Giffnock Jewish History - part 3
In 1991, Rev and Mrs Gamzu celebrated their Golden Wedding. A tea reception attended by some 260 people was held, and by way of a presentation, an educational trust was set up in their honour to help young men go to Yeshivot in this country and abroad.
In June 1993, a new Sefer Torah was written by Mr Barry Solomon (a Glaswegian who now lives in Israel) and presented to the synagogue by Mr Fred Miller. A dinner was held in the Banqueting Suite to celebrate this momentous occasion and the guest of honour was the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Cyril K Harris.
The Diamond Jubilee
On Sunday 4th March 1995, over 250 guests were seated in the Banqueting Suite waiting for the celebratory M’Lavah Malkah to begin when it was announced that Rev Avrom Gamzu had collapsed and subsequently passed away as he walked into the Banqueting Suite. Everybody was saddened and shocked and there was talk of cancelling the evening. However, Mrs Gamzu insisted that the proceedings carry on as that would have been what her husband would have wanted. Gammy, as he was affectionately known, had been associated with the Shul for 50 years and had acted in every ministerial capacity, gaining a reputation as Mohel and Baal Keriah. The evening opened with a minute’s silence, continuing with tributes to a much loved man. The guest of honour was Rabbi Jeremy Rosen who was the Rabbi when the Shul moved to Fenwick Road.
Chief Rabbi comes to Giffnock
On Shabbat 7th February 1998, The Shul was honoured with a visit by the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks. A lunch was organised in his honour and attended by around 190 members of the congregation and community at large. It was a memorable day and a triumph for the congregation.
Change of Rabbi
At the end of 1998, Rabbi and Mrs Greenberg announced their intention to retire to London after 17 years of dedicated service. A farewell dinner was held in January 1999 in their honour with over 180 people in attendance.
With the retirement of Rabbi Greenberg, Rabbi Moshe Rubin who had been assistant Rabbi since 1994 took over as Rabbi of the Shul in 1999 and was inducted by the Chief Rabbi on 31st October. Rabbi Rubin started Giffnock’s own Sedra Sheet. As well as a short explanation of the week’s Sedra, it includes anyone who has a Mazeltov, birthday, anniversary, Yahrzeit or bereavement, as well as forthcoming social events.
Rabbi Rubin also introduced a monthly Shabbat Yom Huledet, a birthday Kiddush for the children. At the end of the Shabbat service, the Rabbi reads out the names of children having a birthday that month and a special chocolate cake is provided at the Kiddush. Each child receives a birthday card signed by the Rabbi. In October 1999 Rebbetzin Rubin set up a Mother and Toddler group which is still in going.
As some of the Shul’s Torah scrolls were in need of repair due to their age, the Torah 2000 project was launched. An appeal was made, and within 6 months, due to the support of members, expatriates and friends, over £50,000 was raised and the Shul was able to commission two Sifrei Torahs and a Megilla. The dedication took place on 10th June 2001 in the presence of the Chief Rabbi. Following the procession into the Shul, each Rabbi was invited to complete a letter in each Sefer Torah. The last letter in one Torah scroll was written by the Chief Rabbi and in the other by Rabbi Greenberg who had come to Glasgow for this memorable occasion. Rabbi Rubin wrote the second last letter in each. Mincha was led by Rev Levy accompanied by the Choir.
On 20th September 2002, 19 year old Yoni Jesner was killed on a bus in Tel Aviv by a suicide bomber. The whole community was shocked. Yoni was a very popular member and had played a prominent role in the Shul and wider Jewish community. A memorial service to a packed Shul was held on 2nd October 2002.
Stained Glass Windows
After Queen’s Park Shul closed its doors in October 2002, a decision was made to relocate 22 stained glass windows by artist John Clark, each one depicting a different Jewish theme, and install them in Giffnock. This was done with the help of a grant from the National Lottery Fund. The Shul has subsequently been invited to take part in the Doors Open Day each year, attracting over 300 visitors.
Other major ongoing projects that were realised during 2004-5 were the installation of a hearing loop system at a cost of £2,000, refurbishment of the banqueting suite, a new pulpit and a security barrier around the Aron Kodesh for when it is not being used.
New Ladies Seating
In January 2004, a small section of seating downstairs was separated off by a Mechitzah to cater for lady members who had difficulty in climbing the stairs.
In order to comply with legislation, a disabled ramp was completed and installed in October 2004. The total cost was defrayed by the generosity of members.
A new befriending group, known as Big Hearts, was launched in 2006 to organise visits to elderly or infirm members of the congregation in their homes. It was extended in 2009 with the launch of a new project to help mourners immediately after a funeral with arrangements for candles and food.
Robert Sherman evening
In March 2007, a very successful evening was held in the banqueting suite where guests were entertained by Robert Sherman and his son Robbie. Robert is an American songwriter specialising in musical films including songs from Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Slipper and the Rose and the theme park song, It’s a Small World After All. The evening was sold out. Robert also donated two limited edition prints of his paintings, one of Moses and the other of Abraham, which are currently hang in the reception area.
Kirking of East Renfewshire Council
For the first time, in September 2007 the Kirking of East Renfrewshire Council took place in the Shul attended by local dignitaries, councillors and MPs. A short service was followed by a Kiddush.
Pinny Rubin’s Barmitzvah
For the first time in 45 years, the son of the Shul Rabbi celebrated his Barmitzvah in Giffnock. On Monday 20th April there was a calling up ceremony followed by breakfast. The following Sunday there was a Barmitzvah celebration to which all the members were invited. There was a short afternoon service followed by speeches and a sumptuous afternoon tea. The event was packed out.
The anniversary dinner took place on Sunday 6th September in the banqueting suite and tickets were sold out. The guest speaker was Dayan Ivan Binstock of St. John’s Wood Synagogue and guests travelled from as far as Israel for the evening.. A photo exhibition of events over the last 75 years was created in the reception area.
On the social side the Shul hosts sit down Kiddushim with guest speakers, twice yearly Friday night suppers, Shavuot lunch, Simchat Torah reception, Chanukah Social, Purim breakfast, Lag B’Omer celebrations, Melava Malkas, Shabbatons, quiz evenings, cinema outings, mother and toddler group, and FAB goes MAD.
Despite the fact that the Glasgow Jewish community continues to decline as members move to Israel and elsewhere, the Shul continues to hold three services every day.
Schools continue to visit the Shul and for the past three years, over 300 visitors each year have walked through its doors, admiring its achievements.
‘The History of Giffnock Shul’, written by Laura Gurevitz and annotated for the website by the Editorial Committee.