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September 16, 2014 4:23 pm

Scottish Rabbi, Creator of Jewish Tartan Says Country’s Jews Oppose Independence (INTERVIEW)

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Scottish Jewish tartan. Photo: screenshot

Scottish Jewish tartan. Photo: screenshot. 

Scotland’s only local-born rabbi, and the creator of the only official Jewish tartan pattern, believes that, “From the Jewish perspective, we’re hoping for a ‘no vote,’ in the vote for independence,” from the United Kingdom on Thursday.

“From my understanding, a majority of the Jewish community, or ‘the’ majority of the Jewish community wants a ‘no’ vote,” Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, told The Algemeiner Tuesday.

“I don’t think a nationalist country has ever been good for Jews,” Jacobs said of fears within the 10,000-member community, and stressed “that if [the vote] went yes, anti-Jewish sentiments would increase.”

Noting that, unlike some Scottish Jews who have succeeded in resettling elsewhere, including in Israel, “some can’t leave – they’re stuck,” either due to age or infirmities.

“Bear in mind that there’s a large percentage of elderly Jews in Glasgow,” he pointed out, of the small community of some 5,500 souls, and also noted others who reside in Edinburgh and the Highlands.

Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Electricscotland

Rabbi Mendel Jacobs, Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Electricscotland

As for the tartan, when it was unveiled in 2008 Jacobs said “It’s been well received by Jewish people in Scotland and around the world,” and added that it “allowed people to combine their Jewish and Scottish heritage together.”

“For over 300 years Scots Jews have waited for their own tartan and now here it is,” he told local media, beginning with the first Jew recorded to have arrived in Edinburgh in 1691.

“The blue and white represents the colors of the Israeli and Scottish flag with the central gold line representing the gold from the Biblical Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the many ceremonial vessels. The silver is from the decorations that adorn the Scroll of the Law and the red represents the traditional red Kiddush wine. There are seven lines in the central motif and three in the flag representations – both numbers of great significance,” Jacobs said.

Noting that, “In Scotland, the Jews were never persecuted and there were no pogroms, no Holocaust, no national or state sponsored antisemitic laws,” Jacobs pointed out to that, “When England was burning and exiling its Jews in the Middle Ages, Scotland provided a safe haven from English and European anti-Semitism.”

But not all Scottish Jews see the issues as being so clear cut, nor as comforting.

Nick Henderson, 26, was born and raised in Glasgow, and emigrated to Israel in 2004. While he’s friends with Jacobs – who is even sending him yarmulkes made with the “Chosen” tartan – Henderson, who holds an absentee ballot, told The Algemeiner on Tuesday that he has mixed feelings about Scottish independence, both as a Scot, and as one who left to make his life in the Jewish homeland.

While calling Scotland “a safe place, a warm place, for Jews,” he pointed to unpleasant experiences, as an identifying pro-Israel Jew.

“You’re judged on your Judaism by how much you criticize Israel or not,” he charged.

“When I started at my previous job, the first thing my boss asked me was what I thought about Palestine and Israel,” adding that if Jews don’t hew to the popular anti-Israel tropes, “you’re seen as a Zionist, in a negative sense.”

He noted comments by Scotland’s pro-independence movement leader, First Minister Alex Salmond, who on Sunday equated Israel with ISIS, as exemplifying the hard left attitude towards Israel among some in Scotland.

As a counterpoint to Jacob’s assertion of Scotland as a “safe haven,” Henderson feels those days may be fading fast. He noted the open hostility to Israel in Scottish media over Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, and pointed out that, “the Scottish government doesn’t want to have arms shipments to Israel, and from day one of independence, the pro-Palestinians will be fishing for even harder things.

“I am as much Scottish as I am Jewish,” Henderson, who works for the educational program in Safed in the northern Galilee, wrote in The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

“My grandfather was a Jewish surgeon from Dublin who settled in Glasgow; my grandmother was a pillar of the once thriving Jewish community as a lawyer, fundraiser and chairwoman of the synagogue I grew up in. My family are still at the heart of the community, teaching at cheder [religious schools], writing for the Jewish newspaper, organizing Jewish learning conferences and working for Jewish non-profits.”

Summing up, Henderson told The Algemeiner that, “If I was to go with my heart, then I believe that we can create a fair, more free, more democratic society. But if I was to go with my head, I’d ask, ‘what currency would we use; what would our relationship with the European Union be …’ all these things that haven’t been asked.”

He added, “…on top of that, being a Jew and a Zionist – if I were to go with my head, I’d go with ‘no;’ don’t make life any more difficult for the Jews in Scotland, because, with independence, things will get a lot harder for people.”

“But, if I go with ‘yes,’ maybe then all the Jews will move to Israel,” he noted, adding wryly, “so, maybe it’s kind of a Zionist case for Scottish independence – in a roundabout way.”

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  • Wroots

    A “jewish tartan”? For heaven’s sake! How thoroughly stupid! As if! This is the way they worm their way in. Watch “The Tale of the Ducks and the Hens”:

    The Scots are the latest ducks, by the way. Quack-quack.

    • Paul

      I am half Scottish and half Israeli, and I am proud of both heritages. However, the idea that Jews should wish to worm their way into Scottish identity is ridiculous. Much as I love the Scots,the Jews were an ancient people when the Scots were swinging in the trees ( metaphorically of course!)

  • If I would have lived in Scotland, I would only have done so accompanied by my faithful Canine/protector/bodyguard. He was military trained especially for me( won’t mention which Country)
    He stands around 90cm to his shoulders and weighs around 100kg
    If anyone tried to attack me he knows exactly what to do. he is quite capable of bringing 3 to four people down to the ground then guarding them till assistance appears, such as the police etc. that is of course if they are not also of the Jew-hating type.

    • Jon Hume Fortune

      Did you even read the article? Where is the history of anti-Jewish attitudes or behaviour in Scotland? There is none. In fact, Jews in Scotland have barely registered on the radar,and have been about as threatening as a toddler with a feather. Hardly surprising then that nobody cared to single them out for harsh treatment.

  • despo


  • Kathleen

    I was very much for independence, but anti-Semitism & pro-Palestine propaganda is rife all over the UK. It’s not just a Scottish problem.Remaining in the UK doesn’t solve that for Scottish Jews,either. They may see it as a lesser of 2 evils, though.

  • Dante

    @Julian Clovelly
    Rather Doublethink here

    Not at all, let alone “hypocrisy”, as Jon R. said. Of course, there are many different – very different – kinds of nationalism but apart from that, Jacobs did not say

    Nationalism is bad unless it is Zionism?


    I don’t think a nationalist country has ever been good for Jews.

    Note the difference. Let X and Y be nations, the claim that X-nationalism might (not must) be bad for some person y∈Y≢X is not doublethink but rather a truism (“∈” means “belongs to” and “≢” means “is not identical to”), and of course, it is typically not bad for some x∈X whereas a Y-nationalism is typically not bad for y.
    Whether or not it is bad for y depends on what kind of nationalism it is. Some kinds of X-nationalism certainly are even if y∈X for they consider X\Y as X (“\” means “without”).
    And that’s the snag. Historically, many, if not most X-nationalists indeed thought so – where by Y I clearly mean the Jewish people. My own country was an excellent example during a particularly nationalist period – I am certainly talking about Germany during the Nazi era. Not even a Jewish WW1 veteran was really safe from persecution.

  • Linda Rivera

    Get this information out to ALL non-muslims! What is the going price to sell your soul and sell out your country to Islam? TRAITOR Alex Salmond is sold out to Islam. The traitor will make sure to flood Scotland with sharia-eager muslim God-haters and give as many tax pounds as he possibly can to muslims. If Scots vote yes, they will reap in tears.

    First Minister Alex Salmond at Islamic Relief and Well Foundation Fundraising Dinner

  • Eric R.

    What is it about the Scots that make them such frothing, psychotic, Nazi, svage Jew-haters?

    If Scotland touches the hair of one Jew, Israel should nuke its North Sea oil platforms.

    She might even want to consider a commando raid on the Scottish Parliament.

    • Jon Hume Fortune

      Shut you, you half-wit. The average Scot will think about the Jews about three times in his or her lifetime. Far from being Jew haters, they are almost completely Jew indifferent.

  • shosh

    Again here is Jon R. with his twisted Antisemitic and
    anti Israel way of thinking. He probably is a terrorist sympathizer that kidnap and kill innocent victims.

  • Shalom + blessings to you and all your family and friends I do think your newly made tartan is soo very beautiful/all/my
    favorite shades of sea+ sky all my grand and great grand /came folks came from Dumfries Scotland all my grand Uncles
    did serve in the UK British Armed Forces and with them came along/so many beautiful sons+daughters which it did all the brothers their daughters were /so much of my very blest and happy/childhood so many happy/memories /I’m hoping your are too wish you a blest Rashanna and a pecefulYom Kippor bye for/now kmurph 5360@gmail

  • Jews should want to get as far away from England as possible. Scotland should become free and not part of of a despicable history that America’s Founding Fathers couldn’t wait to leave.

    The British treated Jews in Palestine like the Nazis treated Jews in Europe. Ask any Holocaust survivor who went to Palestine after 1945.

    • Steve

      The problem with your logic is that you differentiate between British and Scottish. There isn’t a difference. You can’t pick and choose, labelling all the negatives in British history as being “English” only. As for Scotland being “free”… this has nothing to do with freedom or oppression. This is anti-English nationalism, nothing more.

  • shloime

    the history of the scottish tartans is a bizarre tale of jewish tailors inventing “clan tartans” for victorian english nobles when “being scottish” was fashionable – the real tartans having been banned by the english for centuries.

    in a sense, ALL tartans today are jewish, not just this one.

    • Wroots

      Oh, yeah. There are traditional jewish tartans all over the world, and especially in Israel.

    • Wroots

      I think you need a history lesson in the origins and evolution of tartans. See link below. The origins are Celtic, not jewish – as can easily be seen from the etymologies of the names of the various garments as well as their manufacture and the fibres and dyes used. The evolution of the tartan began many, many centuries before Victorian times.

      The Dress Act of 1746 made wearing “the Highland Dress”, including tartan or a kilt, illegal in Scotland. The law was repealed in 1782. Let me get out my calculator. The ban on tartan lasted for the grand total of 36 years. Hardly “centuries”!

    • Wroots

      The Dress Act of 1746 made wearing “the Highland Dress”, including tartan or a kilt, illegal in Scotland. The law was repealed in 1782. The ban on tartan lasted for the grand total of 36 years and not for “centuries”!

  • Linda Rivera

    “Scotland’s pro-independence movement leader, equated Israel with ISIS.” I didn’t know that the leader was such a profoundly evil and dangerous person. If Scotland votes yes, it will curse Scotland.

    I find it very peculiar that Scots want independence from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, yet the pro-independence vile, God-hater leader is desperately eager for Scotland to be in the anti-freedom, nation destroying EU. Very, very strange.

  • Jon R.

    “I don’t think a nationalist country has ever been good for Jews”

    Interesting that Jewish nationalism–Zionism–is A-OK with Jews but anyone else’s nationalism is viewed simply as “not good for the Jews.” And this as Africans are sent packing from Israel.

    In a perfect world–from a Jewish perspective–the only nationalism would be Jewish nationalism. After all, who else needs an identity? As long as the Jews have one, everything is right with the world.

    Jewishness and hypocrisy are not quite synonymous but are certainly connected at the hip.

    • Katelyn C.

      Well, as a Jew who has always been in favor of Scotland being separate from England, Wales, etc. I find your assumption that all Jews find only Jewish nationalism to be the equivalent to a perfect world to be not totally accurate. Yes, there are probably many Jewish people in this world whom would prefer only Jewish nationalism, but is that not true of many people from various parts of the world, preferring nationalism that pertains to themselves?

      Everyone deserves an identity and I chide no one for wishing one of their own. If Scotland returns to the nationalism that it once knew then that is excellent if the people who live there desire that as I do. Yet, as Scotland or Canada or any other country has the right to exist, so does Israel.

      Though, in regard to hypocrisy, it can come from all groups. No one is devoid of it entirely. However, to say that Jewishness and hypocrisy are connected at the hip is an unkindness, for that is to lump an entire group into one category. I admit that in some things in life I have had hypocrisy creep into my actions, but it is not due to my being Jewish, but from my being human. No one is perfect, no group is perfect.

      Personally, I do not agree with the statement, “I don’t think a nationalist country has ever been good to Jews.” Though that is my opinion, just as it was simply the opinion of the individual who stated that. Not everyone from the same ‘group’ is always going to agree.

    • Haile Stressor


      Your bile has clouded your vision and memory. Israel is a multi-ethnic democracy, with every color and shade of humanity well represented, including large numbers of ethnic Vietnamese, descendants of the “boat people,” who were denied admittance everywhere else, but were taken in by Israel, whose people knew the bitter taste of statelessness. Today, they are Israelis who freely practice their Catholic religion, many within sight of the Stations of the Cross. Black and brown faces are common in Israeli streets, classrooms and enterprises.

      Israel is too small to absorb all who cross its borders to escape their governments and poverty. Its still substantial unemployment rate would skyrocket.
      Just as America cannot be the safety valve for Mexico’s high birthrate, so too tiny Israel cannot solve the problem of African poverty.

      If you visit Israel you will discover that those are
      the facts, if you’re willing to open your eyes and look.

      Bon Voyage

    • Mike

      Let’s be fair. The Africans had entered Israel illegally. Besides, they were not mistreated during their stay.

    • Linda Rivera

      Jon, You are another rabid Jew-hater and God-hater. Israel has been massively invaded by African MUSLIMS. Oh, how I wish the muslims had all been deported! Only a very small number have. The hate-filled African muslim infiltrators are perpetrating huge amounts of crimes against Jews, cruel rapes, violent attacks, stealing and murders.

      Muslim illegals are also massively invading Europe. Not a single muslim should be allowed to step foot in any of our countries! The muslim parasites are eager to live for free off our people and eager to OBEY quran commands to wage jihad against us.

      Muslims are only waiting for the time when their numbers increase to the point where they can wage all out jihad against our non-muslim people. All of the satanic horrors perpetrated against the Christians and Yazidis in Iraq – mass barbaric killings, massive sex-slave-taking of infidel females will take place in our countries thanks to our extremely wicked leaders colonising each one of our tiny countries of Europe and Britain with millions of muslims.

      Brother and sister infidels: FORM DEFENSE GROUPS.

    • Yale

      There are nationalisms and there are nationalisms.

      Nationalisms that are dedicated toward monoculturalism are inherently bad for Jews because Jews are the “in”-group only in Israel. What I have heard about the Scotish independence effort lead me to believe it would be monoculturalist and thus conceptually bad for Jews.

      Leftism, despite its advocacy of multiculturalism, and Islamism are monoculturalist phenomena and both are hostile toward both American values and Jews.

      Other nationalisms, like in the US, are built around ideas that can be embraced by both Jews and others; these nationalisms are good for Jews. It is probably no coincidence that these nations do better than the monoculturalists, and that is why they are hated by the Left and Islamists.

    • Dante

      The last sentence is utter nonsense. Hypocrisy is much more connected to anti-Semitism an Judeophobia than to Jewishness, since anti-Semites use to project their own negative properties on the Jews. E.g. the Nazis blamed the Jews of being money-grubbing and robbed them before they murdered them. Stürmer issuer Julius Streicher propagandized the “pornographic anti-Semitism”, blaming especially male Jews of being sex-maniacs, himself fulfilling any of his own clichés (according to Baldur von Schirach, he also harassed underage girls).
      And, of course, anti-Semites lie like troopers when talking about Jews, and they fake documents like the “1984” Minitrue.

  • Cheryl Semrau

    Where could I get the Jewish tartan? I live in Canada

  • Julian Clovelley

    Rather Doublethink here

    Nationalism is bad unless it is Zionism?

    A quote from the article – “I don’t think a nationalist country has ever been good for Jews,” Jacobs said

    How true. That is why any successful country needs to be multicultural. Multiculturalism provides the essential peaceful link to other nations across the artefacts we call “borders”

    There is a message here – and as for Scotland, there is every reason to suppose an independent Scotland might be a more successful multicultural one than England.

    I was born in England – I left…

    • Eric R.

      No, countries do NOT need to be multicultural to flourish. That is just Comrade Clovelly reciting mindlessly his radical leftist twaddle.

      The prospering Asian tigers (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) are proof of this – as they are very homogenous. Even the PRC is 90+% Han Chinese.

      On the other hand, former multicultural countries like the USSR, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia (all of which followed your beloved Marxist beliefs) have broken up into smaller, largely unicultural countries, while the UK, Spain, Belgium and Canada seem likely to follow.

      A country that does not insist on at least some cultural integration will ultimately be torn apart. Period.

  • Yuri B.

    I think it’s absolutely none of our business. There are rightists and leftists on both sides. That is what determines their view on Israel, not ‘yes’ vs. ‘no’. The part about nationalist countries not being good for Jews is funny because Israel is nationalist- which I think is a good thing.