A Liberal Jewish Community
on the Move - Nick Silk
My great-grandfather came across from Poland in the early 1900’s, with all the pogroms [massacre of a religious or ethnic group] that were going on there. They moved into the east end of London, as did a lot of Jews at the time. They came across, and I think their original name was something like Selkovich, and as did a lot of Jewish families at the time, they anglicised the name, which is where Silk comes from. And so I say they were in London, I think my Grandfather was in the tailoring industry, that was what a lot of the immigrants were in, in the garment industry. [Nick was born in Nottingham and moved to Scotland].
So to start with, because there wasn't a Liberal Shul, Shul is Synagogue, in Edinburgh, I became a member of the Glasgow Reform Synagogue, and [my sons]… the oldest one was bar mitzvah’d there, I became chairman there for 3 years. There’s been Edinburgh people who would go through to Glasgow [Shul for many years, we originally] relied on Glasgow as being the mothership, but it just suited us to have [meetings here]. We ended up forming our own community [in 2004 called Sukkat Shalom], which at the time was only about 40, 45 members, we’re now just over 100. [Originally] we would meet in people’s houses for services. In fact, one of the places we first started meeting for the Friday night services, was a lady who lived in supported living, where they’ve got a communal lounge. We’d all be sitting around in armchairs, and Blanche would - she’d always make us cups of tea, ‘oh Nick, come have a cup of tea, there’s a plate of biscuits, come help yourself!’ She really looked after us.
For the more formal services, particularly the Saturday morning, the main Shabbat service, we’d meet in a hall somewhere…the Quaker meeting house or St Columba’s by the castle. Over time we have sort of centred on 2/3 places now for our services [halls and churches]. And then for the high holy days, and some more formal occasions, like when… people would like their Bar Mitzvah or their Bat Mitzvah, that’s quite often at St Mark’s Unitarian church? And we like them all! So the moving around I think is now partly who we are, and we treat it almost as a joke: “oh it wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have to move around!”