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Judah Passow - 'Scots Jews: Identity, Belonging and the Future'

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Documentary photographer Judah Passow spent 2013 photographing Scotland’s Jewish community, travelling across the country - from the Shetlands to the Borders - producing a portrait which captures the complexity and diversity of the Scottish narrative of Jewish life at the beginning of the 21st century. 

The Scottish Jewish community dates back to at least the 1700s and, for most of that time, constituted the largest non-Christian community in the country. It has produced scientists and doctors, judges and Members of Parliament, artists and writers - and farmers and foresters, and kilt makers and whisky distillers! The story of this community and how it maintains its traditions, while fully embracing Scottish culture is a fascinating one and yet, surprisingly, little has been formally presented on its existence.

 This project explores one of the contemporary Jewish community’s defining characteristics - the ability to simultaneously acknowledge its heritage, live in the creative present, and build for the future. The photographs serve as a visual conversation, looking at what it is that drives and defines the community what it does that gives meaning as Jews living in Scotland in the new century.

 Michael Mail, who created and is managing the exhibition, commented, “I was looking for a way to recognise and celebrate the story of the remarkable, yet little known, Scottish Jewish community – my community. When I came across Judah Passow’s photography, I immediately realised that he had the skill, sensitivity and artistry to take on this subject and create a truly memorable piece of work.

Judah Passow notes, “This project has been a real voyage of discovery across the spiritual and cultural landscape of Scotland. One of its more remarkable features is the warm, proud Jewish community that has become so tightly woven into the national fabric. I hope people looking at these photographs will see what I saw – a people deeply devoted to their heritage both as Jews and Scots.”

Judah commenced the project on Hogmany, 31 December 2012, in Stonehaven, with the last set of photographs taken on a weekend pheasant shoot in December, 2013 in Hurlford, Ayrshire. The project has been supported by Creative Scotland.

The project, created by Michael Mail and launched on 18th February 2014 at the Scottish Parliament, had its first outing as part of Tartan Week in New York at 92Y Gallery in April/May of 2014. It was also exhibited at Spertus College in Chicago and at Aberdeen Central Library (which ended on 30th December 2014). Further venues in Scotland include Linlithgow Burgh Halls, and Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. 

Read an article from the Jewish Chronicle here

Read a blog posting from Document Scotland here

Project website 

Judah's website

A new book by Bloomsbury has just been published, see information here