March 13, 2017 by Tallen Sloane
I met Miriam* at Purim after the reading of the Megillah in Aberdeen, where festivities were in full swing amongst the small Jewish community in North-East Scotland. Months later, Miriam and I met again while I was conducting a series of oral history interviews as part of my work for a master’s program in folklore that brought me from the US to Scotland. My project sought to document—and celebrate—the diversity of Jewish religious expression in Aberdeenshire.
The process of conducting ethnographic research in the Jewish community in Scotland was emotional and transformative for me, as Jew and as a feminist. My contributors discussed their personal journeys towards accepting Judaism on their own terms and said that this occurred, in the poignant words of one woman, because of “the miracle that is the Aberdeen community.” Because it is small and relatively dispersed, the Jewish community in the North-East of Scotland offers space for women to explore their faith free from the teachings of the male hegemonic leadership that often dictates the definition of Judaism and Jewish identity.