Edinburgh Jews

Edinburgh Jews is an exhibition originally compiled by two students at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Divinity. As it makes extensive use of maps it has now been moved to the National Library of Scotland’s Map Library, making it accessible to a wider audience. The exhibition consists of five sections: Edinburgh Jews; Mapping the Jews of Edinburgh; Edinburgh Synagogues; Global Conflict and Christian Missions; Charities and Zionism. It focuses on developments from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century.

This exhibition will probably still not reach a very wide audience, but it will appeal to Jews living in Edinburgh and historians, for whom it provides a valuable archive of the growth and decline of the Jewish community and the lives of many of its significant members.

An introductory overview includes a series of interesting profiles of Edinburgh Jews who have contributed to their community or wider society, some famous and others less well known. The main map display has data from four different dates which reveal changes in economic activity within the community and the locations of the Jewish population. In another section, letters, newspaper articles and shipping records are amongst the fascinating primary sources used to illustrate the growth of the community following the two World Wars and pogroms in Eastern Europe. The Jews who arrived in Edinburgh were largely impoverished and found themselves in an area dominated by the Presbyterian Church. Another display explores the debate surrounding the conversion and providing of aid to those in need. More maps, a chronology and a number of illustrations provide information on the synagogues of Edinburgh and a folder contains a directory of homes and businesses in the city from 1894-1969.

This exhibition will probably still not reach a very wide audience, but it will appeal to Jews living in Edinburgh and historians, for whom it provides a valuable archive of the growth and decline of the Jewish community and the lives of many of its significant members. It is conveniently located in the compact lobby of the library. As the display boards go down to the floor some of the material at the bottom is less easily read, but overall the majority of the material is readily accessible.

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The Blurb

Situated in what was the heart of Edinburgh’s once thriving Jewish community, this free exhibition reveals for the first time the little known history of Jews in Edinburgh. Detailed research has discovered stories of immigration, world wars, local conflict and daily life interpreted through visually rich, informative displays. Spanning 300 years, this unique history is contextualised through mapping homes, businesses, places of worship and burial onto historic city maps from the 19th century to the 1960s. Visitors reading these maps can still walk the same streets in Edinburgh’s Old Town where this once important community lived and thrived.

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