Zoymen means ‘seed’ in Yiddish. It was the name given to The Together Plan’s youth residential programme in the summer of 2018, which took place in the forest in Belarus. It was an extraordinarily exciting and exhilarating action-packed peer-led week of workshops and community building planned and run by our Youth for Youth young adult ambassadors in the UK and Belarus for young people in Belarus.
In 2020 we were due to be back in Belarus for another fantastic Youth for Youth summer programme and we were so looking forward to being back in the forest, but alas it wasn’t to be. Although COVID meant we couldn’t get to Belarus it did not dampen our resolve. On the contrary. It was unthinkable and unimaginable that summer would pass with no Youth for Youth activity. So the team reimagined Zoymen taking the brave decision to create a one-day virtual event and open it to everyone. The show would go on and the show did go on with all the excitement, buzz and energy that our in-person, on-location summer camps always deliver.
Now, one year on, Zoymen online is back, bigger, better and bolder, with a whole new look to boot. The decision was taken to make it an autumn event this year, to give people the opportunity to be away from screens over the summer and get out and about after so many months of lockdowns and restrictions.
Our Youth for Youth team of course! A committee of dedicated and passionate young people – ambassadors for The Together Plan, many of whom have been to Belarus with the charity and some of whom are in Belarus. They work to plan and build the Zoymen event – in the same way that they would have planned and run summer camp in Belarus. It is a huge undertaking and an enormous amount of work goes into creating the event but it is immensely rewarding in so many ways.
Youth for Youth is a collaborative network of young people who are first and foremost ambassadors for the charity. As Youth for Youth has grown, it has become clear that most of the members, once they join, stay and grow with the charity. To that end, Youth for Youth is now in development establishing a new framework to enable the members to network across borders, share skills and learn skills, professionally develop, support one another, grow friendships and collaborate on projects. To find out more about Youth for Youth contact firstname.lastname@example.org
The fundamental objective of this European-wide event, which has been organised since 2000 by the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion and Jewish Heritage and Culture (AEPJ), is to highlight the diversity and richness of Judaism and its local, regional and national historical importance, with the firm intention of promoting dialogue, recognition and exchange through conferences, concerts, performances, guided tours and other activities, which take place simultaneously throughout the continent. Check out what is taking place this autumn across Europe by clicking here.
The European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ), an NGO created in 2004, is a network of European institutions, including public bodies, private foundations, federations of Jewish communities and NGO’s, that serves as a platform to develop cultural initiatives and educational programs to European Jewish sites. The AEPJ network acts as a channel for intercultural dialogue and promoting better knowledge and understanding of European history, creating awareness of cultural diversity and strengthening European citizens’ cultural identity.
The AEPJ serves as an organisational umbrella to welcome, promote, train and help develop unique Jewish cultural and heritage projects of excellence around Europe. A community, a network and a meeting point of professionals working in the field of Jewish Heritage. The AEPJ helps organisations develop their programs, offers training in the field of Jewish cultural tourism and exchange of good practices and promotes the development of transnational programs.
With a heritage approach in line with the Council of Europe, with its integrated and cross-disciplinary approach to cultural heritage and diversity, the AEPJ promotes fundamental European values of human rights, cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue seeking to bring the Jewish heritage closer to all European citizens, involving them in the production, circulation and conservation of Jewish culture and heritage.
The Together Plan is a member of the AEPJ.
During the lockdowns between 2020 and 2021 and following Zoymen 2020, the Youth for Youth Committee decided to run a number of workshops online, in dual language, to explore different themes and topics. This series of workshops was called ‘Zoom into Zoymen’. The idea was to remain connected but in a virtual space and these workshops brought many of the members together and ensured they remained connected in these uncertain times. Non-members of Youth for Youth were also invited to join some of the sessions. The members chose what topics they wanted to explore and in view of the climate ‘mental health’ was a popular choice. It was also an opportunity to create a safe space for those in Belarus to explore a somewhat taboo subject and one that is not so openly explored in their world. This session was so popular that it was decided to bring it to Zoymen 2021.
Last year at Zoymen, we held a session about a book that The Together Plan is translating to English on the subject of the Minsk Ghetto. The person who led that session made a reference that prompted a discussion about Israel and Palestine. It was clear from the conversation that followed that there was a need to explore and understand the Israel-Palestine situation better and so we ran a Youth for Youth Zoom into Zoymen session with ‘Solutions Not Sides’ a charity who run workshops with an Israeli and a Palestinian. The workshop was so compelling that we simply had to invite them back.
Refusenik was an unofficial term for individuals—typically, but not exclusively, Soviet Jews—who were denied permission to emigrate, primarily to Israel, by the authorities of the Soviet Union and other countries of the Eastern bloc. During the Cold War, Soviet Jews were thought to be a security liability or possible traitors. To apply for an exit visa, the applicants (and often their entire families) would have to quit their jobs, which in turn would make them vulnerable to charges of social parasitism, a criminal offense. The ban on Jewish immigration to Israel was lifted in 1971 leading to the 1970s Soviet Union aliyah. The coming to power of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s, and his policies of glasnost and perestroika, as well as a desire for better relations with the West, led to major changes, and most refuseniks were allowed to emigrate.
Going even furtherback in history, many persecuted Jews who suffered and survived brutal pogroms and oppression in the Russian Empire in the late 19th century and through to the early twentieth century emigrated for Palestine and Zionism has its roots in the Russian Empire because of the oppression and brutality. Needless to say history dictates that there are many Russians and Belarusians living in Israel today.
Absolutely. Just make sure everyone is signed up through the website – click here.
In fact, why not become an event ambassador and for every three people who come to the event having been referred by you – you will get a free ticket. Click here for the ambassador’s tool kit.
Everyone is welcome.
There are a number of overall aims:
Cover image credit: www.instagram.com_simoneseccii