With almost a year of operations behind it, the new Chabad-Lubavitch center in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh faced one of its more exciting challenges this month, as the streets burst forth with thousands of people each day for the city’s annual series of festivals.

Sporting an odd mix of comedy troupes, classical music and fringe theater productions, the city’s festivals – a fixture of Edinburgh life since 1947 – are known collectively as the largest arts gathering in the world. This year’s season featured 34,265 performances of 2,098 shows at some 265 venues. Press reports indicated that this year’s festivities were by far the most-highly attended in recent memory, generating in excess of 75 million pounds for the local economy.

Adding to the mix of tens of thousands of spectators from 60 countries – and an estimated 18,901 performers – was a bearded Rabbi Pinny Weinman and his staff. With the exception of Shabbat, they stood on the city’s main thoroughfare every day in order to give festival-goers the opportunity to do something Jewish.

“There are literally thousands and thousands of people on the streets,” said Weinman earlier this month. “We’ve [seen] a lot of Jews from all over the world, and even some from Edinburgh that we hadn’t met since arriving here.”

Pinny and Gitty Weinman moved to the city just under a year ago to open a Chabad House for Edinburgh’s Jewish students, residents and tourists. From the center, they coordinate prayer services and Torah classes, and provide kosher food.

During the festivals, the stand was a hit with passersby.

“We’ve been giving out kosher snacks, literature about Judaism, mezuzahs and Shabbat candles,” said Pinny Weinman. “Each day, between 15 and 20 Jewish men donned tefillin. Some had never before had the opportunity to do so.”

Jewish festival-goers had the chance to don tefillin at the stand run by Chabad-Lubavitch of Edinburgh.
Jewish festival-goers had the chance to don tefillin at the stand run by Chabad-Lubavitch of Edinburgh.

For Shabbat, the couple opened their home to visiting guests.

“We’ve been hosting in excess of 30 people for Shabbat meals,” reported Gitty Weinman. “Welcoming artists and performers from all parts of the world has added an interesting atmosphere to our Friday night meals.”

More than one festivalgoer remarked that the presence of a bearded Chasidic rabbi in the midst of the festivities was quite a site.

“It was a shock seeing a rabbi in the middle of everything,” said one person who stopped at the Weinmans’ stand. “I’m really happy to meet other Jews at the festival.”