Who we are
The Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre has been created in partnership by The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre (SJAC) and Garnethill Synagogue Preservation Trust (GSPT) working alongside Garnethill Hebrew Congregation.
Its aims are to:
- Increase access to Scotland’s Jewish and Holocaust-era history.
- Encourage wider and more diverse engagement with SJAC’S collections
- Expand access to Garnethill Synagogue and its heritage
- Make a lasting difference to the welfare of the heritage, the people involved, the local community and beyond.
Garnethill Hebrew Congregation
Glasgow Hebrew Congregation was founded around 1821. By the 1870s, the community numbered around 1,000 and was looking to build a permanent synagogue as they had outgrown the premises they were using in the city centre. A site at the corner of Thistle (now Garnet) Street and Hill Street was chosen, and the synagogue opened in Garnethill in 1879.
As the first purpose-built synagogue in Scotland, Garnethill Synagogue is now a Category A listed building and retains its original stained glass windows, furniture and fittings. The synagogue remains an active place of worship, and information on services as well as more on the history of the building can be found on the website of the Garnethill Hebrew Congregation.
Garnethill Synagogue Preservation Trust
In 2012, the congregation established the Garnethill Synagogue Preservation Trust (GSPT) to take over the ownership of the building to take on the long-term care and preservation of the building.
The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre
The Scottish Jewish Archives Centre (SJAC) was founded in 1987 to collect material relating to Jewish life in Scotland. Its collections include synagogue minute books and registers, photographs, oral histories, personal papers, war medals, works of art and records of Jewish businesses and organisations. SJAC also hold copies of records from the 17 Jewish cemeteries in Scotland and offers access to the Family Tree of Scottish Jewry database, with information on over 100,000 Scottish Jews.
More information on the SJAC is available on their website
The Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre Project
The roots of the Heritage Centre began in 2014, with a study into the feasibility of creating a Scottish Holocaust-era Study Centre, aided by a grant from the Scottish Government. The intention was that the Study Centre would offer public access for the first time to nationally important Holocaust-era collections held by the SJAC. In spring 2016 the SJAC was awarded a Development Grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a partnership project with Garnethill Synagogue Preservation Trust to create a Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre that included a Scottish Holocaust-era Study Centre. A Stage 2 application was submitted in November 2017 to the Heritage Lottery fund. In 2018, it was confirmed that Garnethill Synagogue would house Scotland’s first Jewish Heritage Centre.
Funding for the creation of the Centre totalling over £500,000 came from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Association of Jewish Refugees, The Wolfson Family Charitable Trust, The Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Edinburgh, The Architectural Heritage Fund, William Grant Foundation and the Community Security Trust. Work on the new Centre began in May 2018, with the launch and opening of the Centre in summer 2021.
The Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre project includes
- Creating a Scottish Holocaust-era Study Centre to open up public access to the SJAC ‘s unique collections on this period.
- Creating a public display on the history and experience of refugees and survivors from the Nazi regime who found sanctuary and a chance to build a new life here in Scotland. This display illustrates how Scottish society supported refugees and shows the contributions that many of the refugees made to Scottish life.
- Increasing access to the synagogue with a volunteer-led Weekday Guiding Service to give access to interpretation on the building and information about the 19th century congregation members who contributed to the development of Glasgow.
- Recruiting and training volunteers for a School Visit Service, a Weekend Events and Activities Programme and a marketing programme.
- Recruiting a Heritage Centre Manager to help take forward coordination and future management of the Centre.
- Creating a local heritage trail to widen awareness of the refugee-era history of the Garnethill area during the Second World War.
- Putting in place long-term management to operate the Centre
- Revenue fundraising to cover the first five years of operating costs
The project enabled essential refurbishment to the lower floor of the historic Victorian synagogue to improve public access to underused spaces in the building, while allowing the congregation to continue. External works included replacing damaged drainage, creating an attractive new courtyard, new street signage, decorative gate and railings, a door entry system and additional security measures. Internally, new spaces were created: a new kosher kitchen, Scottish Holocaust-era Study Centre, Succah display space, and multipurpose function room, bag store and office.
The Scottish Holocaust-era Study Centre
The Study Centre contains new digital resources for schools and visiting researchers. Learning resources will allow pupils to explore the experience of refugees from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe who found a safe haven here in Scotland before the outbreak of the Second World War.