Sof-Vokh FAQ

Arrivals & departures

Hillscourt Rose Hill
Rednal
Birmingham
B45 8RS

We recommend arriving at Hillscourt between 4 and 7pm on Friday 21 June 2024. Your room is available for check-in starting at 3pm. On Sunday the 23rd, our final open mic ends around 3pm and you may welcome to depart any time up to 4pm, if you like, to say your goodbyes.

Flixbus offers very cheap coaches (less than £10 per ticket) between London and Birmingham, running multiple times per hour. The journey lasts 2.5–3 hours and is not the lap of luxury, but hopefully the price will make up for it.

The closest major station is Birmingham New Street. From there, you can take a 20-minute, £4 cross-city train with the West Midlands Railway to Longbridge Train Station, which is 2 miles from the venue.

Those arriving by train from continental Europe can take the Eurostar to London St Pancras International, then walk to the adjacent London Kings Cross. From there, there are several trains an hour to Birmingham New Street, which take roughly 1 hour 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Look up trains here on NationalRail.co.uk.

Participants can share taxis and rides to and from Longbridge Station on Friday and Sunday, which we coordinate amongst ourselves via a WhatsApp group.

It is also possible to travel from Longbridge Station to the venue by bus, with a short walk on either side. From the station, walk about 500 metres to Longbridge Technology Park (Stop Ld), which is on Bristol Road South across the street from Sarah Kelly’s Flower Room. Take the 20A bus towards Rednal (it costs £2.40) and ride 8 stops to Rednal Island. From there, it is a 15 minute walk to Hillscourt. You can plan your bus journey here on the website of National Express Bus, including detailed walking directions to and from the bus stops.

Two of the taxi companies in the Birmingham area include Birmingham Taxis and TC Cars, which also offers wheelchair-accessible cars. Both taxi services offer pickup and dropoff at Birmingham Airport and the train stations. You may also try taxi apps such as Uber.

Birmingham International Airport has direct flights from many European cities. There is a free Air-Rail Link monorail that operates all day (apart from 12:30 to 3:30 am) and takes you to Birmingham International Station. From there, take the local train to Birmingham New Street and follow the instructions for arriving by train, above.

It is also possible to fly to the East Midlands Airport. Directions from there to Birmingham can be found here.
Finally, there are a variety of coach services connecting London Heathrow to Birmingham. You can find your connection here.

Language-related questions

The Sof-Vokh is open to Yiddish speakers of all levels, but we would advise reaching at least a low intermediate level – able to carry on basic conversations – before you attend a Sof-Vokh. For less confident speakers, we have a dedicated “Gvald!” group that meets during the weekend to offer mutual support. We know that language immersion can feel like jumping off the deep end – but when you find yourself swimming in mame-loshn, you will thank yourself for taking the plunge.

Yes, we truly do make an effort not to switch into English or other languages, except when asking each other vocabulary words. Of course you won’t be speaking Yiddish with the Hillscourt staff. You will find that fully immersing yourself, if only for 48 hours, will have a real lasting impact on your language skills.

This isn’t a marathon or an exam and does not require any special preparation. But if you would like to acclimate yourself to conversation, you can try to find a Yiddish-speaking friend or acquaintance to practice speaking with on a casual basis, or look for an online shmueskrayz. We’re all on different levels and no one will judge you if you make a mistake.

The lyrics for all the songs will be available at the singalong. If you like, you can familiarise yourself with the tunes beforehand by listening to this Spotify playlist we compiled in 2023 (our songbook might have been revised since then).

Individual needs

A few of the bedrooms at Hillscourt are on the ground floor and accessible to wheelchair users and other attendees with limited mobility. Please be sure to request one of these rooms when you book. You can see an overview of the available rooms, including the accessible options, here.

There is also ramped access to all public areas, and toilet facilities for people with mobility difficulties in all areas of the centre. All programmed events will be in the conference centre, which is in very close proximity to the accommodation and dining block, along a path accessible to wheelchairs. The conference centre has a lift.

We do recommend that participants with limited mobility arrive by car or taxi as the nearest bus stop is unfortunately too far away. The taxi company TC Cars offers wheelchair-accessible cars, and many participants arrange sharing rides in the lead-up to each Sof-Vokh.

We are always delighted to welcome children to the Sof-Vokh. In our second year, we introduced dedicated children’s programming, and we are now aiming to integrate child-friendly activities into the entire programme, and highlight which sessions during each time slot are most suitable for both parents and children. If you are interested in attending the Sof-Vokh with your children, please contact us at svbookings@yiddishcafe.com so we can discuss your family’s specific needs.

In regard to children’s safety at the Sof-Vokh, you can also read our safeguarding policy here.

Yes, we may be able to offer bursaries to offset the cost of attending the Sof-Vokh for those in need of assistance. You may apply for one here.

The Yiddish Cafe Trust is a registered charity and does not earn any profit on the registration fees, which go purely to covering the costs of the all-inclusive event. Our regular fundraising campaigns are also dedicated to supporting these bursaries. We have obtained grants to support bursaries in the past and are always looking for more ways to make the Sof-Vokh more financially accessible.

Unfortunately Hillscourt does not have a kosher kitchen and the catered meals are not prepared under rabbinical supervision. However, all meals will be vegetarian or vegan. By request, we are also able to organize kosher food sourced from Central Deli in Birmingham. None of the Central Deli’s food is prepared on site; all items are packaged and sourced with a reliable hekhsher.

We can accommodate allergies and other dietary needs by request.

The Yiddish Sof-Vokh is a secular gathering that welcomes Yiddish-speakers of all religious or non-religious backgrounds, including secular Jews, religious Jews of various persuasions and non-Jews. Jewish tradition and practice are central to Yiddish culture, and marking Shabes is very important to some of us, so the weekend includes a Friday night Shabes dinner with candle lighting, kiddush and challah. We also hold a havdole ceremony on Saturday evening and sing some Shabes and post-Shabes songs. However, we do not have any other organized prayers as part of the schedule; in the past, participants have arranged this amongst themselves. The Sof-Vokh willl not have gender separation for Shabes or Havdole or require any particular dress code.

With all this information in mind, shoymer Shabes visitors are very welcome and encouraged to attend. We generally arrive before sundown on Friday and leave Hillscourt on Sunday. Participating in the programme on Friday night and Saturday will not require you personally to write, handle money or use electricity, although other Jewish participants will likely be involved in these malokhes. Some of the activities feature slide projections and/or electrified instruments. In regard to “carrying”, please also note that the activities are located in a separate building adjacent to the hotel. Hillscourt does not have an eruv but is a single self-contained compound on private property.

Accommodation

Most general questions about the accommodation are answered in the “Rooms and Prices” section of the main Sof-Vokh page.

Unlike our previous venue, Hillscourt does not offer ordinary twin rooms with two separate beds, so we will not be assigning roommates who don’t already know each other as we sometimes have in past years. Of course you are welcome to book a double room (which has one double bed per room) to share with a friend.

Family rooms with a double bed and a sofa bed are also available, but given their limited availability we would like to prioritise these for families attending with children.

You can see an overview of all the available rooms and prices here.

If you are concerned about your ability to attend due to the cost, you may consider applying for a bursary.

Please see the section on individual needs, above. If your question is not listed there, do not hesitate to contact us at svbookings@yiddishcafe.com.

We reserve the family rooms, which include a double bed and a sofa bed, for families with children. See our section on Rooms and Prices for more details. There is also more information about attending with children under “Individual needs”, above.

Health, safety, privacy, etc.

We request that all participants take a Covid test before traveling to the Sof-Vokh, and remain home if they test positive. You may also choose to wear a face mask as an extra precaution.

We ask that if anyone becomes ill while at the Sof-Vokh that they either return home if possible, or isolate themselves until recovered.

We will review our Covid plan based on the prevalence of the virus in the weeks preceding the Sof-Vokh.

Yes, and you can read it here. Yiddish Cafe Trust and its Trustees have a responsibility to ensure that no harm comes to any volunteers or participants in our activities. We take this responsibility very seriously.

Our all-volunteer organising group is structured into sub-committees, and in general this private information is only processed by and available to the small number of individuals who directly process registrations and bursaries, respectively, and is not discussed by name outside these very limited sub-groups. Contact details are not shared with anyone outside the organising group for any reason unless the person has provided their explicit consent. 

You can read our full data protection policy here.

Behind the scenes

The Sof-Vokh is a project of the Yiddish Café Trust, a registered charity based in the UK, and is organised by a dedicated group of volunteers. Read more about who we are here.

We always welcome more volunteers to join our organising committee and to keep things running smoothly during the Sof-Vokh itself. You can read more about who we are here. If you’re interested in volunteering, please email us at trust@yiddishcafe.com.

Our primary fundraising priority is to provide bursaries for young and low-income attendees. We also are very interested in other types of grants, sponsorships and partnerships to support the Sof-Vokh. More information here.


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