Jewish Migration

Jewish Migration

Jewish migration to Scotland in significant numbers did not really get under way until the 1890s- rising to 7000 by 1900 and 12,00 by 1914

Most were from what is now Poland and Lithuania, controlled by Russia, and pushed out by poverty and  (often violent) discrimination.

Glasgow was a staging post on the  way to  America- but many stayed on. Family links remained but were cut in 1918 by the Bolshevik revolution

Gorbals was a main settlement area and occupations were tailoring and hawking and the main language Yididish. But soon, with education and hard work, many set up other businesses and professions. As people prospered they moved to Govanhill  and eventually farther out.  Allison St had many Jewish delis and other shops, contributing to the life of the area

A Jewish community grew in the Crosshill and Govanhill area from the start of the 20th Century. There was a Govanhill Chevra (prayer group) as early as 1901 and services were later held in a shop in Langside Road, then in Cromwell Road. Langside Hebrew Congregation opened its new synagogue in Niddrie Road in 1927.


Crosshill Hebrew Congregation first held High Holy Day services in Dixon Halls, later met in a house at 61 Dixon Avenue, and then in Belleisle Street (1961-1986). The congregation was led for most of its history by Rabbi Moshe Dovid Dryan.

‘…A recent influx of Jews into the Crosshill district has led to the formation of still another Hebrew congregation, and new synagogue premises were opened only this week for the festival services. The new synagogue, which seats over a hundred, is situated in Dixon Avenue, and was formerly the Home for the Aged and Needy Jews, which was opened in 1927. close by, in the Dixon Halls, the Rev. D Hoppenstein will also conduct special services…’

Evening Times, 20 September 1933

A Progressive Congregation was founded in 1931, meeting first in private houses, then at 90 Albert Road, and from 1950 at 306 Albert Drive.

The Southside Jewish population is now completely integrated and has contributed much to Scottish life, but there are now only a few reminders in Govanhill such as the Langside Synagogue (interior above).

The Bellisle St synagugue is now church but it had a spectacular original ceiling by the Glasgow artist and author Alistair Gray (this may still exist under the paintwork)

Alistair Grey  Langside Synagogue


"An Old Tin Can"

Anti- Jewish prejudice was not uncommon in the early 20th century and right up to World War 2.

Ralph Glasser in “Growing up in the Gorbals” recalls his school days (in some schools 50% or  more of the pupils were Jewish) – “At school persecution was relentless, being  called a Sheeny and Jesus Killer. The challenge was ‘are you a billy or a dan or an old tin can’- Jews were the tin cans to be kicked down the street by both local sectarian groups”

“When I was 17 I saw a job advertisement for an insurance company. I was asked to come for an interview. At the end of the interview, which pleased them, he asked my religion. I said Jewish. And he said, ‘Oh we only employ our own. We are a family business. We would not employ Jews”  (Testimony of Harry Criven, Jewish Archive of Glasgow

Jewish family


A Glasgow Jewish     family around 1900





But there was also co-operation between neighbours. Many a young Glagow lad or lass was employed as a “Shabbas goy” in Jewish households to perform services which are religiously forbidden to Jews on that day. The Shabbat goy’s duty is to extinguish the lighted candles or lamps on Friday night, and make a fire in the oven or stove on Sabbath mornings during the cold weather.



Jewish Life in Govanhill

There were Jewish delicatessens in Allison Street (such as Morrisons and Watermans), a kosher butcher (Godfreys) and the offices of the Glasgow Hebrew Burial Society.

buriel society Opening of the Hebrew Burial Society in Allison St 

Jewish children at Annette Street Primary School had withdrawal classes, and cheder classes also met at the school. Youth facilities at various times included the Bnei Akiva Bayit in Queen Mary Avenue (later the students’ Hillel House), JLGB  (Albert Road), Cubs and Scouts (Queens Drive). At one time there was a Jewish nursery in Queen Mary Avenue.

Harvey Kaplan (curator of the Glasgow Jewish Archive Centre) remembers  ” Morrisons, I knew it well.  As a child, we lived in Westmoreland Street, round the corner from Allison Street, and it was a fairly Jewish area even in those days.  From memory:  Celia’s (Watermans) deli,  Mrs Shenkin (newsagent), Josephs (shoemaker), Burial Society offices, Godfrey the butcher, Bebes deli, Henry the fruiterer – all in Allison Street”.

There were sufficient Jewish kids in Annette Street Primary for there to be 2 withdrawal classes (Mr Madisky was in charge) and a cheder, under Mrs Nellie Spiro.

There was Crosshill Shul in Belleisle Street (Rabbi Dryan), Bnei Akiva in Queen Mary Avenue (later Hillel House for the students, also the kitchens for the schools kosher meals service),JLGB in Albert Road.

“My great uncle, Myer Linderman, was the baker in Morrisons for many years and I remember the shop well”.

We have found no photos as yet of the Jewish shops in Govanhill – but this is one in Gorbals 

Alan Abrahams (now living in Israel) wites 

“There were actually two Jewish grocer shops called Morrisons! One that went by the name Michael Morrison, was in Sinclair Drive, near Habonim and across the road from the Levingstone bookshop. The second was my parents’ shop in Allison Street called Morrisons’ Grocers Ltd. It was started by my grandmother, who changed from name from Katz to Morrison, her husband’s father’s name having been Morris. I think that Michael Morrison’s was the more fashionable of the two, but the two businesses cooperated – for example on the run-up to Pesach if they ran out of a certain commodity they would phone each other to see if the other had it, and I remember fairly frequent trips between the two in order to exchange merchandise. I don’t think I have a photo of the shop, and when my late parents came on Aliyah (1979) they sold it to a Pakistani” .






Hannah Frank

In the years preceding her death in 2008 Glasgow-born Jewish artist Hannah Frank saw a dramatic resurgence of interest in the art she produced over her 75 year career.

Hannah was the first of four children born to Charles and Miriam Frank from Lithuania. He settled in Glasgow, married Miriam Lipetz – daughter of another immigrant family – and opened a camera shop in the Saltmarket on the day Hannah was born, august 23rd 1908.

The family moved South to the smarter Govanhill area where they bought a substantial house in Dixon Avenue. She declared at an early age that she wanted to be an artist. She took evening classes at the Glasgow School of art. Hannah’s mother asked Baillie Drummond, a neighbour, to intervene in her application to the School of Art, as it was unusual for Jewish women to be accepted there at the time.

Hannah began, in the 1920s, to produce her hallmark black and white drawings, many inspired by the Bible such as her Adam and Eve fleeing the Garden of Eden .

HF Adam and eve

She also wrote  poetry and later moved on to sculpture working with Benno Schotz at the Glasgow School of Art. Sydney Goodsir Smith, reviewing an exhibition at the RSA in 1965, wrote: “Hannah Frank’s voluptuous “Reclining Woman” is classical in her ease of pose and perfect calm, a lovely wee thing”

Hannah and her husband Lionel lived most of their lives in Govanhill, but spent their last years in Westacres, a Jewish care home in Newton Mearns


Hannah with “Pensive Head” 





A Glasgow Shtetl

The vast majoity of Glasgow Jews came from the Baltic countries of Lativa and Lithuania/ Poland which at the time were part of the Russian Empire. Since about 1800 most Jews in Russia were forecibly confined to this are known the Pale. Pogroms (persecution, often violent) increased and so many opted to leave.

The destination was America- but a favoutie route was a boat to Leith – crossing Glasgow and on from there- but due to poverty and being cheated by the shipowners- many did to make it and stayed Later families would join them in Glasgow

Many small townsin Lithuania and Latvia were 50% of more Jewish, known as Shtetls and Jewish cultural life flourished The language was Yiddish (derived mainly from German and written in Hebrew script)

A Lithuanian Shtetl around 1900

Below Here is an extract from “Life in Mariampole” (Lithuania) as remmbered by Albert Margowsky who left there aged 17

At the entrance to an average home in Mariampole stood a kayle [barrel] filled with drinking water with a copper dipper on top, as well as an almer [cabinet that stores food] nearby. The almer contained ayngemakhtsn [preserves] with a warning: ―M‟zol dos nit darfn.” [―You should not get into it.‖] Next, situated in the kitchen was a koymen [chimney] and a plite [brick or earthen stove]. In winters and nights, below the kamen [brick fireplace used as an oven] sat a katukh [chicken coop] with eggs.A container for pots and pans was accessible. Located nearby werea shlof bank [folding bed] usually painted red. When the lid lifted, the bench interior became a bed with the straw tick mattress and pillow in the drawer below. There was also a table, a kerosene lamp, and a politse [shelf] for pots and pans. Next to the kitchen came the living room. Its walls were decorated with pictures and photographs of the mishpokhe [family]. The furniture consisted of a vant zeyger [wall clock] with weights hanging down and a chain to wind it up, a kushetke [sofa] which served both as a bed and hope chest, tables, chairs, wooden clothes closet and a kakhloyvn [tile oven]. The bedrooms were mostly side rooms: one shared by the parents with the infants and two others, one for girls and one for boys.The furniture was simple, plain and wooden and passed on from generation to generation. Some homes had a commode. Each home had a bookcase filled with books, mostly of a religious nature. The walls were either calcimined or covered with paper.A sheygen [woven runner] covered the floor. On Saturdays some families spread fine yellow sand on their floor lekoved shabes [to honor the Sabbath]. Homes were lit by kerosene lamps. The blitslomp [bright lamp] hung from the ceiling was lowered or raised by a pulley attached to a heavy weight on the bottom. The glass-bowl kerosene lamps and glass chimney lamps produced smoke and their wicks had to be trimmed continually.The smoke and soot needed to be wiped from inside the chimney.


Street life in a Jewish district

in E Europe and Govanhill  


Familty life in a poorer Glasgow tenement around 1900  would not have been very different, so many newly arriving Jews would have felt at home.

“Our first address was the Gorbals where Father had lodgings with distant relatives, and the Gorbals, somehow, was less intimidating than other parts of town, for it reminded me vaguely of Dvinsk. There were Yiddish posters on the hoardings, Hebrew lettering on the shops, Jewish names, Jewish faces, Jewish butchers, Jewish bakers with Jewish bread, and Jewish grocers with barrels of herring in the doorway. The herrings in particular brought a strong whiff of home. One heard Yiddish in the streets – more so, in fact, than English – and one encountered figures who would not have been out of place in Barovke” . (Chaim Bermont, born in Lithuania and moved to Latvia as a child and then Glasgow)