Edinburgh Jewish History
Jewish presence in enlightened Edinburgh can be traced back to 1691, the year in which the minutes of Edinburgh Town Council recorded the application of David Brown, a professing Jew, to reside and trade in the city. The first Jew to buy a burial plot in Edinburgh was Herman Lyon. He came to Edinburgh from Germany in 1788 and described himself as a dentist and “corn operator” ie podiatrist and wrote a remarkable book on the subject. In 1795 he petitioned Edinburgh Town Council to purchase a plot of land on Calton Hill for a burying place for himself and his family. There is no trace of the plot today, but it is marked on the Ordnance Survey map of 1852 as “Jew’s Burial Vault”.
The first formal Edinburgh Jewish community was founded in 1816 and consisted of around 20 families.
In 1825, the community acquired a tenement in Richmond Court in Newington and converted and equipped it for use as a Synagogue with 67 seats. This served the needs of the Community for 43 years until larger premises were purchased in Park Place to accommodate 95 men and 50 women. By the turn of the century, the community numbered about 500 and acquired a chapel in Graham Street for conversion into a Synagogue.
In 1909 the Edinburgh University Jewish Society was founded and is the oldest in Scotland, possibly in Britain.
The beautiful Synagogue in Salisbury Road, built in 1932 to accommodate 1000 people, is a tribute to his leadership and vision. This was the first purpose built synagogue in Edinburgh and the site also houses a mikvah.
On Dr Daiches' death in 1945, the community appointed Rabbi Dr Isaac Cohen, who subsequently became Chief Rabbi of Eire.
Rabbi Dr Daniel Sinclair of Jerusalem was appointed minister in 1984. When he returned to Israel in 1987, he had raised the standard of Hebrew education in the community and had left behind an enthusiastic group of teenagers knowledgeable in Judaism, able to conduct the services and read the Torah.
Rabbi David Sedley was appointed in August 1996 and brought the freshness of youth into the Community. Along with his wife Alit and family Avi and Shoshana, they made a great impression on young and old alike. In 2000, they left for a post in Leeds, and have since returned to Israel. Rabbi David Katanka served as part-time Rabbi following Rabbi Sedley’s departure; he was also a wonderful chazzan.
Rabbi David Rose was appointed in May 2003, and continues to serve the community as well as participating in interfaith and civic activities; his hospitality to both Community members and visitors alike is renowned.