Between them Edinburgh and Glasgow have seven Synagogues. Today the vast majority of Jewish Scots can trace their ancestry to 19th century Poland. The pogroms that decimated many of the Jewish villages of Poland and Russia at the end of the 19th century coincided with the industrial boom of Scotland and, just as hundreds of thousands of Jews from the Pale fled Europe for America, tens of thousands of their cousins fled mainland Europe for the religious freedom of Scotland and the then booming industrial city of Glasgow.
However, while the modern story of Jewish Scotland is rooted in the 19th century, the origins of Scotland’s Jewish community are probably lost somewhere in the bloody shadows of Scotland’s Middle Ages –and may in fact date back to the Roman occupation of Britain.
The Diaspora is generally thought of as a “modern” phenomenon. However, even before the Judaean Wars chronicled by Josephus it is estimated that roughly 50% of all Jews lived outside of Judaea and up to 10% of the population of some of the new cities established throughout the Empire to house the veterans of Rome’s armies were Jewish. When the remnants of Romanized Britain finally fell to the invading Angles and Saxons at least some of the families that fled the coast of what would become England (the land of the Angles) were Jewish.
Hordes of heavy household goods buried in the late 4th and 5th centuries around modern day Mildenhall and discovered in the early 20th century included some Jewish ritual objects. Over the next thousand years the story becomes increasingly murky. “Historic” Scotland –stripped of mystery, legend, opinion, conspiracy theory and pseudo-fact– is almost devoid of any significant written record prior to the 15th century and we are left with scattered images and fragmentary stories.
In honor of the Jewish Scots who have contributed so much to the history of Scotland we at Nagle Forge & Foundry make seven different sash pins and plaid brooches that feature a Star of David.