Hidden Histories

Exploring the Jewish communities of small towns in Scotland. Dundee, Falkirk, Inverness, Ayr, Dunfermline, and Greenock were all once homes to their own Jewish communities. This exhibition explores the immigrants who settled in this towns and the stories.

Now available to view at the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre. Tours to be booked in advance.


German Jewish merchants were attracted to Dundee and the growing textile industry in the 1840’s. A second wave of immigration of people fleeing persecution in Russia came in the 1880’s. While the Jews felt welcomed in Scotland, there was friction as the newer immigrants were more Orthodox and spoke Yiddish.

In 1878 the first synagogue opened in Murraygate with Rev. Simon Wulf Rosenzweig appointed in 1893. Over time the community started to decline and eventually the St Mary’s Place Synagogue was shut in 2019.


There were Jews mentioned in the 1851 census and by the start of the 20th century, Jewish residents had formed a congregation. The community due to its proximity to Glasgow. A number of kosher guesthouses opened for Jewish holiday makers.

Those who settled in the town opened a synagogue in 1941 at 54A Sandgate. From the mid-1950’s until the late 1960’s the synagogue was in the (kosher) Invercloy Hotel, now the Chestnuts Hotel.

During World War II, the community expanded as Jewish children were evacuated to the coast from Glasgow. But by the 1970’s few families remained in the area.


By the 1850’s around 400 ships a year carrying Caribbean sugar cane were docking at Greenock. The town became a major trading centre and departure point for America. With this came new immigrants to the area.

The 1881 census lists 30 Jews with occupations ranging from hairdressers, shoemakers, tailors, and more in the area. By 1894 The Greenock Hebrew Congregation was formally created with Rev. Israel Tiemianka as their minister.


The earliest mention of Jews living in Inverness was in 1830 when an Inverness Journalist article noted that a 35-year-old Jew named Ezekiel Caspar Auerbach had been baptised at the Gaelic Church.

As Inverness was an important centre for trade in the highlands, all Jewish families living there by 1881 stayed in the same commercial area near the harbour.

By 1905 the community had grown enough that a formal congregation was established. Over the years until the community dwindled, various Reverends held short-term positions in the city as the Inverness Hebrew Congregation was never in the position to appoint a full-time rabbi.


As the linen industry and coal field grew, so did immigration. Immigrant Jewish pedlars from Edinburgh, Dundee, Glasgow and elsewhere arrived in the town to sell their goods, or later, to set up shop.

By 1908 a community had been formed with services taking place in New Row, then Couston Street and by 1911, there were around 50 Jews in the town. With a synagogue at Pittencrieff Street and kosher meat available, the community thrived but by the 1950’s services moved to Athol Place and the community was formally wound up.


Some of the earliest Jewish residents of Falkirk were travelling salesmen who traded in the mining communities of Stirlingshire. Mentions of Jews in 1871 census exist and around 1903 Gershon Spilg was offered the post of minister/shochet for the 16 Jewish families in town.

The synagogue in Falkirk was located at various addresses over the years, such as Howgate and the High Street. Over time though, the community dwindled and the synagogues ceased services.

Special Thanks

  • Exhibition generously funded by the Netherlee & Clarkston Charitable Trust
  • Exhibitions by The Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre
  • Images copyright Scottish Jewish Archives Centre

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