Best of Fish & Bicycles: Confessions of a Jewish Scotsman

Originally Published: December 1, 2009


I was raised Jewish, my wife’s whole family is pure Scottish, and we like to jest that we are honorary members of each others’ heritage. My wife lights the candles on Chanukah, and I accompany her and our son to the Scottish Highland Games every year.

But once upon a time, about 13 years ago, we met an amateur Jewish scholar who insisted that Scots (all Celts actually) constitute one of the lost tribes of Israel, and therefore all Scots ARE Jews!

Is it just coincidence that both Scottish and Jewish people are stereotyped as being frugal cheap?

I think not!

Having been raised a Jew, I’m as sensitive as anyone to derogatory stereotyping, yet my wife is the first person to admit that she’s a quintessential cheap Scottish lass. That said, when was the last time you heard someone say, “He tried to Scots me down”? I had a stranger in a Sky Train station in New Westminster, British Columbia just a month ago say to me, “He Jewed me down,” while talking about having sold some extra U2 concert tickets, and I’ve been hearing that phrase my whole life.

While a very interesting article from BBC News doesn’t mention the Jewish-Scottish connection, I did find it a fascinating read from my Jewish-Scottish perspective.

And then, there was this comment from a reader that I thought said it all.

Americans will never learn to be Scottish, until they start to enjoy misery.
–Emily, Edinburgh, Scotland

First, I think that’s pretty funny. Second, if that doesn’t sum up the Scottish and Jewish experiences I don’t know what will. No, it’s not that authentic Scots and Jews must enjoy misery. Rather, they must be able to joke that they enjoy misery.

2 thoughts on “Best of Fish & Bicycles: Confessions of a Jewish Scotsman

  1. A very interesting post. I’ve also heard theories about Native Americans being one of the lost tribes of Israel. I don’t think Jews enjoy misery, but it is a wonderful coping mechanism. In “Fiddler on the Roof”, one of Tevye’s neighbors bemoans the fact that they are being evicted yet again. “No sooner do we settle in, then we are once again driven from our homes.” “Maybe,” says Tevye, “that’s why we always wear our hats.”

    BTW, I think I was ten or twelve before I learned that getting “gypped” was a reference to gypsies, and I haven’t used that expression since.

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