It all began in 1969 when Rabbi Chaim Jacobs of London, then engaged to his bride Sora Escovitz from Manchester were approached by Lubavitch UK to set up the first branch Lubavitch in the provinces. This came about following a request from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen Then minister of Giffnock synagogue for a young Lubavitch couple to assist him in his outreach work in the community. They received the blessing and approval of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi M Schneerson that Glasgow Scotland was to be their location of Shlichus to be the Rebbe’s personal representatives and emissaries in Scotland.
December 1969 Chaim and Sora arrived in Scotland. Lubavitch of Scotland was formally opened operating from its first premises in St Annes Drive, Giffnock.
Although the community was not familiar with Chassidim or Rabbis with full beards, the Jacobs’s were hired by Giffnock Shul, and Rabbi Jeremy Rosen as youth Rabbi, Cheder teachers and a Nursery School teacher. Sora’s teaching skills were soon recognized, and the small groups of children she taught led to the foundation of Lubavitch Cheder Classes.
July 1970 Lubavitch founded its first day camp. Eventually caring for over 180 children daily during the summer school holidays. They were the first British Lubavitch Day Camp to bring over its staff from the US.
January 1972 they started the first Kosher Hospital Meals service in conjunction with the Greater Glasgow Hospital Board who entirely funded this service. Glasgow was the first city to provide this service paid by the local hospital board.
March 1972 he assisted Dayan Gottlieb and the Jesner Family in raising funds for the building of the new Glasgow Mikvah at Giffnock Shul. May 1972 at the innovation of Dayan Gotlieb, Lubavitch held a Ladies Fashion Show with Aida Ashe and guest speaker Dr Irene Orgel about the meaning of Mikvah and was attended by over 200 women.
Throughout the years Lubavitch has been an advocate for Kashrus. January 1973 they held their first Kosher Food Exhibition which then lasted for three days in conjunction with Newton Mearns Shul.
September 1973 Chaim led the appeal to save the Kosher meals service at Calderwood Lodge School.
October 1973 they started their first Nursery School. In the early 80’s this peaked, caring for 60 children daily each morning running Schools in three locations. May 1975 recognition of their activities was given by the local Renfrew County Council convener Robert Robertson who awarded them a plaque in recognition of their efforts in education.
September 1975 they started the first community ‘Pre 1A Reception Class’ teaching children reading, writing and arithmetic before they formerly entered school. This program was of keen interest to popular Conservative M.P’s Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Teddy Taylor, Bettie Harvie Anderson and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. November 1975 Riffkind and Taylor paid an official visit to the school class. It was an item of much news which appearing on page one of the Glasgow Herald and also covered by BBC and STV television. This created a stir in the community as Lubavitch was the very first organization to lobby councilors and Members of Parliament for support of activities in the Jewish community.
Over the many years Rabbi Chaim and Sora have always worked with local Rabbonim and Chaim has often deputized for colleagues when the occasion arose.
1977/78 Chaim and Sora were teaching almost 140 children weekly. They took their Cheder teaching very seriously and in the late 90’s they developed an entire curriculum-syllabus of 90 Textbooks, Workbooks and 30 Laminated Games which are now used all over the world.
1982/1983 Sora started her first Lubavitch Bat Chayil Course and Graduation Ceremony which was held at Newton Mearns Synagogue led by the late Rev Jack Grant. Sora has taught such classes for over 32 years. Since then they have been held across the city’s synagogues Newton Mearns, Netherlee, Clarkston, Garnethill, Giffnock and Newlands.
Adult classes, counselling, hospitality, youth, teenage discussion groups and singles events were all organized in order to fight assimilation which Chaim warned the community would drastically shrink their numbers, something was done to combat it.
Over the years Lubavitch have brought world numerous renowned international speakers to Glasgow including the famous NASA scientist the late Dr Velvel Green, Nobel Prize winner Ellie Weisel, former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks former Chief Rabbi of South Africa Cyril Harris, Irish Chief Rabbi David Rosen, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, Yosef Mendelevitch, Leible Zisman, the list is endless.
December 1988 they were very much involved with families of the Lockerbie Pan Am 102 Air Disaster. In 1992 Chaim and Sora’s efforts were further assisted by their son Mendel. May 1992 Lubavitch assisted in raising funds for its refurbishment. June 1992 the Chief Rabbi Opened the newly re-furbished ‘Chabad House’ during his first visit to Glasgow as Chief Rabbi. April 1995 until October 2010 Sora taught Kodesh studies to the senior classes at Calderwood Lodge Primary School. During that time working in conjunction with the school head teachers at the time she did much to enhance the Jewish atmosphere at the school.
February 2001 after many years of outreach and hard work Mendel started the first Lubavitch Shul in Scotland ‘Shul in the Park’. After marriage this was further expanded with help of his wife Tzirl. Today ‘Shul in the park’ is the fastest growing Jewish Congregation in Scotland appealing in particular to Jews who until now had no formal connection with the local Jewish community. Like his parents Mendel and Tzirl have aimed to reach out to hundreds of vanishing Jews of all backgrounds and persuasions extending to them a hand of love and friendship. Lubavitch have found Jews living in over sixty locations throughout Scotland.
Tzirl’s weekly discussion groups for the younger women in the community have been well supported and her role in entertaining and nurturing the many different types of Jews who attend their Shul and home for hospitality is appreciated by all.
August 2006 Rabbi Chaim and Sora opened Scotland first and only Glatt Kosher and Shomer Shabbos fully supervised Kosher restaurant – L’Chaim’s. This further expanded to a Kosher Catering Service too and is run under the care and dedication of Sora. Today it opens twice a week for the general public but this five star gourmet restaurant has become a popular venue for Simchos and other events. During the summer when large influxes of tourists arrive in Scotland the restaurant is fully booked every night.
September 2008 the third branch of Lubavitch in Scotland was opened when Rabbi Pini and Gitty Weinman arrived in Edinburgh to form ‘Chabad Lubavitch on Campus’ looking after hundreds of Jewish students in and around Edinburgh. The impact of their efforts within the Student and the wider Jewish community has been felt, and the large numbers attending their classes and programs is a testimony to their work. In particular they attract a very large attendance to their Annual Public Chanukah Menorah Lighting in St Andrew’s Square with over a hundred people attending last year.
June 2010 Sora started her now very popular regular Lunch and Learn sessions at the restaurant. This program has further expanded with a Lunch for men as well. This past Chanukah 50 men and women attended the Lubavitch pre-Chanukah Lunch and learn.
May 2012 Sora started ‘Sora’s Café’ and it is her warm personality which attracts many people each week.
Lubavitch of Scotland has always believed that you must live with the times and diversify to the needs of the community at hand.
November 2013 Lubavitch started winter a fortnightly distribution of tubs of soup to many elderly people living on their own within the community. January 2014 Lubavitch started monthly afternoon Tea and Learn sessions attended each month by over 25 people. November 2014 Lubavitch held its first ever Shabbaton for 40 people in Ayr Scotland. It was attended by Jews from Glasgow, London and USA and was a phenomenal success.
Chaim and Sora have never been one to shy away from sticking their neck out for what they believe is right. They have always supported the local community while realizing their dreams and aspirations.
Over the years Lubavitch has done much to expand the choice of Kosher products being available within Scotland. Initially Rabbi Chaimshomered his own milk each week before managing to organize refrigerated vans to come up from Manchester ensuring Cholov Yisroel was always available.
The Jacobs’s have never settled for second best. They always ensured the level of Kashrus they serve the community is the same as is observed in their own home and by Lubavitch Chassidim worldwide.
Every few years their Kosher exhibitions and demonstrations attract hundreds of people.
In June 1982 after encountering many financial problems to fund the work Chaim and Sora requested permission from the Rebbe to leave Glasgow and set up home elsewhere. The Rebbe told them they should stay and they would be very successful.
How right the Rebbe was, his blessings have come true and today they are celebrating 45 years of happy and dedicated service within the Glasgow and Scottish Jewish community.
Today Lubavitch of Scotland alias the ‘Jacobs Family’ are Boruch Hashem famous not only in Glasgow but internationally through the hundred plus Hebrew School Textbooks, Workbooks and Laminated Games, the Restaurant and catering provided for tourists and business people who visit Scotland throughout the year and for being ambassadors for the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Lubavitch movement in connecting with all Jews whenever and wherever possible.