OUR HISTORY

The Edinburgh Jewish Cultural Centre has

achieved many major milestones in a

very short period of time.

Here is our story...

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How We Started

The EJCC began as The Edinburgh Jewish Dialogue, founded by Jane Ansell and Janet Mundy and chaired by Professor Joe Goldblatt. A consultation led by Clive Lawton OBE in 2016 investigated the feasibility of creating a Jewish Cultural Centre in Edinburgh, to provide a focal point for the Jewish community in Edinburgh, and to increase awareness of Jewish life and culture to the non-Jewish community. His report concluded that the “development [of a centre] would enhance both Jewish and general cultural life in the city and serve as a beacon for Scotland and far further afield for those [Jews] considering visiting or living in Edinburgh."

With time, the group’s ideas crystallised around establishing a Jewish Cultural Centre in Edinburgh that would serve the whole of Scotland. The group decided to formalise their future work by transforming into a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation entitled the Edinburgh Jewish Cultural Centre (EJCC) in April 2018.

In the four years since our founding, we have successfully curated, produced and presented a range of activities that have shared and celebrated Judaism and Jewish life and culture with hundreds of participants.

2017

August 2017 - The EJCC commissioned a plaque to be permanently displayed in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh’s largest concert hall, in honour of the two Jewish artists who founded Edinburgh International Festival in 1947. This plaque was unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon MSP, the First Minister of Scotland, in August 2017. The plaque also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the first Jewish community in Edinburgh.  The plaque was designed by Gus Fisher who is an artist and craftsman working with letter design and stone carving.

October 2017 - As part of the 200th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the first Jewish congregation in the city and in Scotland, over 200 people attended a free day of Jewish culture at Summerhall including storytelling, Yiddish song and Klezmer workshops and performances, exhibitions and an evening performance of “Scotland's Jewish Community: 200 Years Plus!”, drawing on archive material, oral histories, drama and literature to tell the story of Jewish life in Scotland past and present.

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2019

November 2019 - EJCC, in partnership with Limmud, held Limmud Scotland in November 2019. The event attracted an audience of 250, exceeding our expectations, and demonstrating wonderful diversity in terms of age, geography and observance. People travelled from throughout Scotland and other parts of the UK, and we also welcomed visitors from as far afield as France, Poland, Denmark and Israel. We organised activities for the youngest participants, leaving their parents free to choose from the wide range of adult sessions, covering a wide range of topics from a Jewish viewpoint – politics, climate change, anti-Semitism, business ethics, comedy, disabilities, and Jewish history and culture from Biblical times onwards, including Yiddish and Scottish Jewish heritage.

2020

January 2020 - We commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz with an official ceremony at the City of Edinburgh War Memorial that was led by the Lord Provost, Councillor Frank Ross. 

March 2020 - We celebrated International Women’s Day by establishing and presenting the biennial Gertrude Herzfeld Award in partnership with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The award will be presented every two years to an outstanding Jewish female medical or scientific researcher whose work emulates the spirit of Dr Herzfeld, the first female practising fellow of the College.

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Post-Pandemic Events 2021-2022:
Together for our Planet

We moved our activities online during the pandemic from 2020-2022, particularly appreciated by those who were self-isolating, bringing Jewish culture to people's homes and maintaining the community virtually. Some events during this period attracted audiences of over 100 people. As the pandemic has receded, some activities continue online, while others are face-to-face and either live-streamed or recorded for future viewing. 

A Together for our Planet Concert in November 2021 and a workshop in May 2022 were inspired by the COP26 Environmental Conference in November 2021. At the concert, 100 people attended via a live stream and a further 150 people viewed the recording. The 2022 Together for our Planet workshop in May 2022 attracted many participants and was also recorded for future viewing.

Dr Gertrude Herzfeld Prize Programme

March 2022 - We awarded the Second Biennial Dr Gertrude Herzfeld International Jewish Woman of the Year Prize for Health to Dr Hynda K. Kleinman. For over thirty years, Dr Kleinman directed a research lab at the USA National Institutes of Health and authored over 440 scientific papers and been awarded ten patents, of which 3 have been commercialised. The award was presented by the President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Professor Michael Griffin, Professor Janet Wilson, Frank Ross, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Hanna Ross, Lady Provost of Edinburgh and the Chair of the Herzfeld Prize committee, Ella Lambert.

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Rudolf Bing Memorial Lecture

August 2022 - The EJCC co-sponsored a standing room-only lecture by Peter Gelb, General Manager of the New York City Metropolitan Opera to the Edinburgh International Festival on 8 August at the Playfair Library. Gelb's inaugural lecture centred on the importance of the arts and culture, in memory of Rudolf Bing, the founder of the International Festival. An award-winning producer of films, recordings, radio broadcasts, operas, and festivals, Gelb has worked with many of the world’s leading artists.The vote of thanks was given by EJCC chair Adrian Harris.

Festival Open Day

August 2022 - We partnered with the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation to bring together a day of performances from Edinburgh Festival actors, musicians, and storytellers with Jewish culture to share. At lunch, a massive feast of kosher bagels and pastries was served alongside coffee and tea. Pieces of Jewish comedy, cultural history, and music were enjoyed by an audience of over 100 people.

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