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The East European Jewish Community

Many Jewish families fled from Russia to Scotland towards the end of the 19th century to escape persecution. Most went to Edinburgh and Glasgow but a few came to Dunfermline sensing good business opportunities. In the first decade of the 20th century there were five Russian jewellers in the town and many other businesses run by Jews from Russia, Poland and the future states of Latvia and Lithuania. They had several synagogue locations, finally settling on one in a small stone building in Pittencrieff Street. The Jewish congregation was relatively small but managed to afford a minister. The final minister, Rev. Segal from Lithuania, served from 1924 to 1944 and made a great impression in the town particularly with his charity for Fife prisoners of war. The congregation declined after the war although several major businesses continued in the town run by East European Jews. When the derelict synagogue site was rebuilt as a block of flats about 2005, Fife Council recognized the site and the work of Rev. Segal by a commemorative plaque on the flats and by naming the adjacent road as Segal Place.

Plaque commemorating Dunfermline’s Jewish population.
Block of flats on the synagogue site (the plaque is above the red car)

Pittencrieff Street is the main road, A994, from Dunfermline towards Kincardine and Glasgow. The synagogue site (23) is only a few hundred yards from the city centre.

There is a possible link with Inverkeithing Harbour. The president of the synagogue from 1918-24 was a Mr Rudduck, (anglicisation of his Latvian name of Jacob Rudek), whose daughter was a successful actress, Edith Ruddick, and suggested in her autobiography that her grandparents used to export timber to Inverkeithing Harbour for use by the papermill there.


Image credits – Martin Wilkinson