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
A world of philanthropists, synagogues and cemeteries
A gentle stroll around Stepney Green and Mile End.
have walked around Spitalfields and Whitechapel and be familiar with
the remaining Jewish sites. But how many of us have made the same
voyage around Stepney and Mile End, where there is a wealth of
relatively unknown riches?
you are in the area turn off Mile End Road for a stroll down
beautiful Stepney Green. At 35 and 37 Stepney Green you will see the
former Jewish old people’s home, now two beautiful private houses.
Almost next door is the former Stepney Orthodox Synagogue, Rosalind
Green Hall - now a boxing club, and next door to that is the former
Stepney Jewish school, which closed in the 1970s. Among famous old
boys is the late Lord Delfont (Bernard Delfont), who was expelled at
the age of 12 for running a farthing sweepstake. Just past the
school is Stepney Green Court – erected by the Rothschild’s Four Per
Cent Industrial Dwellings Company to provide decent housing for the
poor, many of whom were Jewish. This magnificent building is a
monument to Jewish philanthropy.
are almost at the bottom of Stepney Green cut through an alleyway to
enter Rectory Square and enjoy a view of Temple Court, formerly the
East London Synagogue, the United Synagogue’s cathedral synagogue of
the East End. Its most famous incumbent was probably the Reverend J
F Stern, known affectionately as the Jewish Bishop of Stepney. He
was minister until 1928.
the early 1990s and derelict for many years, it is now converted
into smart flats. If you are lucky, a resident may take pity on you
as you press your nose against a window to peer through and you will
be invited in. What a view! The synagogue may have gone but Hebrew
plaques, stained glass windows, the Ten Commandments inscribed above
the ark and more remain. Make sure you have a camera with you.
On your way
back up Stepney Green to Mile End Road take a look at the Montefiore
memorial drinking fountain on your left. The Montefiores were a
fabulously wealthy banking family with connections to the
Rothschilds, Goldsmids, Salomons, Montagus, Mocattas Sterns and more
– names that crop up time and time again in the story of the Jewish
East End of London and known collectively as ‘The Cousinhood’. If
you can beg, borrow or steal a copy of Chaim Bermant’s 1971 book of
the same name you can learn more. The
Montefiore on the water fountain is Leonard Montefiore, brother of
Claude Goldsmid Montefiore. He
died from some sort of rheumatic attack in New York in 1879 at the
age of 26.
reaching the top of Stepney Green turn right into Hayfield Passage
and follow this quaint alleyway to reach the Mile End Road. Turn
right, then take the first right into Beaumont Grove, home of Jewish
Care’s Stepney Day Centre. From the street you can see various
buildings carrying the names of half forgotten Jewish heroines
together with several faded plaques with Hebrew inscriptions. The
first building of interest is Phyllis Gerson House. Phyllis Gerson
MBE devoted much of her life to Stepney Jewish B’nai Brith Girls
Club and Settlement, of which she was warden for 45 years until her
retirement in 1974. Miss Gerson was responsible for turning the
club – long since absorbed into Jewish Care’s Day Centre – into a
welfare complex serving all ages. During the Second World War she
joined the committee for Jewish Relief Abroad, and in 1944 was sent
to Egypt to organise relief work. She carried out further missions
in Austria, Albania and Italy and ended her service in 1946. A year
later she was awarded the MBE for her war work for Jewish relief.
She died aged 87 in 1990.
from Phyllis Gerson House is the Alice Model Nursery, which carries
the name of an East End social reformer. Miss Model inspired the
development of this nursery, named in honour of her 80th birthday in
1936. The nursery augmented the Jewish day nursery she founded in
1901 in New Road. It was for children of all religions, an ethos
that continues to this day. She was a pioneer campaigner for mother
and infant welfare and in 1895 founded the Sick Room Help Society,
which evolved into the Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood
Street. According to the Jewish Chronicle, 11th April 1947,
page 6, Alice Model was herself a member of the cousinhood (see The
Sterns - next paragraph) by virtue of being a descendant of
the 18th century German banker Benedict Goldschmidt. Alice Model MBE died in 1943.
Building the Alice Model nursery
your way back up Beaumont Grove to Mile End Road, cross to the north
side and turn east to meet another scion of the ‘Cousinhood’, Baron
Hermann De Stern whose name and that of his son Herbert are
inscribed on the clock tower outside Queen Mary’s College,
University of London. Baron Hermann De Stern was born in Frankfurt
on Main in 1815 and died in London in 1887. With his brother David
he founded the banking house of Stern Brothers. For providing
financial services to the Portuguese government he was given the
Portuguese title of Baron. His wife was Julia Goldsmid of the
Goldsmid banking family, and his daughter married into the Salomons
family, who were themselves related to the Montefiores, Rothschilds
and so on – it gets complicated. When Hermann De Stern died in 1887
he left £3,500,000, equivalent to billions of pounds today.
family appear again a little further down Mile End Road at Albert
Stern House, formerly an old people’s home and now a hall of
residence for the university. Sir Albert Stern was the grandson of
Julius Stern, brother of Baron Hermann. He was secretary of the
British Government’s Landship Committee, the body responsible for
developing the tank for combat in the First World War. Albert Stern
went on to become head of the family banking business. He converted
to Christianity, and died in 1966. He was the brother of Frederick
Stern of Highdown Estate near Goring-by-Sea, Sussex, which was used
by the Oxford and St George’s club for its summer camps.
Stern’s nephew Sydney Stern, later to become Lord Wandsworth, gave
his house ‘Ferndale’ to the Jewish community in 1904, and it became
the famous Nightingale Home for Aged Jews in Clapham, south London.
A left turn
into Westfield Way brings you to the grounds of the Queen Mary’s
college for a look at the remaining fragment of the Nuovo Sephardi
cemetery. Those who were buried here include the great boxer Daniel
Mendoza – a plaque to whose memory was recently unveiled in Queen