From Cradle to Grave

In 1879 around a thousand Jewish people were living in Glasgow. Services, marriages and funerals were conducted by the synagogue’s minister, Rev. E.P. Phillips, and the reader and assistant minister, Rev. Isaac Levine. Together with the beadle, Abraham Goodman, they also took a lead in the education of young congregants.

An 1881 letters page in the Jewish Chronicle included a letter from a correspondent styling himself as ‘Old Member’, who wished to remark how beautiful the synagogue at Garnethill was and to note in particular how the presence of a mixed choir attracted people to come to services. The inclusion of girls in the choir at Garnethill was unusual; generally, choirs in Orthodox synagogues are male.

Garnethill, as the sole synagogue in Glasgow at this time, was also the setting for Jewish weddings, barmitzvahs and other social and educational gatherings.


In the 1870s, most Jewish people in Glasgow lived in the city centre. With the opening of the new synagogue, many members moved to the Garnethill area.

This extract from the Garnethill Register shows 41 births among the congregation in 1879. It reveals the manners of its day—the mother’s name is not listed, but she is recorded as the wife of the father. The register is also interesting as it shows where the congregation was living – some round the corner in Rose Street and Cambridge Street, some close by in the city in Wellington Street, St Vincent Street and Sauchiehall Street and some as far away as Clyde Place and Rutherglen Loan across the Clyde in the Gorbals.


The Garnethill Synagogue register of Births and Marriages also recorded deaths in the congregation. This extract from the register for 1879 shows 15 deaths – 7 male and 8 female. What is striking is the child and infant deaths – 8 out of the 15.

The Glasgow Hebrew Congregation had its first cemetery in the Jewish Enclosure of the Glasgow Necropolis in Castle Street (1832-1855), then in the Jewish section of Janefield Cemetery (Eastern Necropolis) in Parkhead (1855-1935), as well as Craigton Cemetery (1881-1897). Since 1898, the congregation’s members have been buried in a section of the Western Necropolis in Maryhill.

Generally, babies and infants were buried in a separate section within the cemetery and often no gravestone was erected.


The first marriage recorded at Garnethill Synagogue was on 10th September 1879, between Joel Barnet and Line Posner.

Couples who married in the congregation would receive a religious marriage marriage contract (ketuba).

This is the ketuba of Jane Rittenberg and Julius Hershfield who married in Garnethill Synagogue in 1887.

photograph of architect John McLeod

Receipt for marriage fee when tobacconist David Rosenstadt married Caroline Pinto in 1881.

Rebecca Sclare was 18 when she married dentist Alfred Marco at Garnethill Synagogue on 25th December 1901. The couple went on to have 12 children.

Invitation to Marco-Sclare wedding

Garnethill Synagogue with chuppah (wedding canopy)


Barmitzvah is a coming of age ritual for Jewish boys, who at the age of 13 have all the rights and obligations of an adult.  Girls celebrate a Batmitzvah at the age of 12.

This extract from the Jewish Chronicle of 22 June 1900 announces the Barmitzvah of Goodman Luransky: 

Religious Education

Rev. Phillips was very committed to religious education for his congregation.

The Jewish Chronicle of 11th June 1880 reported that the first examination of the Glasgow Hebrew School took place last Sunday in the spacious schoolroom connected with the new synagogue. This is the earliest reference to the function room also being used as a cheder (Jewish elementary school).

This 1906 photograph shows Garnethill Sabbath class seated outside the Succah. The boys were taught to read Hebrew, to follow the services and studied the commentaries on the Jewish laws.

For their Barmitzvah they learnt and read a portion from the Torah scroll in the synagogue on a Sabbath close to their 13th birthday. From then on, they were able to participate in the services. As no photography was permitted on the Sabbath, this picture was taken at another time.

This delightful photograph, taken outside the Succah, is the oldest known photo from Garnethill Hebrew Congregation, dating from 1903. We don’t know what the occasion was or who the people are.

It may have been a gathering to mark the dedication of the new Succah – on August 1903, noted in the plaque – which was erected by the Jacobs family. Are these people the Jacobs family and friends? Is this a choir – or is this related to the first use for the Succot festival? Please get in touch if you can help us with any information about the image.

All images on this page are in copyright, and appear courtesy of the Scottish Jewish Archives Centre unless stated otherwise. Images should not be reproduced without permission.

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