EAST END OF LONDON PHOTO GALLERY & COMMENTARY
London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......
My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London
e.mail thoughts & memories to:
wanted and more letters...June
2013, after another marathon update !
tours with Phil.....are you a
visitor to London, or maybe a family/individual/club/organisation
wishing to discover the Jewish East End of London or Jewish Soho in
London's West End? If so, I would love the
opportunity to take you round. My fee is modest and my enthusiasm is
lead tours around Whitechapel, Spitalfields, Stepney Green, Jewish Soho
and more. If you have a particular interest you wish to explore
please let me know. For more information and photos of recent
tours please click
recent walk for Sutton and District synagogue
enquire about a group or individual tour please e.mail
Where is the Jubilee Street synagogue foundation stone?
What a treasure to come across the East End website (www.jewisheastend.com)
out here on the Canadian prairies. I sure enjoyed reading it and
taking a stroll through the East End of my parents’ childhood and my
grandparents’ beginnings as immigrants from Poland/Russian Poland
and Romania! I emigrated to
Canada in the 1950s, so my memories of the East End are scant,
limited to visits to Petticoat Lane and accompanying my father to “Mr
Marko’s” (Markovich’s) dressmaking premises to buy dresses (made
from “cabbage” as I recall!) for the family dress shop in the dreary
days of post-war clothes rationing.
As the last surviving member of my immediate family, and rapidly
approaching my 79th birthday, I am busily googling away to make
something of a story to leave my descendants (three children, eight
grandchildren and one great-grandchild). Right now I am gathering
together the scraps of information I can recall and find anew on my
grandparents (and their origins). This brings me to inquire whether
you have ever come across a foundation stone to the Jubilee Street
synagogue. I looked over the excellent high-definition map on the
Jewish East End website and saw a synagogue marked that fronts on
Jubilee Street (located between Hawkins and Undley streets). I read
somewhere that the Great Zionist Synagogue at 165 Jubilee Street
(established in 1918) was demolished in the 1950s, but I’m hoping
that the foundation stone commemorating the opening of that shul
Why am I asking? Well,
my mother told me as a child that her father, Nathan Bomberg, had
his name on the foundation stone, being one of the founders of that
shul. She called it the “Jubilee Street Synagogue” but I am assuming
it could be the one with a far grander name. The dates fit, as
Nathan died in 1923, so he was established in the community and
(again, according to his ever-loving daughter), was a real mensch. I
have a picture of Nathan (photo below) wearing the regalia of one of
the several quasi-masonic fraternal organisations he belonged to. I
believe he was involved in the Independent Order of Foresters and
the Independent Order of .Oddfellows, but all the framed scrolls he
had received in connection with that community service were lost
during World War Two. I would be grateful to know of any internet
sources dealing with the Jewish fraternal organisations operating in
the Whitechapel/Bethnal Green/Stepney areas of the East End.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I have just been e-mailed your
Jewish East London website, which I found so interesting.
I was surprised not to
see any mention of the Christian Street Talmud Torah. This was a
really special synagogue, just off Cable Street, with a very large
congregation that included various charity groups. One was the “Boot
and Meal Fund” committee, which presented my parents with a lovely
pair of silver (Shabbat) candlesticks (which I now have) for their
wedding present in 1932.
I believe my
chaired the committee. The head of the synagogue was Samuel Fisher,
who became mayor of first Stoke Newington and subsequently Camden
and was made a life peer.
The actress Anna Tzelniker was also a friend
of mine: she died, sadly, last year. I also knew her father,
Meier. I met them when, as a child, I went to the Yiddish
Theatre, where my aunt, Anne Stephany, was the pianist and musical
director. Anna's husband, Phil Bernstein, was the violinist, but
Anna always retained her father's surname as her stage name.
My first encounter with Shakespeare was at
that theatre, where the performance – in Yiddish, of course – was
The Merchant of Venice,
with Meier playing Shylock and Anna playing Portia. I was
about 10 years old and still remember that famous quotation
“Vat, Yid!!” (What,
Jew!!) in the court scene.
My sister and I went to Fairclough Street
School, which was a good 20 minutes walk from our home, and we had
to pass Christian Street School (opposite the Synagogue) which was
only a few minutes away from where we lived. I guess the
powers that be decided to organise it so that all the Jewish
children went to Fairclough Street. Most of the teachers,
including one headmistress, Mrs Barnett, were Jewish and we had our
own prayers every morning, in Hebrew. Another thing that
stands out in my mind about Fairclough Street School, was that Roy
James, one of the great train robbers, (the so-called great train
robbery in 1963 was one of the biggest robberies in Britain with a
haul of £2.6m – equivalent to over £40m today. The driver of the
train received injuries from which he never recovered) was in my
We were lucky to have
had a wonderful education in that East End school. I still
remember so well sitting cross-legged in the Hall, aged 5, listening
to and learning to hum Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Every
morning we recited our times tables.
When I was 9, I was lucky enough to have the
opportunity of taking – and passing – the exam to go the Raine's
Foundation School preparatory department in Arbour Square, photo
below. My sister
had already passed the scholarship and was there too. We are
both still in touch with friends we made there.
Regarding relations of our family Mazin, one
of my cousins recently came across the grand-daughter of Joseph
Mazin, of Mazin’s bookshop in Whitechapel. She told my cousin that
we were related but there were reasons why her grandfather did
not make contact.
Unfortunately, I never knew either of my grandfathers, but my
mother's parents – named Nymitz but anglicised to Nyman– had a
sweetshop in The Highway. The Mazins all lived in Ship Alley (which
no longer exists; a park fills the space it occupied] immediately
off The Highway
known as Ratcliffe Highway). My
parents, my sister and I lived in Wellclose Square, which had four
alleys, including Ship Alley leading down to The Highway.
The side of Wellclose Square just before the part that led to Ship
Alley was the store-room and, I guess, sales-room of Miller's
Antiques, now famous for its annual antiques guide. Another alley
leads to the now resurrected Wilton’s Music Hall. I wish we had been
worldly enough to appreciate all of that.
||Christian Street Talmud
Torah (red building)
The Tower of London was a 10-minutue walk from where Ship Alley
joined The Highway, and I can remember playing in the sand and
paddling in the river on a summer day.
During the War, the school in the middle of
Wellclose Square became a fire station and headquarters that
monitored the enemy aircraft aiming for the Docks. My father
was attached to them as an air-raid warden and received a medal for
his bravery (which I have still). He was unable to join the British
forces because he was regarded as an alien, having been 2 years old
when his mother brought the family from Russia in 1904 to escape the
The house in which we lived had a short
pathway and there was a communal underground shelter built, with
only the sloping black-tarmac roof and double doors showing.
It had two-tier bunks, and the atmosphere was kept light by everyone
(well almost everyone) singing all the popular songs of the time,
trying to drown out the noise of the enemy aircraft.
Ruth Migdale (née
Friend and Co, Kosher butchers, Wentworth Street
I was never an East End kid, but all the family were. My
great-grandfather, grandfather, grand mother and my own father owned
‘Friend & Co’ kosher butchers
at 40 Wentworth Street (Now Boltex textiles - 2013 photo below)
from the 1890s to 1965 when
dad relocated it to Stanmore to follow the flock as it were.
I remember going to the lane as a kid in the 1950s with all it's
noises and smells of oranges and baked goods. Oh how I loved Ostwins
for lunch and Barnetts for their kosher hamburgers.
All that time there were 3 butchers on the same block between Old
Castle St and Goulston St: Cohens, Friends and Frankels.
In the old days dad's shop was open to the street and chickens hung at
eye level rather like executed criminals, but moreover, I was
intrigued to see that the original blue & white tiles from long ago
are still visible to the left of the current 21st century frontage
(see photo below)
One thing my dad insisted on was that I would never have to follow
in the family business…and I didn't!
40 Wentworth Street in 2013, note the orignal blue and white
tiles, to the left, sticking out beyond the modern frontage
times in the Jewish East End
I'm presently reading Mitchener's 'The Source' - a great book
which offers a peep into the history and development of Judaeism.
It caused me to think back to my own memories of Jewish people
in the East End, which brought me to your site.
I was born in 1947, in Leyton E10, perhaps not considered the
East End 'proper'. As was the custom then, most of my father's
family lived in our street, in houses soon to be demolished
under the 'slum clearance' programme. They worked in small
factories close by, mostly tailoring and for Jewish 'guvnors'.
My father, uncles and aunts worked for Arthur Finlay (Jewish
despite the Irish name!) as Hoffman pressers, overlockers and
machinists, and often commented on their luck and preference for
working for a Jewish guvnor. What is not always acknowledged is
the contempt in which the London working class was then held by
those in positions of authority. I felt this keenly as a child,
and later when I attended a grammar school, where my speech,
manners and culture were openly denigrated.
The reason given by my relatives for their preference for
working for Jews, was that 'a Jew may think he's better looking
than you, richer than you, or better educated than you, but he
never thinks he's (a) better (man) than you.'
Echoes of 'Robert Burns 'a man's a man for all that'!
This meant so much to them that when Arthur Finlay and his
family embarked on a new venture, pig farming (yes) in Stansted,
Essex, we went with them. From tailoring to pig farming - I
don't think any of them knew what they were doing - but we
stayed there for 3 years before returning to our Leyton slum.
At that time I began to understand what my relatives meant
regarding the Jewish lack of condescension. Jewish doctors were
preferred in my community, because they didn't appear to look
down their nose at us, and were always direct - e.g. 'don't come
to me with a cough when you're smoking 20 fags a day' (said
while puffing his own cigarette at his desk). Our own doctors,
Stone and Silkoff, were at a premium and people waited years to
'get on their panel'. Those lucky enough to be on it were
willing to wait hours in a crowded waiting room (no
appointments!) to see them.
Dr. Stone was an older man, who never worked Saturdays. Not
because he was religiously observant, but because he was a
fanatic Spurs supporter who attended all their games. Dr.
Silkoff was a Polish émigré, a young good looking man who worked
Saturdays and made all the house calls. We were ashamed of our
living conditions, a slum condemned for demolition long before
the war. While neighbours were welcome visitors (they usually
shared similar living conditions) 'outsiders' were not invited
in to witness our poverty. However, Dr. Silkoff managed to make
the necessary house calls without betraying any surprise or
distaste, and avoiding any unnecessary intrusion. He was a
marvellous doctor who could have excelled in private practice,
but his political beliefs kept him in East London among the
Many years later, my own experiences confirmed my family's
perception of the benefits of Jewish employment. As an abandoned
mother of two small children, money was very tight. I found work
in silver service waitressing, which I could do on those
weekends when the children were with their absent father.
We worked the usual 'do's - from Masonic ladies nights in the
local council hall to Barmitzvahs and weddings at the top West
End hotels. All the waitresses agreed, whether it was the
lowliest Masonic order in the local hall, or at the Royal Yacht
Club, we were looked down on and treated like serfs. However at
the Royal Gardens or Grosvenor Hotels, the most expensive
(Jewish) functions, we were treated as friends helping out, and
this was unexceptional.
The other thing that impressed us was the speed of social
mobility in the Jewish community - so unlike our own. We would
often see three generations represented at a Barmitzvah - a
grandparent with a strong Eastern European accent who might sing
a song in Yiddish or play a folk song on a violin. The parents
would be (obviously) affluent and educated, and the Barmitzvah
boy from public school, full of confidence and charm and able to
hold and amuse an audience of 200 people. There was no
noticeable resentment of them, probably because of their pride
in and admiration of their antecedents. No hiding away of their
poor, working class origins.
My husband attended the Davenant Foundation school, then sited
in Mile End Road. His fellow pupils were almost exclusively
Jewish, and yet he felt no sense of isolation - how different
from cultural or religious minority groups today.
Phil, I hope I haven't bored you with these ramblings. I've
enjoyed putting them on paper (email!), because much is said of
anti-Semitism in the East End. That wasn't my experience,
although it no doubt existed elsewhere. Many Yiddish expressions
were incorporated into everyday usage, and Jewish food was a
great treat and a lifelong taste!
B Bernhard wine and spirit
merchants of Brick Lane
Love you website!
My Grandpa was B. Bernard & Company - Wine and Spirits merchants
on Brick Lane when I was growing up. They were there
through the 40s, 50s and early 60s. Ruby was the 'fruit
man' across the street from my Grandpa - Benjamin Bernard.
I spent so many Sundays 'in the lane' with a pickle from the
pickle stall followed by lunch at Blooms in Whitechapel.
My cousin Sandra Levitt grew up in council flats in the East
End. She bought custom made winkle picker shoes in the East End.
I went to Hasmonean Grammar School on Parson St. in Hendon and
lived in Golders Green. I now live in Mexico - life is
very different... but memories never fade
Stepney Jewish School
may I say how wonderful your site is, I grew up in Stepney
Green, and lived in Stepney Green Buildings. I went to
school at Stepney Jewish school, and when the war started the
School was evacuated to Windsor, and 6 of us were billeted with
the Vicar of Windsor, the Rev. Hamilton. In Church St. Right
next to the park. Thought this might be of interest to you.
photo right is of Stepney Green Dwellings, erected by Lord
Rothschild's 4% Industrial Dwelling Company in the late C19th
Phil - love the
started doing family research and though I now live in the
States, grew up in Bournemouth Trying to find out as much as
possible about the Jubilee Street Synagogue where my
grandparents married in 1924. My great grandfather was warden
of the shul, and his brother the President when Jacob Cohen died
in 1930. Jacob's son was Nat Cohen who went on to produce
grandfather had a Kosher Butcher's wholesaler and poultry store
at 28 Burslem Street, which my grandfather Hymie Cohen ran until
the 1950's. Not been able to find out much info about that as my
father is the only one living from that period.
grandfather was Solomon Cohen and he died on December 27 1939 in
Shoreham sussex but I have not been able to track down where he
other great grandparents were married at Philpot Street
Synagogue in 1904, and my other great grandparents were married
at Commercial Road synagogue ?? in 1903. Not been able to find
out much about those shuls.
A Philpot Street Ketubah (marriage certificate)
from 1931 is left - click to enlarge
Would love to
hear if anyone knows anything of these shuls or even my great
Have info to
pass on? email Dave
Robert Montefiore School
attended Robert Montefiore school (photo right)
but in the
1950s so I’m just a mere 70, one or two generations on. I still
have fond memories of my old Alma Mata. Since I and my wife will
be visiting London in mid May, I decided to Google a few things
like Robert Montefiore and Brady Boys Club.
My father was
Jack Greenspan the baker who used to be at 57 Umberstone Street
Whitechapel if anyone remembers. Bless his name but he passed
away in 1973 and my mother came here to Sydney Australia a year
later. She only died a couple of years back at the age of 103
years a week short of her 104th birthday.
I now live in
Sydney Australia since 1973 by way of Israel when I made Aliya, I also just found out that Yogi Mayer
passed away aged 98 last July. What a guy!
Oy vey! Is
anyone wishes to write back to Stan, click:
I'm trying to
find a photo of The Essex Tavern which stood at the
junction of Middlesex St & Aldgate High St. My grandfather Mark Grodentz was the manager of this pub until he died in 1936, he
had a traditional east end funeral and was buried at the Jewish
Cemetary in Montaque Rd Edmonton. My grandmother Catherine (kayla)
Levy was the sister of the infamous Moses(Moe)Levy and was one
of eleven living siblings.
you can provide will be gratefully received.
Rose the barbers
was Lily Rose Kisko but I think the surname was changed to Rose.
They had a barber's shop in London-C.Rose. The family went from
Palestine to Russia and Spain about 2 centuries ago. We have
lost the family tree. My grandmother had 2 sisters myrtle and
renee and a brother sonny who died young. My grandmother died in
September 1988 married name Franklin. Does anyone remember them?
East End memories
Stepney Jewish School, a
1938 class photo
Stepney Jewish School,
Stepney Green, today
brother sent me the link to your site which i found fascinating. My
brother, sister and i originate from Whitechapel, where my
Grandfather, Frank Jacobs, was for many years the landlord of the
Black Bull Public House (corner of Valance Road and Whitechapel
Road) which is where my mother and her sister grew up.
all attended Stepney Jewish school (opposite the dwellings where my
grandmother lived, and then Robert Montefiore Secondary School in
Valance Road along with my cousin who lived in Batson House just off
Henriques Street (1 street from the Oxford and St Georges Club). We
all attended and later became Managers at, Brady Club (both the old
which was situated in Durward Street off of Brady Street) and the
new, which is now the Brady Centre. I also used to take the Brady
Boys under 15 Football team every Sunday to games on Hackney Marshes
and the Elms. I also occasionally attended the Stepney Jewish Club
in Beaumont Square.
lived in Grindall House on the Collingwood Estate in Darling Row,
(where the 653 trolley bus (later to become the 253) used to stop
outside of the Brewery, and is now a Sainsburys) which was a road
that ran between Cambridge Heath Road and Brady Street, behind the
Blind Beggar Public House.
always remember walking along the "Waist" - Whitechapel Saturday
Market and going to either Lens or Eddies bookstall, which were
placed at opposite ends of the market, Len near to Valance Road and
Eddie just across Cambridge Heath Road. But treat of treats was to
go to Sam's hut (corner of Cambridge Heath Road) for a Sam's Super
Special!!! Sam's was of course a small hut next to the Murphys pub
and he made American Soda drinks and the Super Special had ice cream
in -- i can almost taste it now and my mouth is watering.
story, my wife and i have a timeshare in Tenerife and also 1 in
Lanzarote. We were in Lanzarote this year and sitting in one of
the bars in our resort. The "entertainment" began and it was a
male singer. I mentioned to my wife that the singer, Gary i
think his name was, sounded east end(ish). When he had finished,
he walked by us and enquired whether we had enjoyed his act, we
got talking and it transpired he was born and lived in Bethnall
Green about 3/4 streets from me and he was 2 years younger than
nights later we were listening to a chap called Chrissy Looker,
another singer who was conducting a song quiz during his act,
which i and my wife were doing quite well at (seeing as though
the songs were from my era) and he too came and had a chat.
Chris was born and raised in Stepney and not only was he a
publican but later on a postman operating from the "new post
office" in Whitechapel. Not only did he deliver to our flats but
his cousins lived on the top floor of our flats and we all used
to play together!!!
strange of what??? We go half way around the world only to find
2 people that were born, lived and grew up a few streets away
and i have probably passed by in the street many times. To add
to this i used to play with one of their cousins! Anyway
its been nice talking.
My name is
Steve Morpurgo and brother and sister are Frank and Jean.
your website Phil.
family lived in London possibly as early as the mid 1700s
Here's a potted
history of my great grandad which you might find interesting?
My great grandad
Elijah Isaacs got off to a bad start. Soon after his birth on
21st March 1848, the Aldgate registrar made out his birth
certificate to "Eliza" and put him down as a girl.
He was born at
27 Hutchison Avenue, Gravel Lane, an address which is a trifle
baffling as the census shows Hutchison Avenue to fizzle out
before number 27. Maybe that address was more upmarket sounding
than mere Gravel Lane?
The real mystery
is why he was born in London at all as his parents had moved
from London and married in 1837 in Birmingham. All I can think
is that a family member was not too well and the family had gone
to London to pay their last respects.
Their trip had
its downside, as the Elijah's father went bankrupt shortly
afterwards. Maybe the high cost of temporarily moving to London
and deserting his tailoring business was the last straw?
Birmingham when he was a teenager, Elijah met Jessie Smith in
Liverpool, married and opened a haberdashers & tailors shop.
Lewis was Jewish, and his sons and grandsons remained so over a
period of over 100 years (that's another story) but Elijah must
have deserted the faith when he was married in the Liverpool
Registry Office in 1873.
raised a family of 8 children the old boy must have decided on a
change and, in 1891, deserted his wife and ran off with a young
catholic girl nearly half his age.
shortly afterwards, it is said of a broken heart.
Within a few
months Elijah had married his girlfriend and they had a child
who sadly died only a few months old.
were clearly upset about the whole affair, and all changed their
name from Isaacs to Henry. Except my grandad.
Elijah duly met
his end, rejected by his children and died in the Liverpool
Workhouse infirmary and was buried in an unmarked grave in a
plot reserved for penniless Catholics. His second wife died
have been so different. Around 1892 a chap by the name of Marks,
visiting Liverpool, asked him if he was interested in joining
him and opening a chain of haberdashers.... Elijah, it is said,
had other things on his mind and declined, leaving the way open
for a Mr Spencer.
Stepney Street traders,
Anglo Dutch club
Grandfather Myer Berg (aka vandenburg) lived in Stoney lane
buildings. He was secretary of an Anglo Dutch club which helped
Family history says that because of this he was the co-founder
with Mike Stern (who I regularly met with my dad)
of the Stepney Street Traders Association.
Dad and grandad both went to Jews Free School in Bell
Lane. Do you have any info on the Anglo Dutch Club or his
with Stepney street traders?
Thank you - I loved your site.
website copyright of Philip