EDRS Community Weekend Away at York

Living north of London as we do, Friday 5th May found Marion and I travelling south to Kings Cross to meet our other 32 EDRS co-adventurers for our trip to York.

Three hours later we passed our home station again while travelling north.

It was Monsieur Hulot’s holiday all over again.  Someone suggested that, on the return journey, we could pull the emergency chord just before our home station and simply jump off!

The 3-day stagecoach journey that we would have experienced 100 years ago was completed by high speed British Rail in some 2 1/2 hours in comfort and conviviality.  For those wanting a fair mix of facilities and price we found that the Hilton Hotel was pitched just right.  Sandra had done her homework well.


Our itinerary showed the afternoon to be FREE, but a tour of York’s diverse and extensive shopping area soon put paid to that idea.  The Shabbat Service in the evening was enjoyable, i.e. not too long!

Saturday’s Service was the 'ganze megillah'.  Chazan Mark and Anne’s choir were missing but everyone had a part to play in this or other services and that engendered a good camaraderie.  At the end of the Service, Robert submitted that Reform Judaism might like to consider itself either as adhering to strict rules or allowing latitude in order that additional fluidity would be more acceptable to the majority.  He asked for contributions from the congregation.

Among the many submissions, it was pointed out that Jews already had fluidity in thinking for the reason that our religion provides no punishment for those who err.  While Christianity has to deal with the issue of Hell, Islam with the matter of being treated well in the afterlife and others having to fear their potential reincarnation as a spider, Judaism had no such alarm mechanisms.  Indeed, it was possible that such a lack of internal struggle was an underlying factor in Jewish intellectualism over the millennia.  Uninhibited thinking!

Our afternoon tour of York led by professional guide Louise was riveting. We first saw Cliffords Tower, which was the site of a Jewish massacre in 1190. About 150 people were trapped inside the tower and took their own lives, rather than be killed by the mob.  Who knew there were so many Viking words in the English language?  The French may have introduced mouton (mutton) and boeuf (beef) but where would we be without such words as berserk, ugly, gate, muck and cake?  And if not for the Vikings, would we not all look silly walking around with two horns sticking out of our heads?

Most people thought that York Minster was the highlight of the afternoon, although others thought it was 'Bettys'. The history of the Minster is well documented in any number of reference sources but what is so bewildering to consider is how the curved Gothic stones were carved and placed in such perfect symmetry at heights that would make a current Health and Safety Officer have a daily heart attack.  How did they, in the early 15th century, construct a stained-glass window that even today is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world!  It simply couldn’t be made today!  Where are the craftsmen? What would it cost?  I guess it’s for the same reason that they are no longer building pyramids in London.

A quiz in the evening, organised by Jeffrey, would most certainly have been won by our table.  The only reason we came last is that we couldn’t answer the questions.  But it was fun!

On Sunday, Jeffrey had a coach trip organised that took us first to Helmsley for lunch and then onto the absolutely spectacular Castle Howard for a tour of the house and gardens.  Again, one can discover the history of the castle from any number of sources, but it is the concept of an incongruous anachronism that gives it its fascination.  It is a financial Frankenstein that is taking over the people who created it.  The installed family have owned the house for some 300 years and one can appreciate the pride that makes them reject the notion of their generation being the one to lose it.  But the house is bleeding money.  The aristocracy is a thing of the past.  When will reality catch up?  I didn’t know.  I had the evening’s entertainment to worry about.

I was right to worry.  Jill and Robert’s version of the radio programme The Unbelievable Truth was enough to drive anyone to Palwin.   Jill read out a narrative which contained some untruths.  One gained a point if one detected a lie, and lost a point if the statement was true.  I probably lost the game for my table but – worse - in spite of all my ridiculous arguments, I didn’t get a single point for chutzpah.  Good fun though!

Many of the group spent Monday morning visiting the Jorvik Viking Centre, the York Castle Museum and the Merchant Adventurers Hall.  And some slipped off to 'Bettys'.

The word “Adventurers” is appropriate because the men of the livery risked – or adventured – their money in the trade in which they participated.  Investing in sending a consignment of wool to Europe in a ship that then floundered was not conducive to having a healthy wallet.  Only when insurance companies came into being (from discussions at the tea and coffee houses in London) did life for the adventurers become less volatile.

The 1832 Reform Act did for the Livery Companies what Margaret Thatcher did for the Miners some time later.  Those who found themselves devoid of funds went to the wall,  Those whose coffers were properly endowed reinvented themselves as charities!  Some of our own shul members may be glad that companies such as Haberdasher Aske’s and Merchant Taylors did prosper.  That everyone is pleased that the Worshipful Company of Vintners survived goes without saying.

Most of the group took taxis to the station for the journey home, but a few stalwarts carrying their cases walked, thereby showing that old Jews still have Ko’ach.  I wasn’t one of them.

On the way back we decided not to pull the emergency chord and watched sorrowfully as our station flashed by.  On the other hand, tea at Café Valerie at Kings Cross was delicious! (One door closes, another opens).

Hurrah for the camaraderie of the weekend, the knowledge gained thereby and the experiences enjoyed!?

Well done Sandra and all your helpers.  Roll on the next trip!

Personal account written by Terry Feldman

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