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

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London


e.mail thoughts & memories to: Phil

Letters and more....double click photos to enlarge...and more recent letters and enquiries here

Lipman's shoe shop, 19 Princelet Street - from 87 year old (January 2008) Anne Sloman

Dear Phil

 19 Princelet Street, Mr  Lipman's shoe shop with a synagogue in the back gardenI remember 19 Princelet Street well,  but not entirely as a shool. It was the home and business of the Lipman Family. The shop front held Mr. Lipman's shoe repair business, the back of the building the family living rooms. Upstairs, I assume were the family sleeping quarters  I was dating the son Harry around 1940, and remember we were sitting in the kitchen / living  room which joined the shop front. A number of people were walking through the back yard, I asked where they were going was told they were going to Shabbat evening services."

So now you know - Until recently the building was a shoe shop and family home with a Federation synagogue built over what would have been the back garden.
Anne Sloman

Princelet Street off Brick Lane, London E1

Post script:  In May 2009 I received the following letter re: the Lipman family:

Dear Phil,

I was reading this page on your website and was very interested to find an article from lady called Ann Solomon who remembers 19 Princelet Street as the business and home of the Lipman family, and that she was dating the son called Harry in 1940. Harry Lipman (photo left) is my father and he is now 91, but sadly not with a great memory any more, but still able to hold a conversation. When doing a bit of research to this I found out on his marriage certificate that he lived at number 33 Princelet Street. I thought this may be of some interest to you, I also have enclosed a photo of him taken outside number 19 a couple of years ago.

Jan Jordan (nee Lipman)

Transported to Van Diemen's Land for stealing a doeskin!

Hello Phil

I stumbled quite by accident on your webpage. I would have loved to attend your walk. Unfortunately I am in Hobart, Tasmania Australia !!  My Great Great Grandfather Joshua Simmons was born in Spitalfields in 1817, was a general dealer until he was convicted of stealing doeskin. He was tried at the Old Bailey and sentenced to transportation (Convict) arriving in Hobart in 1853.   His wife (Catherine nee Lewis) and children joined him in 1855. Joshua went on to be quite prosperous, owning several hotels in Hobart.  I have traced most of the Simmons ancestry, with them marrying into practically all the families in the area.  Joshua's father was Aaron Simmons B 1780, who was a wealthy businessman in Whitechapel, owning amongst other businesses the Black Lion Inn (at the time 99 Middlesex St), a bakery at 64 St Giles High Street and a hatters shop at 97 Middlesex Street. He was a privileged member of the Great Synagogue. When he died in 1834 he had set aside over two hundred pounds for his infant children, one of which was my GG Grandfather.  I hope your walk is well patronised, I wish you well.


Kate Kirk
Hobart, Tasmania
This is the walk referred to in Kate's letter:
Sunday 18th July 2010
Walk: Jewish Women of the East End
Philip Walker ( introduces you to Liberal Jews, less Liberal Jews, Zionists, Philanthropists, Socialists, the Great and the Good, the Downtrodden and the poor.  Meet them all as we discover Jewish women of the East End...and maybe a few of their menfolk...then join me afterwards for a curry in one of my favourite Brick Lane restaurants (cost not included!). Meet 10.30am Aldgate Tube. £9 (£7 Jeecs members)

London's oldest shop - Levy Brothers, Matzo bakers of Widegate Street, Spitalfields...see article

Dear Philip,

Levy Brothers, Matzo bakers - London's oldest shop, Widegate Street, next to White Rose CourtI came across your website whilst searching the net for my family connections and I discovered the page about Levy's the Matzo bakers, London's oldest shop (photo left). Wow!

(The boring bit now follows!) My great, great, great grandfather was Joseph Levy b 1799. He is the first of whom I have any record. (Do you know more?) His son Israel was born in 1827, one of their daughters, Rosetta Levy married Isaac Hyam Joel. These are my great grandparents. Issac Hyam Joel's father comes from the other very interesting side of my family.

He was Coleman Joel and his sister-in-law was Catherine Isaacs who's brothers were none other than Barney and Harry Barnato. Their nephews were Jack , Woolf , and Solomon Joel.  They were all fabulously rich

Barney was probably one of the world's richest men and Solly his nephew no doubt was eating the Levy brother's matzos that they shipped to the Cape in 1901! By, the way my Grandmother never saw a penny of the Joel's fortune.

I have researched my family tree and decided to write up all the notes I found into a little book. The book is NOT for publication as it contains a lot of personal family details that neither the family nor I wish to become public.

I would love to include your piece about London's oldest shop with the photos and I would therefore ask your permission to copy it into the book with the appropriate acknowledgment (and link).

I now live in France and I hope to be back in London in April and will definitely be visitin Widegate Street if only to have a beer in the pub next door.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Henry Barnett
Uzer, France

Jewish East End family history Jan 2010

Dear Phil

My family originated in Poland, and then lived in the East End from about the late 1800s to just before WW1. I am into my family history and am sending a bit about the Harrises in Princelet Street in case it is of any use for your web site. They used to live opposite the 'shul'.

Your web site is fantastic!

David Harris, Canada (but I'm a Brit, from Essex)

Louis (Lewis) Harris,
He was born in about 1840 in Poland/Russia (according to the 1871 census, where he was shown as a master tailor) and in 1881 was living with his wife Minnie (Mena) previously Weingart (whom he had married in the Great Synagogue, Dukes Place in 1869*) and son Israel (age 11, born 10 Osbourn Place, Whitechapel in 1870) at 10 Princes Street (now Princelet Street). Mena had also been born in Poland/Russia in about 1846.
3 other families were living in the same house:  a cigar maker, a commercial traveller, a furrier.

1893 Kelly's Post Office London Directory shows Lewis Harris, 9 Princes Street, Spitalfields (in this year the street was renamed as Princelet St.)

From the katubah:
The katubah names Louis as "Yehudah, who is called Leib,  son of Yisroel Tzvi who is called Hirsch" and Mena as "Mindal daughter of Reuben". It is entirely in Aramaic hebrew and dated 20th day of Adar 5629 (3 March 1869).
The groom at least has signed the bottom of the katubah in hebrew script
Leib = Lewis, Tzvi and Hirsch = Harris, Yisroel Tzvi = Israel Harris
The name Tzvi (or Zevi) means a stag in Hebrew, which in German is Hirsch, in English is Hart, but was often changed into Harris.
From death certificate:  Louis Harris
Fourth October 1896, 9 Princelet Street
Louis Harris, age 47 years, a tailor (master)
Informant  Geo. I. Harris, son, present at death, 9 Princelet Street, Spitalfields
registered 5 October 1896  (note: George Isidore Harris)
From newspaper cutting 1896:
HARRIS - On the 4th of October, at 9 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, LEWIS HARRIS, the beloved husband of Mina and father of Isidore (George) Harris. May his dear soul rest in peace. American and African papers please copy.
From East Ham Jewish cemetery records:
buried in West Ham cemetery, 5 October 1896
From gravestone, West Ham Jewish cemetery, grave B-10-13
In loving memory of Louis HarrisVisited and photographed in 1980 and 1987 by David Harris (gt grandson)
The gravestone of Louis is impressively large with an iron railing around the grave itself. Information on the gravestone states in Hebrew  "here lies Yehudah the son of Israel Tzvi who died Sunday 27th of Tishrei 1896" and in English "in loving memory of Louis Harris who departed this life 4th October 1896, 5657, aged 54 years;  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord;  deeply lamented by his sorrowing wife, son, relatives & friends.  May his soul rest in peace"  Below is inscribed "Loyal United Friends Friendly Society, Princes Street" as well as an inscription in Hebrew.

1897 Trade Directory:  Lewis Harris, tailor, 9 Princelet Street

From newspaper cutting 1913:
HARRIS  -  On the 9th of December, at the residence of her son, 118 Victoria Park Road, Mena widow of Louis Harris, late of 9 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, in her 67th year. Deeply mourned by her son, daughter-in-law, relatives and friends.

David Harris 2010  [email protected] -

Chicken soup with...Matzo balls
Dear Phil,
My mother's sister, Ethel Cragg, married my uncle Jack (John) Godfrey in the 1940's in London.  We are a Church of England family, and Uncle Jack was Jewish, although he did not practice his religion.  I was a country child from rural Lincolnshire with family roots in the village of Rippingale and the town of Grantham.  The most exciting and wonderful times for me as a child was when I took the train to London with my parents.  On Sundays Uncle Jack would take me down to Petticoat Lane.  While he was visiting with his friends in the market, I was able to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a life that was foreign and exotic to me.  I returned home extremely well fed on all the food, especially my favorites -  the pickled herring and matzo ball chicken soup.  They are wonderful memories.  Uncle Jack was an accomplished pianist and a tailor by trade.  During World War II he made warm winter coats for the children in the family by cutting down old coats worn out by the adults and making patterns for the kids.
I know that Uncle Jack's father's name was Jacob Gottfried who lived in Whitechapel, and that Uncle Jack had a wife before he married my aunt.
Can you advise how I can research the Gottfried/Godfrey family with so very little information to go on?
Thank you for any assistance you can provide.
Linda Sather
replies to [email protected] and I will forward

Caves dairy, Jubilee Street
Dear Phil,
I have come across your website. What a joy, to read recollections of people who remember the dairy in Jubilee Street, which was run by my ancestors - Cave's Dairy. I visited Jubilee Street for the first time yesterday and there are very few old original buildings left. I am really hoping that someone may have some photographs of the street, as it was. I am also very interested to know about the Jewish community that used the dairy, would it have been common practice for Jewish people to use a dairy run by gentiles?
If there is any way possible I would love this email to be passed to the people who left their recollections on the website.
Best wishes
replies to [email protected] and I will forward

Boxer Joe Conn
Dear Phil,
I found your website by chance and thought it was so interesting. I am actually trying to find out more about my Great Uncle Joseph Cohen. He became a professional boxer and was known by the name of Jo or Joe Conn or Cohn or Con….I'm afraid I'm not sure of the spelling. He was a young man during the 1920's - 40's when he was boxing professionally. I think he helped out at some of the boys boxing clubs in the East End. He lived around Bow. If you or anyone knows where I can get any more info about him, I'd be really grateful.
Many thanks
replies to [email protected] and I will forward

The Shaberman family
Dear Phil,
My name is Debbie Hunt and I have been tracing my Jewish family History.I have found that I am related to the Shaberman family who came over to England from Russia in about 1890 they had seven children one of them being my Grandmother Rebecca Shaberman who married my Grandfather Harry Barnett.They lived in Charlotte de Rothchilds Buildings and then after her marriage lived in Wentworth Buildings.I think my Grandfather may have been connected to M.Barnett and Sons the salmon curers of Frying Pan Ally and when he retired the business was taken over by his son Morris Barnett and his cousin Lewis.
If anyone has any information on either the Barnetts or the Shabermans it would be great fully received.
Many Thanks
Debbie Hunt
replies to [email protected] and I will forward

Stepney Jewish School and the East London Synagogue
I have just read Dr. Zeffertt’s article on the Jewish Scene until 1940.
Although I was not born until 1954, it brought back many happy memories.  My mother, Jane Perlmutter and my aunt Hannah Perlmutter, were at school there during the 1930’s. My mum always maintained that Kate Rose hated her.   My mother’s home was 61 Stepney Green, only yards from the school and in fact the far end of her garden had a party wall with the infant’s playground.  I am not sure if there was an infant’s playground during the period Dr. Zeffertt mentions.
Rear of East London Synagogue, Rectory Sq, StepneyRev Mendel Zeffertt on the right of picture standing next to the late Chief Rabbi Dr Israel BrodieMy parents, Jane and Terry Maxwell were married by Rev. Zeffertt in 1954 at the East London Synagogue and in my own living memory, recall her talking about Lou Staal and Mr Gluckstein (who I think lived further up the green)  My mother often told me of how there were often policemen on horseback to control the crowds yomtov time at the, “cathedral synagogue of the East End”.
School - I do remember Mr. Pond, the caretaker, as he was still there when I started school in 1959/60.  The headmaster then was Stanley Roslyn (?), known to us as Rozzo.  He always called me Maxine and forgot my name is Natalie.
My mother sang in the Choir at the synagogue as did I (often to the accompaniment of an organ at Sunday weddings).
Dr. Frohlich was our GP and bought me a little mezuzah to hang around my neck when he visited Israel in the 1960’s.  My grandmother often shopped at the Briskis and I remember their son Martin getting married.  Amiel’s was our local sweetshop and I knew the proprietor as “Uncle Ruby”. The other grocer shop, opposite Amiels was Barraffs.
Natalie Bogod (nee Maxwell)

An adopted grandma brings comfort in the Blitz

I read your pages on the East End and the Jewish Community with so much interest.  My mum was a dressmaker in almost every well known workshop in the 1930s in the East End. The workshops were like family, she told me (sadly she has passed now). They used to play loud music of the machinists’ choice as everyone worked away. During the war, they were more united than ever.

My mum qualified as a dressmaker at the age of 15 ½, having been a “learner” in an East End Jewish workshop. When war was declared she was very young, perhaps 16 or 17; she was a dressmaker; and life was precarious.  Her boss and friend, Alf, used to know that she was terrified when the bombing came. He was only about 21 himself and when the warning went off he would send her upstairs where his family lived. There she would cuddle his grandmother and they would go down to the shelter in the garden together.  The grandmother would call my mum “Bubbala” and she would call her, I believe, "babushka" The elderly lady would always cuddle my mum completely composedly and stroke her brow, and tell her that life would get better.

When my mum returned from work my grandfather would ask: "How was you today, child? It was really bad wasn’t it?”  “Oh yes, dad,” she used to say, remembering her cuddles, the stories her adopted grandma had told her, the cuddles again and the humour, and feel guilty. On one occasion “Grandma” said that her son Jossel was spoilt, and quite laid back and lazy. The next working day, my mum told her equally young and spirited peers in the workshop. Instead of going straight to their sewing machines, they flew up the stairs and bounced on the young man’s bed screaming: “Jossel! Wake up. Jossel!”  The young man, horrified, tried to regain his composure.

“Nanny says you are a lazy so and so! Get up!” Up he got, horrified, with “Grandma” laughing on the landing.

During the 60s and 70s when I grew up, if somebody sang My Yiddishe Momme (usually my aunt Flo, who had a magnificent voice) in the pub, it would reduce my mum to tears. My mum always remembered “the dear little lady, so old and so grey”, and that is the story of her adopted grandma. Her own mother had died when she was 12, so perhaps that was why she wanted "grandma’s” comfort so much.

Caves Dairy, Jubilee StreetCaves dairy, Jubilee Street - a correspondent writes

.....As far as getting milk was concerned, well we lived next door to Caves the Dairy. They had a small herd of cows at the back and we took our jugs to the front counter which opened on to the street. At Pesach time, they had a Rabbi at the back who did the necessary supervision and we had to go to the back of the yard which was in Charles street and get the milk which was kept separate from that which was sold at the front. Every now and again, they took the cows for some excercise up Jubilee Street. They also kept chickens at the back. so fresh eggs were always available. We were woken up by a combination of cock crowing, and cows mooing. What memories Philip Lachman has inspired

Jubilee Street memories - Caves dairy and more...

Jubilee Street, London E1I told a friend in  Brisbane, Australia about Cave's Dairy (in Jubilee Street), and she forwarded me your site.  I was born in Rutland Street which later changed its name to Ashfield Street.  We were two houses from the corner of Jubilee Street and I remember it well. 

On the right corner there was a greengrocer's called Isaacs.  On the opposite corner was a grocery shop called Davis.  Next to Isaacs were, if I remember rightly a few houses and then a sweetshop Shineholz - Mrs Shinholz was a very good friend to my mother.

There was a shop next to this which refilled accumulators for Wireless sets.  These accumulators had to be recharged or refilled, and I well remember as maybe an eight or nine year old carrying these two acid filled accumulators home.  How my parents let me carry them I will never know!  Had I dropped one, I would most probably have been splashed with acid.

Next to Davis's was a house which had a cobbler working in the 'front' room.  There may have been another few houses, but I remember Mrs Horowitz, another sweetshop.  She used to have her hair swept up and a black velvet ribbon round her neck.  I think there was a barber's shop behind the sweetshop.   Before this there was Miller's which was a shop selling all dairy foods.  I remember finding on the internet a picture of one of the milk carts with Miller's Dairy on the side.  This was in a hotel in (I think Los Vegas) and was filled with flowers.  How it had made its way there I will never know.  At the corner of Oxford Street, afterwards called Stepney Way was a baker.  I used to have to collect the cholent from there on  a Saturday.  On Thursday my mother used to prepare an enormous tin of 'kichels',  biscuits or cookies depending which side of the Atlantic one lives.  These were taken to the baker to be cooked as our gas oven was too small.

Further along Jubilee Street was Jubilee Street shul.  I remember on Simchat Torah parading around it with all the other children with a flag with an apple on the top and a lighted candle stuck in the apple. 

The whole shul could have caught fire, but nobody even thought of these hazards then.

On the opposite side of Jubilee street was Dempsey Street School.  It had a mixed infants department, and the senior part of the school specialised in children who had eye problems.  Next door to the school was a house and in the window with his back to it sat a scribe.  He had no artificial light, and sat there hunched over his work every daylight hour.  On the other side of the school  there was a block of flats and then houses and a few shops - one of which was a shoe shop, and then came Cave's Dairy.  My mother used to take myself and my sister there every day after school and buy us a glass of milk and a penny sponge cake.   

I could write much more, but think this is enough.  My family name was Epstein and my name was Shayndel.

I wonder if anyone remembers my grandparents Kayla and Michael Pelovski.  He was a Rabbi (I believe) a melamud (teacher) and a herbalist.  He was also an entrepeneur. Apparently he had a small shul in the house in Rutland Street, also a cheder, but for the High Holydays he used to rent the Pavilion Theatre and hold services there, and people bought seats.

I hope this reminiscence pleases someone and brings more memories to light.
J Perkin

Hessel Street Market - My dearest Hessel Street

Hessel Street 2008Around 65 years ago my mother used to take me to Hessel st market, as my grand mother had a shop there. She sold I think  ingredients for baking, and different kinds of little cakes and biscuits. I look back and I remember the other shops, some were wet fish stalls, and the fishmongers used to shout out what was for sale that day, and the prices, and the boxes of fowls waiting to be sold, and the noise they made, also, the little general shops with tin kettles and pans hanging up outside on vertical lines made of string, it was another world, when I tell my grandson about these things I am not sure if he believes me, and I wish I could take him back for a short while to show him what the east end  was really like, the wonderful atomosphere and the characters that were about at that time.  It seems so unreal now.  I don't know if you will get to read this Phil as you must be bombarded with other memories from people, which are so interesting to read.
All the best.
D Daren. 

Vine Court remembered

I was very interested to see the photos of Vine Court (a tiny turning off Whitechapel Road) on the website.

Former Vine Court Synagogue (Mahli)My grandfather and father owned C. Mead and Sons, the coffee roasters, at no 5 (now with the red Bittu sign on the front) and I used to work there in school and university holidays and do deliveries during the regular van driver's holidays. On Saturday mornings, it was common for someone from the synagogue to come in to the factory looking for a gentile to turn the lights on of off – something that seemed very strange to me as a young boy. I never went right inside, so it was nice to see the photos.

Rowton House, Fieldgate StreetThe “flophouse” visible behind was generally referred to as the Rowton House, and during the summer when their windows were open the inhabitants used to complain vociferously about the clouds of coffee-smelling smoke that used to blow across when a roast was coming to the critical stage – especially if it was a high “continental” roast. It seems hard to believe now that coffee was still being brought up from the docks by horse-drawn carts well into the 1960s. The drivers had to back up the Court, which was difficult for the horses on the cobbles, particularly if wet or icy. The carts used to carry several tons, with only a beautiful single massive dray horse.

Vine Court amalgamation plaque, Fieldgate Street synagogue

I also remember clearly the ironmongers on the corner of Vine Court, which I think was called Chasits. The shop was so full of everything under the sun that it was difficult to move, but the stock was amazing and it was incredible what old Mrs. Chasit could find (albeit not always with good humour!).

I have not been back there for 30 years or so, and have been promising myself a nostalgic trip for ages.

Niall Horn

Growing up in Stepney

I lived in Stepney, in Cephas Avenue, originally St Peters Road, adjacent to Charrington's brewery, from about 1926 until 1942. I now live in Las Vegas. My wife and I were married in Hendon Synagogue (very posh) in 1949 and migrated to the US in 1954. I am 86 years old. 

Growing up, Whitechapel, Mile End Road and Stepney were my centres of gravity. I attended Stepney Jewish School from about 1926 to 1936.  I passed the London Jewish Hospital, the Orthodox ‘shul’ and on to school, four times a day – and twice on Sundays to Hebrew classes.

Hyman Lipshitz (see photo left of front cover of Stepney Jewish School 1937 Purim Play) was our leading Hebrew teacher. Although all the teachers taught Hebrew, Lipshitz was more educated in Hebraic teachings. When he was not conducting Hebrew studies he was the Standard Two teacher. Miss Levine was my Standard One teacher, my first teacher at the school. I remember lying on a cot after a glass of warm milk for our afternoon nap.

I so clearly remember the blacksmith near the United Synagogue, which we attended intermittently with Redman Road Synagogue; the Majestic cinema where we would run to get in before 3 o'clock so that it would only cost 3d  – ‘thruppence’.  After 3.00 it was 4d. There were the Tom Mix cowboy films and horror films with Lon Chaney.

The Troxy; the Mile End Empire, where I saw Larry Adler as well as Borah Minevitch, the harmonica player, among so many other artists of the time: they are vivid in my memories. There was the Pavilion, the Jewish theatre in Whitechapel by Valance and New roads. I have a very vague remembrance of seeing The Dibuck there at the age of four. I fainted

And yes, I well remember October 4 1936, when Oswald Mosley tried to march through the East End. I was 14 and my brother 19. At Gardner's Corner, we were both in the melee. My brother was hit with a truncheon wielded by a policeman on horseback. A pleasant memory?  Not really. Just a memory.  But most other memories are pleasant and filled with nostalgia. Somehow, I wish I could remember with greater detail. Ah well!

Albert Glazerman, Las Vegas

Kiss me Goodnight Sergeant Major

Just picked up your web site on Jewish London and the area around Spitalfields which I read with great interest.

I write a monthly article for a nostalgia magazine about veteran songwriters of the 20s,30, 40s, and have recently researched a songwriter named Harry Leon. He wrote a thousand songs but you are most likely to know one of his most famous songs, Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major.
It may be of interest to you that Harry was born in Spitalfields in 1901, at 139 Lolesworth Buildings, Lolesworth Street. Sadly none of it exists any longer, so he can't have a plaque!  His real name was Aaron Sugarman, and his father, Abraham, was a cigarette maker.  Like Bud Flanagan, young Aaron went to the Jew's Free School in Bell Lane. When he left there he went to work at a hat factory and then joined the Merchant Navy. He began writing songs in 1930 when he left the sea, and his first success was Sally, which Gracie Fields adopted as her signature tune. He became rich, spent it all, went bankrupt, and died in  1968 in virtual poverty. So endeth the lesson.
Probably no interest to you at all - but I thought I'd write to you anyway.
Best regards, Brian Willey

and....more on Harry Leon:

Harry was living in a transport cafe in Kentish Town in 1966.  I worked in the cafe and we chatted a lot and he told me his life story.  He was very down and out and everyone knew him.  He played piano in local pubs for drinks.  He used to come down in the mornings when he heard me start work and often he would say put my tea and toast  'on the book', and I often let it go.  He told me lots of things.  He said he gad written for Gracie Fields and he said that if he had all the money that was owing to him he would be a rich man.  He also talked of his wife who had died.  I left the cafe when my baby was due to be born and I never heard any more of him, but I shall always remember him.  I'm glad he's not forgotten.

Regards, Mavis Steele

Adolph Cohen's the wigmakers, Whitechapel

Whitechapel Rd corner with Greatorex St, 1953,  Adolph Cohen's wigmakers are to the right of the Gas showroom Philip, here is a picture of the corner of Great Garden Street. You can see the groups of Garment workers and "Guv'nors" standing about.  Another piece of trivia for you is the hairdressers next to the Gas Company. It had [for a Jewish establishment in the 30's] the unfortunate name of Adolph Cohen. The link with the present is that the famous Vidal Sassoon was apprenticed there. It provided all the East End religious ladies, including my "Boobah" with their "Sheitels",

Jack White, Israel

Mohels and amulets at the London Hospital, Whitechapel, 1938. From Dr Harold Zvi Fenton, Jerusalem,

Rev N Halter's professional calling card/amulet.  Rev Halter was a mohelI was born 2:30 a.m. Monday morning 14th March 1938 - 11th Adar 2,  5963- and spent the next few days in the Marie Celeste ward of the London  Hospital, Whitechapel Road [with mother, of course!]. At the time, there was a mohel, the Rev N Halter, who lived in 3 Mullen House, 87 Nelson Street. He had the iniative of finding out which Jewish mothers gave birth at the hospital and visited them to wish them well and at the same time leave his visiting card.This "card" took the form of a special amulet, or "kamaya", which according to Kabbalistic teaching, was aimed to ward off 'Lilit' the evil female spirit who's aim is to harm newborn males as a revenge for Adam's rejection of her for Eve (midrashic sources)! Apparently he was welcomed by the Hospital authorities as a survivial expert for the new-born. The amulet was placed around the walls of the bed where mother and child were lying. Since the family on my mother's side were chassidic, this was appreciated and accepted as the norm. Thus I was protected at birth! I managed to keep 7 of these amulets, and have attached one of them for you to see (picture on left - double click to enlarge). It is at least an historical document! As it turned out, the "traditional mohel of the family" was Dr Bernard Homer, who was an optician by profession**, and so it was that my future was placed into his hands, although I was well-protected for the first week of my existence by Rev Halters amulets-kamayot!

My family are originally Belze and Gur-my "Sundak"-or "godfather" at my circumcision was Rabbi Pinchas Weitzman,[an uncle by marriage],whose son-in-law, Mr I.M. Cymerman, is, today, one of the leaders of the British Aggudah and whose father was a great friend and neighbour of Rabbi Szpetsman [I am sure the spelling is wrong] of the Nelson Street Synagogue.  He practised for many years in the East-End, and lived to a ripe old age.Can anyone add their memories of him?

Bud Flanagan (a.k.a. Reuben Weintrob!) of Hanbury Street and elsewhere - mis-adventures with a bottle of sherry!

Bud Flanagan (Reuben Weintrob) was born at 12 Hanbury Street above Rosa's cafeReuben Weintrop - aka: Bud FlanaganI read your website with great interest as my late grandmother Kate Musaphia (nee Martin) always told me she lived next door to Reuben Weintrob. Her father was a Fish & Chip shop owner. I believe the shop was called Johnny Martin's and was in the Mile End Road. Years ago I used to meet Bud Flanagan at lunchtime in Isows restaurant, Brewer Street, Soho and he remembered my grandmother well from when they were kids.  He told me that his parents did so many midnight flits to avoid the rent man that they could put blue plaques up at about 45 houses round the East End! I've many stories of him & the Crazy Gang, but one of the best happened up North. The Gang were staying at a boarding house & had a bottle of sherry in the room. They suddenly noticed it was going down whilst they were out. So Bud decided to top it up with Urine- Each Day it went down a little and each day one of the gang topped it up. They used to  laugh about it until on the last day as they were leaving the Landlady  said " I hope you don't mind but I used your sherry each night to enhance your trifle.....!"

Keep up the tradition - We must not forget our roots.   Michael Davey

Getting facts about Jews at age 13, 1938 in the USA - a classroom debate.  From Paul M, London

When I told Paul I was putting his Jewish moment on the site he wrote me the following note:

'Thanks Philip, this story has a special meaning for me.  As a child I was confused and proud at the same time that my grandfather, Paul M, had fought for the German Kaiser in the World War and had received an Iron Cross from the Nazi government in 1935, five years before he was hauled off to Auschwitz.'

Paul's introduction to his story is below:

My mother-in-law, Juliana S, was clearing out her house in Los Angeles recently to get ready to move to London, when she found a school report she had written as a child in the USA.   It is dated January 10, 1938 and tells the story of how a 13-year-old girl in New York chose to find out the truth about what her classmates said about Jews in a school debate.  Her story - as written in 1938 - is below:

A few weeks ago, during Home Room Club period, we had a debate. The topic was, “Should the quota be raised for German Jews in this country?”  This debate was continued in our English class.  Those favouring the negative said that it is the fault of the Jews that they are being persecuted; according to these speakers most of the Jews are “cowardly and money grabbers”.  One boy, of German parentage, asserted that German Jews did not fight for Germany during the World War. “They,” he said, “stayed at home, and when the poor German soldiers came back from war, they found their jobs taken over by the Jews.”  Another speaker said, “Hitler is persecuting the Jews to get revenge for the sufferings they caused the German people.”  Those in favour of the affirmative denied, as untrue, the above allegations, both as to the characteristics assigned to “most Jews” and their non-participation in the War.

The debate became very heated; however neither side was able to present definite facts and figures in support of its statements.  It was finally suggested that two of the debaters write to The New York Times, asking if they could give any information as to how many German Jews fought in the German army during the World War (World War One, 1914 - 1918)

The New York Times replied by a letter saying that they could not supply the information, and advised trying the Main Branch of the New York Public Library.  Following this advice, my friend and I went to the Library. To our dismay we found that students could not use the Card Catalogue Room. We finally hit upon the idea of going to the Jewish Reference Room. The librarian gave us a book in which we have found the following information based upon the German official statistical publications:

The grave of Max Wallenberg, died fighting for Germany 22.9.18, Neuville St Vaast, Western Front, Northern France“Of the half a million Jews living in German at the time of the War, one hundred thousand served (not counting Austria “Eighty thousand fought at the front. 10% (10,000) of those were volunteers.  At least twelve thousand Jews gave their lives for Der Vaterland.  About thirty-five thousand Jews were decorated for bravery.  Twenty three thousand were promoted to non-commissioned ranks and over two thousand, not counting Medical Officers, were commissioned.  One hundred sixty-five Jewish fliers saw actual service at the front. Thirty of these were killed.” 

It is known that at the beginning of World War half million Jews lived in Germany. Of this number one hundred thousand, which is 20%of the entire German Jewish population, served in the army. Thousands were killed. This presents the best answer to the main argument of those who during the debate supports the anti-Semitic point of view obviously inspired by the German Nazi Government propaganda in this country.  (written January 1938)

Reunion and Reconciliation.  From Ruth E, London

Ruth of A Taylor & Son, Westminster

Shortly after my father’s Russian parents – Abraham and Rebecca Schneider - came to England along with my father, two other brothers and a sister called Mille, came the outbreak of the 1914 -1918 war. The Schneiders  had a shop in Westminster, and into the shop one day came this fine looking Australian soldier, bush hat and all.  That was “IT” for Mille, who fell for him.  They eloped and went back to Australia and her father sat Shiva for her and no one was allowed to mention her again.  Around 20 years ago (1985), into that same shop in Westminster there came an Australian man. He said to my husband Brian that he had come to London to search for his maternal relations as his mother had recently passed away and he had found when looking through her papers that she was not only Russian by birth, but was Jewish - which was all news to him.  He said he had been to every site he could think of that could help him in his search and all he knew from the paperwork was that his maternal grandparents had a shop, somewhere in London, so he was looking for anything that said Schneider and he had been told that Schneider translated to Taylor, and the shop he then stood in was A. Taylor & Son – Abraham Taylor (Schneider). My husband Brian listened in silence, walked to the telephone whilst the man stared at him, dialled my number and said to the man and to me, “Here, take the telephone and speak to your cousin”.  And so it was, and we have been in touch ever since and it is a lovely relationship, albeit across thousands of miles and telephone wires.  Roger, incidentally, had married a Jewish girl and she had been put through all the angst of marrying out, but she had not had she?

(A Taylor & Son Tobacconists was located in Victoria Street, Westminster.  The business was sold in the mid 1990's)

Cows and Shabbat Cholant in Jubilee Street in the 1930's.  From Jack in Israel

Jack White from Israel - still teaching, seen here with one of his pupils.....Cholant was taken to the bakery to be cooked. As the cholant had to be slow cooked all night, we could not afford to keep the gas stove going for so many hours. Most Jewish bakers did not bake on Friday nights, and it did not pay them them to turn their ovens off and then have to re-light. So there was a symbiotic arrangement. We took our cholant and they got an additional income. Of course, our pots were taken in before Shabbat and had a cloakroom ticket pasted on the brown paper which was tied down over the lid (Fore-runner of the pressure cooker?). We paid a couple of pence and collected our lunch on the way home from Shul, having put our ticket and a tea-towel in our talit bag. In this way, we could carry our lunch home without burning our hands.

As far as getting milk was concerned, well we lived next door to Caves the Dairy. They had a small herd of cows at the back and we took our jugs to the front counter which opened on to the street. At Pesach time, they had a Rabbi at the back who did the necessary supervision and we hd to go to the back of the yard which was in Charles street and get the milk which was kept separate from that which was sold at the front. Every now and again, they took the cows for some exercise up Jubilee Street. They also kept chickens at the back. so fresh eggs were always available. We were woken up by a combination of cock crowing, and cows mooing....

Jewish Bookshops, tunnels to the Thames and the 1948 Israeli War of Independence.  From Harold in Israel,

A prominent and dear memory I have from the 1940's is of Mr Cailingold's Jewish book store at the beginning of Old Montague Street where my family had their butcher shop. He was the main supplier of religious works, slightly bigger than Mazin's Book Shop further towards Whitechapel Road.  Mr. Cailingold's daughter, Esther, was a heroine of Israel's War of Independence in 1948.  She was mortally wounded in the Old City of Jerusalem and is buried on Mount Herzl, about 15 minutes walk away from my home. Her life story has been published in English by her brother, Asher, and is called "An Unlikely Heroine". She also mentioned in the book "O Jerusalem" co-authored by Randolph Churchill....and reported as dying in the arms of one of her Haganah defence force's comrades, "a red bearded giant of a man"-who is today's Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Rabbi Sher Yashuv Cohen! (2005)

Tilbury Docks was the communal shelter during blitz air-raids and we lived for a short while there. I recall the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother's and the Duke and Duchess of Kent's visits to the Tilbury shelter; I think they occurred in 1941 (I was three years old then!) We all slept in double-tiered bunks under large natural arches. There were very few partitions between us all. During the Blitz, we used to make the long journey from Arbour Square to the shelter by running the length of Commercial Road, It was shortly after this that the East End branch of London County Council (later Tower Hamlets Borough Council) erected corrugated iron shelters, that looked like dog-kennels, half underground in every-one's back garden. For this they dug deep holes. There are many stories coming back to me from that time. When they dug the pit in our garden at no. 56 Arbour Square, for installing the Anderson shelter (as those corrugated iron "kennels' were called, a worker suddenly disappeared! They had dug a pit which was above a roof of a large brown-tiled room and the roof had given away. I remember peering down into the depths which were lit up by the daylight which for the first time penetrated the mysterious gloom. The workers heard the voice of their colleague and went down a ladder to him. They were amazed to find a series of rooms and tunnels, all tiled, leading from our area towards Shadwell Park and the River Thames where there were docks and ware-houses! Our garden was sealed off and the whole lot filled in. Various theories were offered about this underground series of rooms and passage-ways but we were told "to forget about it".......This is the first time I have put this into print for all to see and know- so Philip-you are welcome to the "Scoop"!  We heard, after some research in later years, that the tunnels were built by smugglers and "pirates" who used the river routes, docking facilities nearby etc. they could be used for hiding those wanted by the law or as refuges for escaped prisoners.....the Tower of London ain't far away..... the eerie thing is, that they are still intact, clean as a whistle as far as we know and waiting to be revealed!!!!

One thing I learned in the air raid shelters in Tilbury Docks which I still use for my grandchildren's' amusement  today (and indeed for my own, too!) was how to make paper aeroplanes and darts capable of long, high flight power and which could loop the loop! We kids could not go out to play of course and this was the most popular past-time. This was taught to us by elder boys including one fellow who was a leader of the Habbonim youth group, which had their headquarters in Mile End Rd. opposite the Guinness Brewery.  

Remembering Alf's Hairdressing saloon in Berner's St (now Henriques st) From Harold in Israel

There is lot of information generally regarding the Oxford and St Georges club in your wonderful East-End of London site. On the same side of the street  (Berner's St. wasn't it?) just before the club was a barber shop opened in the early 1950's. This was called "Alf's Hairdressing Saloon": The proprietor was Alf Ross, an ex-RAF veteran. He was my aunt's husband, a very fine and devoted man. My aunt, Lilly, was a Finklestein and my father's sister,and lives in Hackney. Their children, my first cousins, are Martin and Ian. When my Uncle Alf opened the shop, I was about 15 years old, and he, knowing my love of art, asked me to paint his first sign in the window which I did in glowing blue and red lettering on white cartridge paper: this made me very proud! I still have a portion of that sign when he replaced it with a permanent professional job! Our whole family from the East End was evacuated early during the war to Market Harborough (but therein lies another amazing saga!)

If any one remembers  Alf Ross (previously Rosenberg) and the shop, I would very much like to know, as well as news of the family I mentioned above, Lilly, Martin and Ian, since we lost contact with each other about 28 years ago!  

(Alf's parents were killed when a V2 destroyed their home (in Hackney or Stoke Newington, I do remember because I was about 4 years old then))

Best wishes

Harold Fenton "nee' Finklestein

If you wish to reply to Harold please mail me direct and I will forward your letter - Philip

From Prosperity to Posterity – lessons from South India’s Jews.  From Paul M in London

In the windows are a Hindu family's Swastika symbol next to a Jewish family's Star of David symbolIn most houses on Synagogue Lane in Cochin, where India’s oldest synagogue stands next to the Maharajah’s palace, one can still see the Star of David in windows next to the Hindu holy Swastika signs of non-Jewish neighbours.

Inside the Pardesi Synagogue, Synagogue LaneOn a recent holiday to South India, I found this jarring juxtaposition – the Hindu religious symbol as hijacked by Hitler – but one relic of a remarkable story of Jews who settled in South India after the burning of the Second Temple in 70CE and thrived under special protection of the Hindu Rajas to the present.

Inside the Pardesi Synagogue, Synagogue LaneThe Pardesi synagogue in synagogue Lane Cochin was built in 1568.  Its chandeliers and two gold bimahs look down upon a floor of blue and white porcelain tiles imported from China in the 18th century. A series of paintings outside the sanctuary traces the special history with great affection for their royal protectors.

Sarah Cohen of the Cochin community with Paul M of South LondonDespite their extraordinary status, the once vibrant community of thousands is now down to 14 surviving Jews, including Sarah Cohen, who knits kippot for her little shop in Jew Town. The community that once numbered 2,500 seems sadly headed to posterity from prosperity.

Unlike many European countries where Jews were uprooted, forced into ghettos, denied business or legal rights, from 379CE, special protections for India’s Jews were enshrined by Maharajas on copper plates, which guaranteed in perpetuity the Jews’ rights to practise their own religion, maintain their own schools, provide commerce, trade and legal advice to the royal families of Cochin.

Picture commemorating the Maharajah of Travancore presenting a gold crown for a Torah scroll belonging to the Community in 1805In 1949, even as the last Maharajah Rama Varma, thanked Cochin's Jews for their cooperation, most of the special community there had already decided to emigrate to Israel. They rarely intermarried or integrated into the Hindu society. Ironically, now, millions of Indian Hindus have converted to Christianity as a means of practicing fervent religion outside the Hindu cast system, but this has not happened to the Jewish community of Cochin, now tiny and dwindling.

Our Christian guide was both puzzled and saddened as she explained the irony. “Jews were given everything by the Royal family, yet they never really integrated into Indian society, and Indians rarely married into Jewish families. So when Israel was founded after the (Second World) War, they were enthusiastic about going to this great new place, and they all left.”

Memories of South London Jewish School, Heygate Street, London SE17.  From Mannie S

Heygate St, Walworth, London SE17 - the red square marks the location of South London Jewish School & Borough Synagogue on my 1922 London MapSouth London Jewish School was at Heygate St.Walworth, London SE17 and almost next door to the old Borough Synagogue which was later relocated in a new building nearby in Wansey St.  I started school there soon after my third birthday in 1926 following in the footsteps of my mother and grandmother so you can see that the school had a long tradition going back to the nineteenth century. The Headmaster in my time was Mr Bernberg followed by Mr Taylor. The teachers names I remember are Miss Kate, Miss Amelia and another sister whose surnames were Aarons. Mr Klienman, Mr Cohen and Miss Goldstein. The caretakers who lived at the school were Mr and Mrs Moore - a lovely couple who used to make us tea and buttered toast lunchtime.

Jews Temporary Shelter, orginally in 84 Leman StreetMemories of Jews Temporary shelter in Mansell Street, London E.  From Rita R, London

I came across your website which I found fascinating. I was surprised not to find any mention at all of the Jews' Temporary Shelter in Mansell Street ( it's not a Shul, but...). My parents and I arrived in London on 26/2/1939 from Germany and were put up in the Shelter for a couple of weeks. It was full of refugees like us, all depressed and despairing and it was not a place of comfort! We were put up in dormitories, and this 12-year old just wanted to go home.  We were interned on the Isle of Man in 1940 until 1942 and guess where we were sent until we could find somewhere to live? Yes, the Shelter.In retrospect - and some 66 years later - I have to say thanks to whoever put us there in the first place. That's how we were saved.

Beaumont Club (Stepney Jewish Girls Club), Beaumont Grove, from Ken Blake





I came across your website with interest. A few points of my own:
  1. I see reference to the Beaumont Girls Club, which was near Stepney Green Station. In fact it was a mixed youth club in the 60's which I attended and have fond memories of, including performing in the Drama Club version of Billy Liar 1963 and You Can't take it With You 1964
  2. There was also an operatic group which performed Call Me Madam and The White Horse Inn in the same period at the Poplar Civic Theatre
  3. I also went on the club holidays in Folkestone in 1964 and 1965. Does anyone have anyone else recall?
  4. I went to the Public Baths near Stepney Green Station in the early 60's
  5. I also recall Paul For Music outside Whitechapel Station
Do you or anyone have recollection of the above, memories, photo's, info?
I would very much like to hear.
Kind regards,
Ken Blake
[email protected]

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