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

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

e.mail thoughts & memories to: Phil


Readers Help wanted and more letters...June 2013, after another marathon update !


Phil!Jewish walking 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 boundless. I 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 tours. You can also read about a recent walk for Sutton and District synagogue here. To enquire about a group or individual tour please e.mail Phil



Where is the Jubilee Street synagogue foundation stone?

What a treasure to come across the East End website ( 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 survives somewhere.

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.

Milton Freeman, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

[email protected]

Nathan Bomberg in his regalia - do you recognise it?


Memories from Wellclose Square


Dear Phil,


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 booba (grandmother) 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 class.

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 [formerly 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.

Raines Foundation school, Arbour Square Christian Street Talmud Torah in 2013
Raines School, Arbour Square 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 pogroms.

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 Mazin)



Friend and Co, Kosher butchers, Wentworth Street

Hi Phil,

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 - until 1965, Friend and Co Kosher butchers

40 Wentworth Street in 2013, note the orignal blue and white tiles, to the left, sticking out beyond the modern frontage


Life and times in the Jewish East End
Hi Phil,

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 poor.

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!

kind regards

Chris Crossland
Help wanted
Dear Phil

Before the 2nd WW my grandfather taught in a Jewish School in the East End of London, Whitechapel I think. I’m sure it was called Rutland Street School. A google search brought me to your site with the reference to Rutland Street & Cave’s Dairy. I wondered if any of your readers might know? His name was Charles Lewis and he lived in Isleworth and became the first Labour Mayor of the newly formed Borough of Heston & Isleworth in 1932.


John Bone [email protected]

B Bernhard wine and spirit merchants of Brick Lane
Hi Phil,
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

Stepney Jewish school, a 1938 class photo

Stepney Jewish School, a 1938 class photo

Stepney Jewish School, Stepney Green, today

Stepney Jewish School, Stepney Green, today

Hi Phil,
Stepney Green Dwellings - erected by the Lord Rothschild's 4% Industrial Dwelling CompanyFirst 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.
Best Wishes. Lou.
photo right is of Stepney Green Dwellings, erected by Lord Rothschild's 4% Industrial Dwelling Company in the late C19th
Help Wanted
Hi Phil,

I’ve been trying to find out more about my father’s family; I would have sworn my grandfather was hatched! Fortunately, I have relatives who now live in Leeds and gave me a bit more information to go on.

Turns out that my great-grandfather was named Prepriowsky (Simon and his wife Polly/Perla) and they were from Russia/Poland. Their children were Sidney/Solly, Marks, Harrison/Harry, and Solomon. I DID find Polly Shapiro (Shapero/Sapero) at 55 Old Montegue St, but by that time, she was a widow.

Since I had the opportunity to walk around a bit (I’m working here, but had some time on the weekend to explore) and almost cried when I realized that I was at the edge of my family’s start out of Eastern Europe.

Thank you for your website and if you or anyone else can lend a hand in my search, I’d greatly appreciate it!

Thank you!

Deb.  Can you help?  email Deb

Jubilee Street
Phil - love the site,
Philpot Street Synagogue 1922Just 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 movies.
My great 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.
My great 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 was buried.
Philpot Street Synagogue Ketubah, 1931, Philip Weiser married Bessie SedoskyMy 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 grandfather's business.
David Cordell
Have info to pass on? email Dave
1909 Brady Club football team  - Hyman Lubel, 2nd from left, front row
Brady Club
For your archive - a photo of my maternal great uncle in a 1909 Brady Club football team (right).
My maternal great uncle Hyman Lubel (2nd from left front row) was killed on the Somme 1916.  Hyman had worked in the printing trade.
Not much of a life really, poor East End orphan died for King and Country aged 20.
Robert Montefiore School
Dear Phil,
Robert Montefiore School, corner of Deal Street and Hanbury StreetI 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 right.
Stan.  If anyone wishes to write back to Stan, click: Stan
Brady Club
Hi Phil,
Your most interesting site brought back memories .......
I was born in Hackney in 1929.
I was a member of Brady Boys Club and I have attached a photo of our Concert Party (circa mid 1940's), where we put on shows for members. I cannot remember all the names but will list those that I do.
Brady Club concert party mid 1940s
Ivan, Mickey, Unknown ,Unknown, Les
Sid (Isackle) Veltman ( my first cousin), Me
I know that my cousin died many years ago but I don't know about the others and if they are still alive I would love to hear from then - they should all be +/- 80 years old. Oy vey!
I have lived in South Africa for nearly 60 years having emigrated in 1953. My wife Shirley and I were married in England and have just celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. Whew!
With best regards,
Bernie Schweitzer
Hello Phil,
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.
Any assistance you can provide will be gratefully received.
Mitchel Grodent [email protected]
C Rose, Barbers shopC Rose the barbers
Hi Phil,
My grandmother 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?
Anne Williams [email protected]
East End memories
Hi Phil

My 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. 

We 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.

We 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.  

I 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.

A quick 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 me. 
Several 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!!!
Is life 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.

Best Wishes
Enthralled by your website Phil.
My "Isaacs" 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?
Leaving Birmingham when he was a teenager, Elijah met Jessie Smith in Liverpool, married and opened a haberdashers & tailors shop.
Elijah's brother 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.
After he'd 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.
Jessie died 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.
His children 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 shortly afterwards.
Things could 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.
Best regards
Allan Isaacs
Stepney Street traders, Anglo Dutch club
Hi Phil
My Grandfather Myer Berg (aka vandenburg) lived in Stoney lane buildings. He was secretary of an Anglo Dutch club which helped Dutch immigrants.  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 involvement with Stepney street traders?

Thank you - I loved your site.
Dr Malcolm VandenBurg
Email: [email protected]


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