World Jewish Relief supporters drank to a good cause as 40 people spent an evening learning about the secret Jewish history of vodka and sampling vodkas from across Eastern Europe.
The charity’s Richard Verber, who spent time living in Russia, looked at the claims of Poland and Russia who both maintain they invented vodka and explained the extent to which Jews were involved in the alcohol business from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries in Eastern Europe.
According to one census conducted in the mid-eighteenth century, as many as 14% of Jews living in towns in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and as many as 80% of Jews living in villages were involved in the alcohol trade, usually as innkeepers. Non-Jewish landowners preferred to lease their taverns to Jews as they were more numerate and literate than the peasant population and could be trusted not to drink away the profits.
Guests were invited to try vodkas from Ukraine, Poland and Russia.
The event was organised by supporters Nick Reid, Emma Breger, Nurit Lasarow and Jonny Abrahams and raised nearly £800 to support World Jewish Relief’s programmes in Eastern Europe.
Nick Reid, one of World Jewish Relief’s supporters who organised the event, said: “I was intrigued to learn about the Jewish community’s involvement in the vodka trade and be part of an evening raising money for our Jewish communities in Eastern Europe who are in urgent need.”
If you would like to run a similar session for your shul or community, email or call 0208 736 1256.