As Scotland prepares for next week’s crucial independence vote, Jewish organisations north of the border this week refused to publicly back either side.
While most Scottish Jews, when privately polled, said they would vote ‘No,’ representative councils, umbrella groups and synagogues insisted they couldn’t take a collective view.
“There is nothing special about our community from this perspective,” said Prof. Ehud Reiter, the vice-president of Aberdeen Hebrew Congregation.
“We have people who support independence and people who oppose it. People’s attitude is probably better predicted by their political affiliation than by anything related to being Jewish.”
Former Scottish National Party (SNP) candidate Frank Angell and Prof. Joe Goldblatt from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, are among the very few prominent Jews in Scotland to proclaim their allegiance to the ‘Yes’ camp.
But to communal leaders in Scotland, independence would have little or no impact on the Jewish community north of the border, so the community as a whole has not taken a position.
“We do not believe that there is any intrinsic threat to Jewish people or the Community as such, nor any inherent benefit, from either independence or continued membership of the union,” said Ephraim Borowski from the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC).
“So just as we cannot take sides in an election, we cannot take sides in the Referendum,” he said. “Clearly opinion about independence is divided.”
There is unscientific evidence that the vast majority of Scottish Jews would vote ‘No,’ however. In a straw poll on independence taken at a communal event earlier this summer, the audience split roughly 200 against and 3 for.
The debate has focused on economic issues, and most nationwide polls suggest that voters will opt for independence only if it makes a positive financial difference to them.
So, with Scots set to enter the polling booth on 18 September, will they follow their heads, their hearts, or their pockets? “Who knows!” says Borowski. “We can’t say. But we’ll continue to work with whoever governs Scotland.”