’s youth perambulated on the Meadows’ paths. The walk ended at the synagogue in Salisbury Road, a landmark signalling the union of a previously divided community in 1932 under the leadership of Rabbi Salis Daiches.
Tickets for the next three tours scheduled this summer can be booked here: https://jewishstudies.div.ed.ac.uk/edinburgh-jewish-walks/