London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London


Alderney Road Cemetery, Mile End

Hidden among the gentrified squares behind Queen Mary's College, Mile End is an almost invisible Jewish landmark - the oldest Ashkenazi cemetery in the UK.  This beautiful and sacred place was acquired in 1696 by Benjamin Levy (died 1705), and contains the graves of the humble and the famous.  Several celebrated rabbis are buried here - including the 'Baal Shem' of London Samuel Falk (died in 1782) and Chief Rabbi David Tevele Schiff who (died in 1791).  The graves of Samuel Falk and David Schiff are still visited by the devout, and prayers are offered at their gravesides.  Samuel Falk was a Cabbalist of great renown.  An elderly lady I met when I visited told me she often meditated at his grave when she had a problem. 

Meanwhile see what others have said about Rabbi Samuel Falk in the extract below from Arthur Barnett's book 'The Western Synagogue through two centuries 1761 - 1961' published by Vallentine  Mitchell, London 1961.  This is what Arthur Barnett says:

"A brief word may be interpolated here concerning this picturesque but enigmatic figure (Samuel Falk) He was allegedly a miracle working rabbi, born about 1708 in Germany where he narrowly escaped being burned as a wizard and whence he came to London about 1740 and gained a remarkable reputation in distinguished circles, both Jewish and non-Jewish, for his reputed magic powers.  He was probably a follower of that deluded sect founded by the false Messiah, Sabbatai Zevi; and doubtless was equally a charlatan.  Purported mystic and Cabbalist, he seems to have successfully worked on the credulity of otherwise quite sound minded and hard headed people, in the process of which he gathered considerable wealth.  But whether sorcerer or saint, some of the early figures in our story (the story of the Western Synagogue) seem to have been included in a little coterie centred around this extraordinary 'Rabbi Dr'' Hayim Samuel Jacob de Falk"

The cemetery closed in 1852 but is still lovingly maintained. Click your way through the photos below to see some of the sites.  Double click all photos to enlarge.


A gem lies hidden behind this high wall in a quiet back street in Mile End

Go through this door into a magic land The grave of Kabbalist Rabbi Samuel Falk, died 1782 The tombstone of Rabbi Saul Berlin, son of Hart Lyon - Chief

Memorial stone naming the great and the good buried in this place The Grave of Miclah the wife of Cossel Jonas, died Sept 4th 5569, aged 64 An view of the Eastern corner of the cemetery The tombstone of Rabbi Saul Berlin, son of Hart Lyon - Chief Rabbi 1756-1764

Note the timely reminder of our mortality carved into the side of this tomb Looking South West A Cohen is buried here (note the hands making the sign of the priestly blessing (live long and prosper as Mr Spock would say!) The Western corner of the cemetery

The Eastern side of the site The path linking one the Western side with the Eastern side of the cemetery An elderly Jewish resident and a wonderful character living just inside the grounds Raised graves (Sephardim perhaps?)

"Almighty God...I only want a grave

Where I shall rest at peace...

That I may know, when I have closed my eyes,

Beneath that tree that grows upon my tomb,

My great-grandchild one summer's day will come

And read the words upon my gravestone,

And that to him or her the words, the language of my ancestors,

Be understood and known." 


by David Einhorn, page 255, Siddur Lev Chadash, Liberal Judaism, published 1995

website copyright of Philip Walker