Tag: limmud

Welcome to Historic Birmingham Hilton Metropolis (the Limmud sketch 2019)

Welcome to the site of the former Birmingham Hilton Metropole, once a flourishing centre of Jewish learning, sadly and mysteriously burnt to the ground by dozens of people simultaneously lighting unauthorised oil-fuelled channukiot one winter night over 300 years ago.

Excavations began here in 2297, and the historians still keep discovering more and more discarded handouts and purple lanyards. Who knows, you may be lucky and find a valuable artefact yourself!

This self-guided walking tour will take you around the fascinating finds that archaeologists have been making across the site, much of which as been reconstructed as it was in its heyday.

To begin, enter the main lobby. You’ll notice that the doorway is now an open arch. Originally, this would have been a ‘revolving door’: a spinning glass plate which would only allow a few people in at a time before stopping abruptly and causing a pile-up. It is thought that trapping people inside this door may have been a form of population control.

Turn left. At the end of the corridor, you will find the lifts. These were a unique form of transport in early 21st-century Britain: unique in that they were literally compulsory because, for some reason, this building was constructed without stairs. It is thought that, at peak times, the wait for a lift could be over one hour (six hours for Ashkenazi Jews), and there are historical accounts of brawls and fisticuffs over who should get priority in the lifts’ use when they did arrive.

Those who were waiting, though, would be well-looked-after. To the left of the lifts would have stood a Tea Station. For decades, archaeologists have been unearthing a steady stream of plastic-coated cardboard cups from this area. Interestingly, though, there is no evidence that there was ever any hot water.

When you’ve finished exploring this area, turn around and go down the corridor to your left. This was known as the Red Corridor, possibly a reference to the animal sacrifices that took place in the Meat Dining Room behind the glass panels. In later years of the building’s history, this space was renamed the Alternative Dining Experience, probably as a form of apologism for the animal slaughter that continued to take place.

Go into one of the rooms opposite. Take a seat. Imagine yourself a British Jew from the past, sitting down ready to learn from one of the era’s most celebrated and inspiring speakers. And then… hear that? That’s the sound of the lecture in the room next door, far better amplified than your chosen teacher. You can’t hear your chosen teacher at all, in fact. And whoever’s speaking next door is getting far better reactions, too: louder laughs, more applause, appreciative sighs. Some records suggest that participants learned far more through the walls than they ever did from the lecture actually going on in the room they were in.

You’ll also notice that these rooms are quite small. These were thus reserved for the most popular and sought-after speakers, and students would sit on every vacant inch of floor to ensure that they could hear what was going on in the room next door. Latecomers who could not find space would, by tradition, glower at those who had made it in, and sulkily stand by the entrance door, leaving it open so as to let noise in from outside.

Go back to the beginning of the Red Corridor, turn left, and keep going until you reach a clearing on your left with two enormous rooms on its far side. This is the Yellow Area. This is where a small, select group of participants would be allowed to attend a formal channukiah lighting each evening. Archivists believe that this space was the equivalent of the Holy-of-Holies in the Second Temple: not just anyone could wander in and be present for the lighting ceremony. Entrance was strictly controlled and common folk were turned away. Imagine their cries of frustration and disappointment. “I can just squeeze in at the back!” was a standard plea. But this was not their place, and they were not admitted.

Keep going along this corridor (it bends to the right) until you reach another clearing with an even more implausibly large room on the left. This is The Monarch’s Dining Room. Despite the astonishing size of the space, only the king or queen of the day would have been allowed to eat here. Everybody else would queue up outside – with varying degrees of patience – and take it in turns to enter, pay homage to the queen, and leave gracefully. The queen herself, meanwhile, must have had a prodigious appetite. Handwritten kitchen records from the head chef, Coeliac Cline, found in a local geniza, show that on a single day in December 2019, The Monarch’s Dining Room got through more than 1,000 jacket potatoes, 700 cups of soup, and 1,300 packets of vaguely onion-flavoured kosher crisps. (It is thought that the total amount of individual E-numbers in these crisps may have been four or five times that.)

Participants would not, however, have drunk much. Glass fragments that have been painstakingly reconstructed suggest that although orange juice was available, it was stored in tanks with complicated tap mechanisms which required at least three hands to operate. And, this being a time before the great Explosion and the consequent genetic mutations, 21st-century Britons would have only had two hands.

This brings us to the end of our tour of Historic Birmingham Hilton Metropolis. We hope this has given you an insight into what life would have been like in the home of Anglo-Jewish life in the distant past.

Remember that your entrance tickets are also available for other historic sites in our group for the rest of 2314:

  • JWtree, formerly a community centre, and home to some of the last remaining natural plant life in the south of England.
  • Bevis Marx Synagogue, which hosted the inaugural meeting of the Jewish Communist Party of Great Britain, paving the way to their 14-year stint in power.
  • Grodzinski & Johnson’s, site of a 20th-century bakery which we believe was, uniquely, jointly run by an old Anglo-Jewish family and the Prime Minister of the day. Visit on the first Sunday of each month for one of our family activity days: try your hand at baking a traditional bagel, learn to plait a holler bread, and maybe your kids will even meet ‘Boris Johnson’ on his way to Brussels to request another Brexit extension.

We hope to see you again soon!

Limmud: the updated code of conduct

The Sages do not impose on the community a hardship which the majority cannot endure (bBava Batra 60b)

In the spirit of the above-mentioned Jewish heritage, for 2018 the Limmud Corporation Plc has decided dramatically to amend its code of conduct as follows:


Limmud strives to be a place where Jews of all stripes can come together to elbow each other, tut at each other and buy drinks.

Our work is based on the following core values:

  • Food
  • No handouts
  • Colour coding
  • Hashtags

The behaviour we expect from participants

We aspire to a Limmud where everybody acts according to the highest standards of behaviour exemplified by the greatest Jewish leadership bodies of our generation: the Board of Deputies and the Knesset. May that time come soon and last forever, bimheira b’yameinu v’nomar amen.

Here are a few clear rules which apply to all participants, volunticipants, volunteers, participeers, chairs, co-chairs, tri-chairs, quadri-chairs, and anyone anywhere in the world who wears a purple lanyard:

  • At Limmud, anyone can be a teacher. No-one is any better or worse at teaching than anyone else. That’s why there’s no correlation whatsoever between room size and popularity of presenter.
  • If the fire alarm goes off, stand around looking hopefully for someone to come and bring you your coat and gloves or else for the fire just to self-extinguish. On no account leave the building unless you hear both the fire alarm and volunteers shouting at you to move.
  • Sit at the end of rows. One bonus point for tutting at anybody who wants to get past to use any of the 10 or so seats you’re obstructing. Two bonus points if you sit down at the end of a long table in the dining hall and totally block off the rest of it and contribute to the congestion there.
  • Save seats in the dining hall for people who won’t arrive until 20-30 minutes later if at all.
  • Keep the corridors moving by walking at a reasonable speed… then stop suddenly and without warning to look at your mobile and cause a mass pileup.
  • Ringtones during sessions please.
  • On no account take your meat dining ticket with you to the meat dining room. If you take your meat dining ticket with you to the meat dining room you have not fulfilled your duty.
  • If a presenter invites questions, give a comment. If they invite comments, ask a question. If they invite audience participation, keep awkwardly quiet. If they ask for silence, play the kazoo.
  • If a presenter says they’ll only take questions at the end, they definitely have something to hide. Barrack them repeatedly until they agree to an immediate cross-examination.
  • Thou shalt surely not suffer a panel discussion and live.
  • Whenever a comment is being made from the floor and you can’t hear properly, get all your friends to shout, “We can’t hear!” It is a well-known fact that the more voices shouting over someone, the easier it becomes to hear that person.
  • Your way of assembling a cup of tea is right. Anyone who wants to do it differently (hot water before milk, for instance, or vice versa if that’s how you do it) is wrong and their approach disrupts the proper way people are supposed to use the tea station and they should be tutted at.
  • If you’re stuck in a long queue and have a session to get to, ask the people in front if they’d mind if you go first. They won’t have a session to get to. The fact that this is a break between sessions isn’t anything to do with the fact that the queue is long. You have extenuating circumstances and should get priority.
  • There are not strange doors at the back of the Red, Orange and Blue rooms. You might believe you saw doors there, but you didn’t. Those doors do not exist. Don’t think about them. Don’t worry about them. There are no extra doors and they don’t go anywhere.
  • We’ve heard all the Nittel Nacht jokes before.
  • Don’t mention the (Six-Day) War.
  • Re. the revolving door at the entrance: scream if you want to go faster.

We hope that these guidelines are a better reflection of life here at Limmuddington Towers, and that this year, for the first time, we are not imposing on the community a hardship which the majority cannot endure.

Enjoy your Limmud Confival!