A Weekend of Yiddish

22 222 yid

Myra Woolfson kvetches about the joys of planning a Jewish-themed event.

This summer, some 50 to 60 Yiddishists will spend a happy weekend in a former stately home in the heart of Yorkshire. Everything will be in Yiddish – meals, coffee breaks, talks, walks, learned discussion and gossip. There will be opportunities to hear poetry and learn more about the poets, to find out about current Yiddish life in London and Scotland, to paint, draw, play games and walk in the local countryside. Yiddish sof-vokh UK, which will take place from 17-19 June, will be an opportunity for Yiddish speakers from all over the UK to meet up and indulge their passion for the Yiddish language and culture.

All this takes a lot of organising. About 10-20 people have been involved in planning the event and I am one of those people. There is a lot to do and to think about and many different views and opinions to take into account. You can have no idea how many opinions – unless, that is, you have yourself had the experience of organising a Jewish-related event…

To give a few examples:

We had to decide on a date, but first, we had a big debate about whether the event should be on a normal weekend or a bank holiday weekend, the latter allowing an extra day but creating other complications. In the end, we went to a vote and a normal weekend won by a significant margin.

The next big issue was finding a suitable venue, which would be comfortable and ideally have pleasant grounds for chatting, strolling and chilling out. Perhaps, to everyone’s surprise, the venue search involved a major debate on whether or not we would need access to alcohol over the weekend. This was because our first possible venue had a policy of no alcohol in the public spaces. After intense discussion, alcohol won.

A little later in the planning process, we found ourselves debating whether this was to be an entirely secular event or whether we could find ways to make it accessible to frum people. We tried to find a way through this, exploring with our chosen former stately home what was possible. Some things were (lights, room keys) but we ground to a halt on food. No kosher food could be brought in because no food could be brought in. We have promised to try to find a way through this in a future weekend. Yes, we are already talking about that, even though we are still some weeks away from the first one. And on the subject of food, we moved on to debating whether the meals should be vegan only or vegan and vegetarian. Gevalt!

Once we had a venue, a date, a draft programme, a bank account (which took an age to obtain) and a website with a booking form we went live. At this point, we had a gloomy discussion about whether anyone would book before spring because of Covid. There was a rush of people booking and a week later we were having panicky discussions because nearly all our single rooms had gone. It seemed as if we had read the mood right about whether or not our idea of putting on this weekend would fly.

So if you are a Yiddishist and want to join us this summer check out our website and book soon as there are only a few places left. But if you can’t make it this year, don’t despair – we will soon be planning for next year and going through the whole process again.


Myra Woolfson grew up in Glasgow and has lived in Nottingham for many years.
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