My progressive Jewish space away from home

By Sophie Lipton, November 1, 2013
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When I came to Manchester and didn’t initially have a progressive Jewish space, it was difficult for me to connect with my Reform Judaism.

Of course, JSoc is great, and many of my closest friends were made at Manchester’s Friday night Shabbat meals.

But I felt there was something missing for progressive students - something I really desired.

So since I have settled in Manchester, myself and three friends - Tanya Barth, Sara Bloch and Ilana Blumberg - decided to set up Kumzits, which was exactly what I needed.

“Kumzits” literally means “come” and “sit” in Yiddish, offering a space where there is a real sense of community.

In Manchester, we aim to provide Jewish students with egalitarian services, Friday night dinners and good company.

One unique aspect of Kumzits that I adore is that we hold open meetings; anyone can get involved.

It is so important for everyone to add an element of their own Judaism to our events in order to make all students feel at ease.

It’s great because it means the nucleus of Kumzits is constantly transforming, expanding and improving.

I love the fact that Kumzits and JSoc work together. I understand the significance of a whole Jewish community, and always feel it is great to have alternative events in order to gain new Jewish experiences and learn about other traditions.

Our last Friday night was a phenomenal success. I found it a great way to disconnect from University life, which can sometimes be a bit chaotic (especially when I’m completely suffocated under piles of books).

The atmosphere was perfect and a real appreciation for Shabbat could be felt.

Regardless of the classic Manchester rainy weather, we sat under a Gazebo around a fire and took part in a service interspersed with discussions.

This was followed by a lovely three-course meal and, finally, a spontaneous sing-song (which, I must admit, is always a guilty pleasure of mine).

All these components made me feel I had a progressive home away from home.

So, picture Kumzits as a tree: we have just sown the seeds, and so far we are sprouting with success.

We hope to grow and embellish our roots in Manchester, so that people always have a progressive Jewish space that will continue to blossom for future years.

Sophie is in her third year at the University of Manchester, where she reads Middle Eastern Studies. Sophie runs Manchester Kumzits along with Tanya Barth, Sara Bloch and Ilana Blumberg. Their next event will be a Shabbat lunch on Saturday November 9. Details can be found on their Facebook page.

Last updated: 9:17am, November 1 2013