Giffnock Jewish History - part 2
Another project which began following the opening of the new youth centre was the 7.30 Club founded by Mrs. Lily Bernard. Although essentially the teenagers ran the club themselves, they had to draw up a cultural programme and submit it to Rabbi Rubinstein and Mrs Bernard for approval. Boys were expected to make up a minyan when required. The club was open to girls between 15 and 21 and boys between 16 and 21. There were a variety of activities including dances on a Sunday evening, committee meetings on a Monday and football, table tennis, drama, bridge, chess, body-building and weight lifting, swimming and athletics at other times. During the summer there were cycle runs and bus parties to the coast which were thoroughly enjoyed by all. Mrs Bernard chaired the club for 17 years until her retirement in 1965. A Chupah was presented to the synagogue from the proceeds of the club, a fitting gift as many couples met at the 7.30 Club and subsequently married.
The Rebuilding of the Synagogue
The main highlight of the 1950s was the rebuilding of the Synagogue to include a ladies gallery. 350 seats in seasoned oak were installed in the ladies gallery. To help meet the costs of the project, seat rents were raised 25% and a loan of £6,000 was secured from the Royal Bank of Scotland. The synagogue was now able to accommodate 750 members. Owing to the generous donations by the community, the synagogue benefited from a new stained-glass window, new electric Chandeliers, new ark and pulpit and the Ladies Guild presented the synagogue with a beautiful Bimah. At the same time, new seats were installed in the men’s section. Sam Barclay and Isaac Jesner were given the honour of formally opening the ladies gallery in recognition of their work and Sam Barclay was inscribed in the Golden Book and given a Golden Book certificate.
In 1959 Rev Phillip Copperman was appointed Chazan of the synagogue where he remained until 1963. Shortly after his arrival he initiated a male voice choir under the direction of Joseph Bernstein, which was continued by Monty Rosenthal until he emigrated to Australia in 1983. Today it still operates under the direction of Michael Barnett.
By 1962 the Cheder was at its peak with 230 children on the roll, and in this year Giffnock was the only Cheder to present candidates for the bursary examinations of the Hebrew college. Rev Gamzu who taught in the Cheder for about 30 years, recalled that in those days the classes had 40 to 50 children. Religious education was also carried over to regular Shul attendance and on a Friday night at the Oneg Shabbat there was a regular attendance of between 70 and 80 children with over 100 at the children’s service on a Shabbat morning. Mrs Gamzu also played an active part, teaching in the Cheder and taking withdrawal classes in Giffnock School which at one time had over 100 children.
Rabbi Rubinstein died in 1964 after serving as minister for 18 years and his passing left a large void in the community. Rabbi Dr S Herman, BA PhD was appointed as minister in 1965, but decided to leave in 1967 to take up a position in Manchester where he felt his children would have a better Jewish cultural life. Rabbi Jeremy Rosen was then appointed as minister. He was the son of the late Rabbi Kopul Rosen who founded Carmel College and had just completed his Rabbinical training in Israel when he came to Giffnock. He introduced a Kiddush after each Shabbat service although as there were about 40 Barmitzvahs each year, the Shul didn’t have to pay for too many of them.
Rev Ernest Levy was appointed as Chazan in 1964. He formed and trained a boy’s choir in 1965 which remained in operation until his official retiral in 1990. He officiated at the memorial service for Rabbi Rubinstein. Over his 26 year association with the Shul, he officiated at approximately 500 weddings. He remained a popular figure at Shul services and events and assisted with services when required right up until he passed away in 2009. His portrait hangs in the Shul entrance hall.
The Building of a New Shul
The community continued to flourish and by the late 1950s/early 1960s many families were moving into the district from Shawlands, Battlefield, Queenspark, Crosshill and areas round about. Applications for membership were so great that from 1962 the Tudor cinema has to be used for overflow services to accommodate the 380 members who did not have seats in the main synagogue. At that time The Glen came onto the market at offers over £7,000 and Isaac Jesner visited the site with Phillip Jacobsen and Maurice Felstein, who was actively involved as joint building convenor in the building of the new Shul. Mr Jesner decided to buy the site and then offer it to the Shul. A few months later the Tudor Cinema came onto the market and was subsequently purchased by the newly formed Community Trust. They offered to lease it to the Synagogue at a nominal rent, with the Synagogue being responsible for the conversion. After much thought and deliberation, it was finally rejected as the costs were too great and it was decided to build on the site of the Glen, retaining the house at the front and building on the land at the back.
Planning permission for the Glen was obtained and it was estimated that building would cost £141,385 and fund raising began accordingly. Meanwhile, Maccabi were interested in the premises in May Terrace for their youth activities and the Community Trust agreed that they would take over the buildings in May Terrace at a price of £30,000 and develop the grounds for Maccabi’s use. The Royal of Scotland agreed an overdraft of £100,000 without guarantors. Dr David Granet, Maurice Felstein, Isaac Jesner and Isaac Sclar were responsible for raising the funds and decided to ask members to covenant donations for the building fund. The response was tremendous and covenanted donations of approximately £125,000 were made, to come in over a period of 7 years. There were interest free loans of over £20,000 and the shortfall of £30,000 in finance was kindly donated to the Shul by the Wolfson brothers.
Dr Ephraim Cowan, who was building convenor from 1965 - 1969 supervised the building of the new Shul and to make sure the work was carried out smoothly and satisfactorily, was on site every day the builders were working. At the commencement of the project, Dr Cowan passed the shovel to Maurice Felstein to cut the first turf. The foundation stone was laid by Isaac Sclar. The last service to be held in May Terrace was on Saturday 14th September 1968. On Friday 20th September, the Sifrei Torah were escorted from May Terrace to the entrance of the Glen and carried in procession to the new synagogue. Those honoured in carrying the Sefarim from the entrance were Rabbi Rosen, Cantor Levy, M Felstein, I Jesner, E Levitus, S Barclay, M Newman, J Benson and B Mendelsohn. Services officially began on Rosh Hashanah 1968. The following year on 11th May, the classroom block and banqueting suite were formally opened by Charles Wolfson.
It was decided to appoint a secretary to take bookings for the banqueting suite and to set up an administration system. Mrs Gladys Goodman was appointed in 1969 and continued until her retirement in 1985. She was succeed by Mrs Geraldine Gardner who carried out the role until her retirement in 2009. She has been followed by Michael Conn who combines the role with the maintenance and upkeep of the Shul premises.
In 1971 Rabbi Rosen left the congregation to take up the position of Headmaster at Carmel College and a farewell Kiddush was held in his honour. He was followed by Rabbi David Miller who served as minister until 1975 when he left to go to London. Rev Gamzu, a stalwart of the Shul, stepped into the breach and acted as Rabbi until 1982 when Rabbi Philip Greenberg was appointed minister of the synagogue. He continued as Rabbi until 1999 when he retired to London with the honorary status of Emeritus Rabbi.
The Mikvah (Ritual Baths) which had been situated at the South Portland Street in the Gorbals for many years, was rebuilt in Giffnock Synagogue in 1971 due to the efforts of Isaac Jesner. Liba Bloch Greenberg officially opened it on 25 February. The annual running costs of the Mikvah are very high and it relies heavily on continuous donations from the community. In 1992 the Mikvah was redesigned and rebuilt at a cost of £35,000, thanks mainly to a major contribution from the Community Trust. A new Keilim Mikva for the ritual koshering of crockery and utensils has since been built outside the kitchen.
In 1972, owing to an electrical fault, there was a fire in the reception area and banqueting suite. The costs for reinstatement of the building and replacement of the contents, along with planned improvements, cost in the region of £115,000. As the insurance settlement only amounted to £77,000 there was a shortfall of £38,000 to complete the project. Donations from the members along with an overdraft facility enabled the repairs and improvements to be carried out.
In September 1976, the Friendship Club was initiated by Rev Ernest Levy and set up by Mrs Ray Gamzu and Mrs Kathy Levy, with the help of Mrs E Jesner, Mrs E Stern, Mrs A Smullen, Mrs E Clapham and Mrs M Wolff, as a cultural and social centre for the over 60 age group. Meetings were initially held in the Shul every fortnight, but the club was so successful that they now meet every week. Events include bus outings, visits to the theatre and a speaker or entertainer once a month.
When Rabbi Shapiro, the Rosh Yeshivah in Glasgow made aliyah to Israel in the late 1970’s, a Kollel was established in Glasgow under the leadership of Rabbi M Bamberger and sited in the Giffnock Shul Beth Hamidrash.
Throughout the early years, the Cheder was considered to be of major importance. With the advent of Calderwood Lodge, the Jewish day school in 1962, the number of children attending Cheder gradually began to drop. By 1970, the community was dwindling as people made aliyah and children left Glasgow to study elsewhere. As a result, Clarkston Shul amalgamated their Cheder with Giffnock. By 1973/4 there were only 107 pupils on the roll, 62 of whom came from Giffnock synagogue, 24 from Clarkston and 21 from other congregations. By 1982 there were only 62 pupils on the roll and Mr I Madisky, the long service headmaster, retired. The Glasgow Board of Jewish Education decided to relocate the Cheder classes to Newton Mearns Shul and Calderwood Lodge.