A History of the Edinburgh Star

March 1989
Adar Bet 5749
“It is with pleasure that I write this Pesach message in this newly-born publication, the Edinburgh Star. I wish to express my personal congratulations to the editor, Eitan Abraham, without whose tenacity of purpose and sincere dedication, the launching of this journal may have remained only a dream” (see issue 50 for Eitan’s own article entitled ‘A Star is Born’.
Issue 1 Article

It was with his vision of creating a ‘Journal for the Edinburgh Jewish Community’, that Rabbi Shalom Shapira wrote these historic words in the first issue of The Edinburgh Star twenty five years ago.

Eitan posed the rhetorical question, ‘why should we have our own journal? He said that there was a need to report the activities that went on; to have an opportunity to voice our opinions on communal issues and to reinforce the importance of our cultural life with articles written by local and non-local authors on Jewish matters of general interest. In June the Jewish Chronicle reported the birth of the Edinburgh Star together with a photograph of 12 enthusiastic committee members.

Report of Issues 1
The Star began its life as a monochrome quarterly that was painfully ‘set’ in the presence of the Editor and without the technological miracles that we now take quite for granted. By issue 3 the look of the Star was already changing and the magazine name, defined on a background of blue, now adorned the front cover. It was also the first time that New Year Greetings were incorporated into the body of the Star. Production was now in two stages; typesetting by the Jewish Echo in Glasgow followed by printing at Christian Salveson Printing Unit in Edinburgh.

The editions produced by Eitan had a good number of diverse sections. They not only encapsulated the life of the community it represented, but also addressed the more serious nature of life beyond just that.

In March 1990 (issue 5) Eitan accepted the invitation to take up a research collaborative programme and lectureship for a few months in Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. He delegated, to Ruth Adler, the position of acting editor and by December Ruth took over as the Editor.

From the 8 th edition until the present day the magazine has been Art set by Helen McFeely and completed for publication by Meigle Printers Limited in Galasheils. It was during this time a children’s section was introduced in an effort to excite interest in the younger generation; a section of the community that had not really been represented in the journal so far. Sadly this group was either too small in number or too young but the response was poor and the innovation lasted only three issues.

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Ruth AdlerThe Star’s mantra that it should reflect the activities and opinions of the Edinburgh Community requires an endless stock of diverse material without which you run the risk of becoming mundane. Ruth and her Board members were faced with this very challenging problem towards the end of her tenure as editor. It is very difficult to maintain such impetuous from such a small community in which not everyone aspires to, or feels capable of writing. There was no bottomless pit. However the Board would not be beaten. It seemed that The ‘Star’ should never be short of material while there were interesting lectures to report from the well established Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society that shared many of the same aspirations. Gradually the Star began to focus on these erudite but rather weighty articles more than some people felt comfortable with. Interesting though these accounts were, they would have to take up less space. Since then each meeting that took place in the winter months had to have a word limitation. Now all talks, and not just some, can be reported which makes for a more interesting overview that now satisfies an even balance of categories.

Ruth was still working selflessly on issue 17 in January 1994 when she finally succumbed to an illness that had lasted a number of months and she sadly passed away leaving a huge gap in the lives of her husband, Michael Adler, and sons, Jonathan and Benjamin. Her valuable contribution to the Star will not be forgotten.

Julia MerrickJulia Merrick took over in the role of temporary editor of the May issue, no18. She was shortly followed by John Cosgrove who edited three more.

Using issue 3 as his ideal measuring stick it was interesting to read Edgar Prais’ summation of the Star thus far in his article ‘Happy 20 th Birthday’, x and how he felt that the goal post appeared to have been moved. In his opinion the Star still, presented quality and diversity in content but it had become more parochial and ‘goody goody’……‘is the Star not ashamed of itself that it never has to apologise for anything?’ he mused. Prickly writing or not, Edgar’s article was obviously not too provocative to be published and subsequent, equally prickly ones followed.

It has to be said that I remember a controversial article Eitan was preparing to submit, very early on in the life of the Star, was energetically discussed and finally censured. The fear of causing outrage or even just mild offense to some readers must be weighed against maintaining the interest of others with the occasional thought provoking contribution even if it is tinged with controversy. This dilemma is something all editors have to face at some time or another, and even more so in a small community such as our own.
Michael AdlerIn September Michael Adler became the editor of 16 publications.  He asked in his editorial of June 97 “Are we losing our way?…that we are is reflected in our nostalgia for the past”. *(Editorial Issue 27) Michael appealed to readers to send in more current topics and he was rewarded after beginning a series on, ‘What it means to be Jewish’.* See issue 30 where Michael starts the ball rolling, (other contributions by Hazel Cosgrove, Ellen Gallford, Malolm Rifkind, Bill Simpson, David Sedley, Ruzenna Wood and Judy Sischy can be found in the list below *(‘What it means to be Jewish’) …(and for all those sports enthusiasts, the first sports report was written in issue 37 *(Sports)
The turning point came to the internal look of the Edinburgh Star when Julia Merrick was once again appointed guest editor for issue 38. The rambling Society, now renamed the JETS, was started at around the same time and the first account of this highly entertaining activity first appeared in issue 38.*(A tradition of wandering) The Board considered it could afford to pay for more than just a splash of blue on the outside, and a glimmer of glitz made a welcome appearance within; photos and illustrations inside went colour!

John CosgroveEsti SheinbergJohn Cosgrove took up the reins once more for issue 39, in June 2001, and the following one in September was produced by Esti Scheinberg. I know that she put so much of her life blood into this project (still very much a hands on activity) that her husband, Ron, hoped it would not be the beginning of a new career…it wasn’t. It was in this edition that an interesting exchange was set up between Micheline Brannen and John Cosgrove regarding the subject of intermarriage.

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Petter BennettPeter Bennett became the editor in January 2002 for the next five years. He commissioned his daughter Debbie to design a new layout for the front cover. The variety of title background colours that heralded each new issue would now be consistently oatmeal with the ‘A’, of ‘Star’, an orange and white ‘Magen David’.. In May 2007 and with 10 publications behind him I very tentatively accepted as Peter handed over his responsibility to me. I said that I would just edit one or possibly two editions but in effect 17 editions and 5 years later I felt it was really time to relinquish responsibility and, as you see, the Star is now in the very capable hands of Micheline Brannan.
Edinburgh Star Issue 41 Cover
Micheline BrannanIt is remarkable to find out how far and wide our Jewish connections have spread whether it is through relatives, ex-pats, or past visitors to the Shul followed by local hospitality. All through the History of the Star this has been demonstrated over and over again with interesting reports of the traditions of other communities. There have been reports from Austria, The Elephant Islands, Ekaterinberg, Borneo?, Virginia, India, Zimbabwe, Peru, Poland and more… Editors and Board members have come and gone, the format may have changed, but the aspirations first expressed by Eitan are still as strong. We do have fairly regular contributions now from the younger, if not the very young, generation. Each new editor stamps their own identity during their tenure. It has always been a learning curve and most of us, never having been trained in the art of publication, took their first faltering steps towards the next stage of a maturing publication that the editorial Board could be proud of.

Some examples of early articles in back issues. Those mentioned in the report above have asterisks *

*2 Edgar Prais Happy birthday p2
21 Iain Shein Where were they p2-4
*27 Michael Adler Editorial p2
29 David Capitanchik Israel at 50 p12-14

Sports Report
37 Leonard Berger, Norman Berger, David Kaplan p21-23

1 st Rambling Club Report
*38 Anthony Gilbert A tradition of wandering p25.  If you want a humorous version of a rambling report, use the one below but I feel a bit reluctant to promote myself (decide for yourself…I won’t be offended!)
41 Judy Gilbert Rambling on p20-21
40 Micheline Brannan Intermarriage p20-21, John Cosgrove Reply to Micheline’s article p22
42 Edgar Prais My Country p18-19
49 Rabbi Rose Kabbalah p12-13

44 Berl Osborn The Dignity of Difference p19-20
50 Janet Mundy Review – The Price p25

*Other Places
46 Edward Green Visit to Poland p4-6
48 Samuel Danzig Letter from Israel p16
53 Esti Scheinberg Jews in Blacksburg, Virginia p8
48 Lindsey Levy The Jews of Elephantine Island p6-7
49 Irina Fridman Being Jewish in Ekaterinberg p20
65 Molly Sekl Peru

*What it means to be Jewish
30 Michael Adler
32 Hazel Cosgrove, Ellen Gallford, Malcolm Rifkind, Bill Simpson
35 Rabbi David Sedley & Ruzena Wood p9-11
44 Judy Sischy p8
51 Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sinclair – The Role of Halakah p22-24
54 Susanna Heschel Jewish perceptions of Jesus p19-20

Art & Music
48 Robin Spark Udi’s Art p12-13
33 Esti Scheinberg Anti-Semitism in Music p16

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