Daniel Lowe – Chabad.org.uk
This year’s Edinburgh Festival sees Chabad-Lubavitch of Edinburgh reaching out to Jews, providing religious services and hospitality.
“The festival is huge and has been keeping us very busy over the summer,” says Rabbi Pinny Weinman.
Rabbi Weinman and his wife Gitty moved to Edinburgh just under a year ago to establish Chabad-Lubavitch of Edinburgh serving students, tourists and local residents in the Scottish capital and beyond.
The famed festival has run annually since 1947 and is the largest arts festival in the world. The festival features 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows in 265 venues.
This year an estimated 18,901 performers will take to the stage as well as tens of thousands of spectators from 60 different countries generating £75 million for the Edinburgh and Scottish economy every year.
“There are literally thousands and thousands of people on streets of the city,” says Rabbi Weinman who has been manning a stand on Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare since the festival began earlier this month.
“We have met a lot of Jews from all over the world and even some from the Edinburgh who we hadn’t met since arriving here,” explains Rabbi Weinman.
“We have been giving out kosher snacks, literature about Judaism, mezuzot and Shabbat candles to Jewish women. Each day we have had between 15 and 20 Jewish men putting on tefillin with us – some of whom have never had the opportunity to perform the mitzvah before.”
Despite the festival’s eclectic and colourful atmosphere, many have been pleasantly surprised to find a Hasidic rabbi in the middle of all the action.
“It was a shock seeing a rabbi in the middle of everything,” said one passer-by. “I’m really happy to meet other Jews at the festival.”
As well as spending time meeting Jews in the streets of Edinburgh, Rabbi Weinman and his wife have welcomed guests into their home to celebrate a traditional Shabbat experience.
“We have been hosting in excess of 30 people for Shabbat meals,” says Gitty Weinman. “Welcoming artists and performers into our home from all parts of the world has added an interesting atmosphere to our Friday night meals.”
The new Chabad centre will soon celebrate its first anniversary in the city.
“Many people, especially those from the United States and Israel, assume that Chabad is everywhere,” explains Rabbi Weinman. “When I tell them that we have been here for less than a year they are really surprised and tell us that they are pleased that there is now a Chabad House here.”