Having eaten in kosher restaurants in America, London, and Manchester, Garry Mann has a basis for comparison when he’s sitting down for one of his regular meals at L’Chaim’s Restaurant in Glasgow.

As far as Mann is concerned, the restaurant run by Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Chaim and Sora Jacobs has “an absolutely first class attitude. Rebbetzin Jacobs is efficient, she is organized, she is helpful, and she is a fabulous host, as is Rabbi Jacobs as well. They couldn’t go out of their way more to make sure everything is all right. Whatever the extra mile is, they go the extra mile.”

The couple has directed Lubavitch of Scotland for 42 years, and in that time has witnessed an evolution in the local Jewish community. As needs have changed, they’ve adapted their programs to meet people “where they are.” L’Chaim’s came as part of that process, an effort by the Jacobs to provide the only strictly kosher fine-dining establishment in Scotland.

But the operation caters to far more than locals; business travelers and tourists come to L’Chaim’s for a kosher bite to eat and then go on tours with operators recommended personally by the rabbi. Through it all, the philosophy has been to develop personal connections with people.

“It’s one thing to tell people not to eat non-kosher food or not to eat out at a non-kosher restaurant,” explains Chaim Jacobs. “It’s another thing to tell them that you’re giving them a solution, an option in order to keep kosher.”

Subject to demand, the restaurant is open Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and by special arrangement. Every two or three weeks, the Jacobses run subsidized lunches for senior citizens offering fish and chips or a salt beef sandwich and chips plus soup.

Rabbi Chaim and Sora Jacobs
Rabbi Chaim and Sora Jacobs

All Sorts of People

Chaim Jacobs, a native of London, and his Manchester-born wife with roots in Scotland, opened the restaurant after Glasgow’s Jewish population declined from more than 14,000 four decades ago to its present level of between 4,000 and 5,000. Enrollment consequently declined at their nursery school and Hebrew school, and the couple saw in a restaurant the potential to reach even greater numbers of families.

Today, a freelance staff is available to assist in the restaurant and during special events as needs dictate. For Sukkot, the restaurant hosts a barbeque for 150 to 200 people, and other gatherings for Chanukah and Lag B’Omer similar draw crowds. The 20th Commonwealth Games that will be held in Glasgow in 2014 are expected to bring an influx of restaurant-goers, Jews and non-Jews alike.

Sora Jacobs manages the restaurant’s day-to-day business in addition to her responsibilities at the Chabad House and teaching Hebrew and Bat Mitzvah classes. Every now and then, the unexpected request comes in, such as providing a cruise ship with a supply of strictly kosher beef.

“You come across all sorts of people,” she said.

One couple loyal to L’Chaim’s is Samuel and Anne Solomon of Glasgow.

“It’s a comfortable environment with lovely service; the people are very friendly,” said Samuel Solomon. “Nobody rushes you out of the restaurant.

“The prices are good,” he added. “You could pay similar prices at a non-kosher restaurant.”