Inside Giffnock Synagogue, Glasgow.

Background History

Early migrants came from Holland and Germany with an upsurge post 1860 from Russia and Poland. The current Jewish population of Scotland is about 7,000 with most concentrated around Glasgow and Edinburgh. Garnethill is a prominent synagogue in Glasgow and Scotland’s oldest.

The bulk of the current Jewish population are descended from late 19th century  migrants from Europe who may have originally been destined for the U.S.A. At the time Scotland was a transit point and for various reasons an element of the migrants did not continue on across the Atlantic. By 1914 the ( Jewish) populations of Glasgow and Edinburgh were 12000 and 1500 respectively. Other communities could be found in Greenock, Ayr, Falkirk, Inverness, Dundee and Dunfermline.

The early migrants were very poor and tended to concentrate in and around the Gorbals area  (of Glasgow).  They focused on production and merchandising of goods, e.g. shop-keeping, tailoring, footwear and furniture. In due course, access to higher education provided an escape route from the ghettos and today the Gorbals has a negligible Jewish population.

Many of the descendants of the Gorbals population moved a few miles south, to the Glasgow suburb of Giffnock where a synagogue was built in 1934 and subsequently replaced with the current building in 1968 which features in this post.

Summary information on Giffnock Synagogue and connected buildings.

  • The synagogue is orientated towards Jerusalem.
  • The ark contains the Torah scrolls, which are  handwritten and contain the five books of Moses.
  • Hosts Jewish social and educational organisations.
  • The impressive stained glass windows were commissioned by John Clark and were originally made for Queen Park Synagogue which closed due to population migration. These windows represent the Jewish year-festivals, holy days and other events.
  • In front of the ark hangs the ‘Neir Tamid’, the ever-lasting light which is never extinguished.
  • The pulpit in front of the ark is used for delivering sermons by the rabbi or visiting dignitaries.

Whenever possible I include this synagogue in Jewish themed tours of Glasgow. There is a Jewish restaurant nearby where Jewish tartan can be obtained.

Stained glass at Giffnock Synagogue.

Stained glass at Giffnock Synagogue.

Exterior view of Giffnock Synagogue

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