[lit-ideas] Re: Chips, Jews, Scotland

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 16:08:47 -0700

on 6/15/04 6:23 PM, JulieReneB@xxxxxxx at JulieReneB@xxxxxxx wrote:

> Matzel Tov! and my potato chips are crisps?  And what's a Bat Mitzvah dad
> doing playing a bagpipe?

The bagpipe derives from reeded pipes such as "shawms" and "hornpipes,"
known and played in Near Eastern and Egyptian civilisations from before 250=
BC.  Bags were added...well the reference books say, "in Roman times," whic=
is a pretty good spread of time.  The bagpipe was very popular almost
everywhere in Europe from the 12th century onward.  Look at paintings of
peasants dancing--in Breughel, for example--and you'll find pipes.  My poin=
is that the pipes are not necessarily an "un-Jewish," nor are they a
peculiarly Scottish instrument.

Nor are being Jewish and being Scottish mutually exclusive categories.  I'l=
append below a copy of my daughter's research.

The short answer to your question is that I am not Jewish, but my wife is.

David Ritchie
Portland, Oregon

=B3And Bob=B9s Your Uncle,=B2 A History of Scots and Jews and Scottish Jews

    I chose to study Jews in Scotland because I wanted to connect my two
heritages, Scots and Jews.
    Right away I found some random links:
    Many Scots believed that they were, =B3 like the Jews, a covenanted
people, the new Israel.=B2 (1)  Some even believed that they were a lost trib=
of Israel.
    The graduation speaker at my father=B9s commencement was Lord Manny
Shinwell, a jewish labor politician who rose from a coal mining background
to being a Labour peer.
    One of Glasgow=B9s synagogues is on South Portland Street.
    Glasgow=B9s first prominent Jew, Isaac Cohen, is credited with introducin=
the silk top hat to Scotland.  When the silk top hat became popular, the fu=
trade, on which early Oregon settlement depended, collapsed.  So maybe we
should credit a Glasgow Jew for the preservation of the beaver?
    My grandmother was a Balfour but not, as far as we can discover, a
relative of Arthur James Balfour, who made the Balfour declaration.
    My grandfather is a graduate of Edinburgh University.  The Edinburgh
University Jewish Society web site currently advertises a Rabbi Burns night=
With kosher haggis.  (Robbie Burns is Scotland=B9s most famous poet).
    Balfour is a norman name.  The Normans, led by William the Conqueror,
landed in Britain in 1066, along with the first Jews to come to Britain.

The History of Scottish Jews
    In 1870, at the time when Britain had its first prime minister of Jewis=
origin, Benjamin Disraeli, the population of jews in Scotland was probably
less than 1,000 people. (2)   By 1914 there were 10,000 jews in Glasgow,
which was about ninety percent of the whole Scottish jewish population.
This was a small fraction of the 240,000 jews in the British isles  in 1926
statistics; 150,000 were, at that time, in London.  There were about 11.5
million jews in the world in 1926.
    In forty  four years there was a ten fold increase, but still the
population was pretty small.
    Some Jews may have been attracted to Scotland by the absence of oaths.
In order to get into Scottish universities and professions jews were not
required to swear Christian oaths.  The first Jewish graduate from Glasgow
university was an American, Levi Myers.  He got his medical degree in 1787
without having to swear an oath.  At the time all English universities
required a religious oath, a requirement that was not abolished until 1870
    Russian pogroms were responsible for the increase of Jewish populations
in Scotland.  Most people leaving Russia went to America, but some decided
to stay in Glasgow.  These were people with little money, and so the center
of Jewish life in Glasgow moved from Garnethill, a prosperous area, to the
Gorbals, a poor one.
    In 1905 the passage of the Aliens Act limited immigration from eastern
Europe.  Some people escaping Nazi Germany settled in Scotland but an about
equal number left for the United States.  The population grew very slowly.
    Was there prejudice against Jews?   My grandfather, who grew up in
Glasgow, says he met a Jew for the first time when he went to University in
Edinburgh.   Historian Tom Devine says, =B3The absence of widespread native
hostility was due to a number of factors... most Jews did not compete
directly with Scots in the labour market... large numbers of those who came
to Scotland were from towns and cities.  They possessed skills developed in
the urban economy in Europe which they were able to utilize when they
settled in Glasgow.  There was no real wish, therefore, despite their
poverty, to compete alongside the Irish and the Lithuanians for menial work
in the docks, mines and steel mills.=B2 (4)
    Two kinds of Jews became well known in Scotland.  The first kind were
those who supported Socialism, the Russian Revolution and the Labour Party.
The most famous of these was Emmanuel (Manny) Shinwell.  The other thing
Jews were famous for was medicine.  =B3In the early 1920s there were nearly
three dozen Jewish medical students at Glasgow University alone, and others
at Edinburgh.=B2 (5)
    There was some prejudice.  For one reason or another, Jewish golfers
founded their own club at Bonnyton in 1928.  Devine says =B3this reflected th=
growing economic success of the community.  By this period, some of the
best-known businesses in Glasgow were Jewish-owned, with Frutins in the
theatre and entertainments industry, Morrisons in dress-making and Goldberg=
in retail trading among the most prominent.=B2 (6)  The Jewish community move=
out of the Gorbals and into a wealthier area, Giffnock.
    The number of Jews in Scotland is now about 250,000.

Synagogues in Scotland
    The Jewish population of Scotland is concentrated in Edinburgh and
Glasgow, Scotland=B9s biggest cities.  The Gorbals district of Glasgow had tw=
synagogues, a school for religious education and a Zionist Reading Room.
Glasgow=B9s oldest synagogue was built in 1823.  Garnethill Synagogue, also i=
Glasgow, was built in 1879.  The first synagogue in Scotland was in
Edinburgh.  It opened in 1816.  The first and only Reform Synagogue in
Scotland is located in Glasgow. The city of Glasgow today has seven

The Balfour Declaration
    The Balfour Declaration was of great importance to Jews worldwide.  Thi=
document helped the process by which Jews gained part of what was then
called Palestine.  This document was written in 1917, during the First Worl=
War. The Balfour Declaration was written by Arthur James Balfour, who was a
Scot, but not a Jewish Scot.
    Arthur James Balfour was born in Scotland in 1848.  He was educated at
Eton and Trinity College and Cambridge University.  He entered the House of
Commons in 1874.  In 1878 he became the private secretary of the Foreign
Secretary, his uncle, the Marquess of Salisbury.  He later was Secretary fo=
Scotland, Chief Secretary of Ireland, First Lord of the Treasury, and leade=
of the House of Commons.  He became Prime Minister in 1902.  He was First
Lord of the Admiralty in 1915.  He became Foreign Secretary in 1916,
appointed by David Lloyd George, and wrote the Balfour Declaration in 1917.
He died in 1930.
    One of my father=B9s favorite phrases, =B3And Bob=B9s your uncle,=B2 meaning
=B3and then everything is easy,=B2 comes from how people thought Arthur James
Balfour came to power, because =B3Bob=B2 was his uncle! (7)

Some Scottish Jews
    Lord Emmanuel Shinwell, or Manny Shinwell, was born in London in 1884.
He was one of 13 children.  His father was a tailor, and at age 11, Manny
Shinwell and his family moved to Glasgow, and Manny began working for his
dad.  In 1903, Manny Shinwell became interested in politics, and in 1911,
Manny Shinwell was elected into the Glasgow Trades Council.  This was just
his first job, and later he was elected into the House of Commons. At
different points in his life, he was Financial Secretary of War, Secretary
of Mines, Minister of Fuel and Power, Secretary of State of War, Minister o=
Defense, and was Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  He wrote thre=
    Leaving Minsk in 1914, Jean and Harry Greenwald (as they were called in
the West), became the only jews among 6,000 people living in the Shetland
Islands.  They set up a dry goods business in Lerwick.  They tried ordering
kosher meat from Glasgow, but it arrived, after three days on the boat, ful=
of maggots.  The Greenwald=B9s house became a haven for Jewish soldiers among
the thousands of troops who were billeted there during the Second World War=
The Greenwald=B9s Passover Seder in 1941 had a guest list of two hundred.
(Women=B9s League Outlook, Spring 2003).

    Many Jewish families were well off, and could afford maids to do the
cleaning for them.  As in the family portrayed in David Daiches Two Worlds,
was orthodox/ rabbinical, then the maids would have to be properly trained.
=B3... my mother would have to explain about the different dishes for meat an=
milk, the impossibility of washing dishes in soap ( which contained animal
fat), the importance of using different dishcloths for milchig and fleischi=
dishes...=B2(8) and the like.  David Daiches was a professor at the Universit=
of Sussex, where my parents met.

    Evelyn Cowan=B9s father was named Simon Zeldon.  When he reached the
immigration desk in Greenock, Scotland (Greenock is where my great, great
aunt Sada lived) the official couldn=B9t make out the name on the papers.  Th=
officer said, =B3Och, what=B9s the odds?  Let=B9s call you Cohen like the rest 
them.=B2  Trying to sound more like Scots, the family changed the name again
to Cowan, but some of Evelyn=B9s sisters called themselves Seldon. (9)  One o=
Evelyn=B9s childhood memories was of a Sunday morning tale teller (schnorrer)
at Gorbals Cross.  He sold soap and told stories.  One of his stories went
like this:
=B3You know...I never came from the old country like your people...I come fro=
a long line of real Scots Highland folk...at the time of the =8CForty-Five my
forefathers were henchmen of Bonnie Prince Charlie...My real name is Ian
MacFinkelstein, and I was born in a clachan not far from the famous clachan
of Aberfoyle....In 1746, when Prince Charles was defeated at Culloden, my
ancestor Douglas MacFinkelstein formed one of the small loyal bunch who,
aided by Flora MacDonald, helped our Bonnie Prince to escape to the Isle of
Sky en route for France.  My ancestor, Douglas of Douglas, was one of the
last persons to be with our sad, dear Prince before he stepped from his
native soil.=B2
He held up a bar of soap.
=B3This is no ordinary piece of soap.  This is the very bar of soap, yes, the
very one, that the hands of our dear Prince Charlie touched just before he
went into exile.  And all I=B9m asking for it, my good people is one shilling=
One shilling!  For a treasure of Scottish history.  Why!  It may be worth
thousands of pounds in an antique shop in Edinburgh today.  Here is your
chance.  It may be that you will make a fortune.  And if not, if not, well
at least you will have some soap to wash your hands clean.=B2 (10)

1) Duncan A. Bruce, =B3The Scottish 100; Portraits of History=B9s Most
Influential Scots=B2 p. 302
2) T.M. Devine, =B3The Scottish Nation.=B2  Also e-mail contact with Tom Devine=
3) Encyclopedia Britannica, 13th edition.
4) T. M. Devine, =B3The Scottish Nation,=B2 p.520
5) T.M Devine, =B3The Scottish Nation,=B2 p.521
6) T.M.Devine, =B3The Scottish Nation,=B2 p.522
7) Andrew Sholl, =B3Bloomers, Biros and Wellington Boots; How the Names Becam=
the Words.=B2
8) David Daiches, =B3Two Worlds; A Jewish Childhood in Edinburgh,=B2 p. 29
9)Evelyn Cowan, =B3Spring Remembered, A Scottish Jewish Childhood,=B2 p.105
10) Evelyn Cowan, =B3Spring Remembered, A Scottish Jewish Childhood,=B2 p. 82

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