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AYR'S JEWISH COMMUNITY

Jewish refugees Lore Zimmerman and Susanne Schaeffer in 1939.
Because the Scots share some of the characteristics from which the Jews benefit in the rest of the World, Scotland is not the easiest place for Jews to flourish in. That slot, alas, has already been filled.

Nevertheless, for around 100 years -- from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century -- the town of Ayr was notable for having one of Scotland's few Jewish communities. 

Jews appear in Ayrshire as early as the 1850s. By the 1901 census -- one year before the community established a synagogue -- the number of Jews reported to be living in Ayrshire was 75. In 1904, Jews formed the Ayr Zionist Society, and soon after a Hebrew school. 

In the 1930s, there were a number of kosher boarding houses for Jewish holidaymakers coming down from Glasgow. During this time the synagogue was at Sandgate and then at the kosher Invercloy Hotel. 

During the war, some Jewish refugees arrived, helping to boost the numbers of the community. In 1950, 160 Jews were reported to be living in the town. The Ayrshire Post reported on the arrival of five refugees in April 1939, staying at the Carrick Lodge:

"There was a young woman, a doctor and his wife, a young man who had been in a concentration camp and an eight-year-old girl and more were expected in the near future. [The landlady] made an appeal for offers of hospitality to the refugees and also for enquiries for domestics. Children’s clothing was also urgently required."

Following this, the number of Jews rapidly declined. By 1960, there were 68, and then by 1970, only 40. Soon after that the synagogue closed down, ending the history of Ayr's Jewish community.

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