Edinburgh Synagogue

Edinburgh Synagogue
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Edinburgh Synagogue

Located on Salisbury Road in the Newington district of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Synagogue lies 1¼miles (2 km) southeast of the city centre. This is the only Synagogue in the city and caters to the needs of a principally Orthodox Jewish community. Built in 1932 to designs by the notable architect James Miller (1860 - 1947) to accommodate 2000 people, the building is now Grade-B listed. It was converted in 1979 to considerably reduce the size of the prayer hall, with a community centre being inserted beneath. Following the traditional design, the Ark, containing the Torah, and pulpit are on the east wall facing the congregation and the raised Bimah, or reader's platform, lies in the centre of the hall, around which the men sit. Separate sections of raked seating for women rise to the north and south. The hall features fine stained glass. A Jewish School (or Cheder) meets in purpose-built classrooms within the building on Sunday mornings. Also in the Synagogue is the Cosgrove Library, which comprises 1400 volumes of Jewish interest presented in 1985 in memory of Rev. Dr. I.K. Cosgrove, who led the Garnethill Synagogue in Glasgow.

Adjacent is a Mikveh, or ritual immersion bath, which was built at the same time as the Synagogue, but had fallen into disrepair and was no longer used by the 1980s. This was restored 1998-2003 and returned to use.

The Edinburgh Jewish community can be traced back to a Minute of the Town Council in 1691, when application was made by a certain David Brown to reside and trade in the city. There was an organised community by 1780, which consisted of twenty families by 1816. The community converted a property in the former Richmond Court for use as their first Synagogue in 1825. Nearby, at the Pleasance, the remains of a Jewish Cemetery can still be seen. By the end of the 19th century larger premises had been acquired in Graham Street, for a community which now numbered 500. The Salisbury Road building was the initiative of Dr Salis Daiches, who became Rabbi in 1918 and served for 27 years. Other Jewish Cemeteries are located in Sciennes House Place, which served from 1816-70, a section of Newington Cemetery and then a section of Piershill Cemetery.

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