The Old Jewish East End

In 1881 Czar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated by revolutionaries.  The Russian government’s response was to launch an anti-Semitic onslaught against its Jewish subjects.  Murderous attacks, known as pogroms, were launched against centres of Jewish population. Restrictions on employment and residence were an additional part of this campaign.  The result was that between 1881 and 1914 an estimated 3 million Jews fled to the West.  The majority went to the US, but approximately 100,000 settled in the UK, many of them in the East End of London.  Today most of their descendants have moved away and only a few elderly Jewish people remain.  The late 19th and early 20th century photographs in the first of the galleries below come from a remarkable photo archive acquired by JEECs and record aspects of a largely vanished Jewish East End.

The following two galleries showcase part of the vast picture collection of the late Philip Walker, who died in 2014. You can see more of his pictures at,  the amazing website he created and which remains as a memorial to him.

Journey through a Vanished Shtetl

  • East End shopping A Jewish chemists in Aldgate
  • Apologies from Herzl A 1901 letter from Theodore Herzl, founder of Zionism, to Mrs Maurburger of 39 Fashion Street, apologising for not being able to attend a meeting
  • An East End philanthropist Lord (Nathan Myer) Rothschild, banker and philanthropist
  • An opponent of Jewish immigration Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue and opponent of east European immigration to the UK
  • The King's Own Schneiders Royal Fusiliers tailoring for the War effort. These tailors refered to themselves as 'The King's Own Schneiders'. Schneider is Yiddish for tailor.
  • Boots for sale A print of a Jewish secondhand boot seller in an East End bazaar. Was this a forerunner of Petticoat Lane?
  • Family portrait Abraham Cassel with his parents
  • Posing for the camera Moshe Kramer, an elderly Jewish immigrant, posing as a farmer in an East End photographic studio
  • The Royal Jewsiliers 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, raised from East London Jews in World War One. They called themselves 'The Royal Jewsiliers'.
  • Menu of delights Advertisement for J Bonn, cook and confectioner, 2 Wentworth Street, London E1
  • A family portrait Cicely Marie with her grandson
  • The Jewish World The 1899 front cover of The Jewish World celebrating the inauguration of the English Zionist Federation. Sir Francis Montefiore is in the chair.
  • Jewish tailors at war Royal Fusiliers tailoring for the War effort. These tailors refered to themselves as 'The King's own Schneiders'. Schneider is Yiddish for tailor.
  • Somewhere to relax The women’s sitting room in an East End Jewish institution
  • Pupils and teacher The Reverend Norman Halter, chazzan, mohel and minister of Cannon Street Road synagogue, photographed with pupils
  • Posing for the photographer Morris Bilson, posing in an East End photographic studio. Perhaps he had received assistance from the Jewish Board of Guardians?
  • A philanthropist 1908 sketch of Leonard Lionel Cohen, banker, philanthropist and president of the Jewish Board of Guardians
  • Zionist meeting Saturday 11th July 1915: notice of a special meeting for 'Zionists only' organised by the Association of East London Zionists, 4 Fulbourne Street.
  • East End entertainers Two Jewish comedians. The one on the left is Max Bacon, music hall artist and drummer with Ambrose and his orchestra.
  • Music hall star Music hall artist Harry Claff, son of the Reverend Moses Claff. Harry Claff’s stage name was ‘The White Knight’. He died in 1943 aged 62.
  • Celebrating a new theatre Front page of The Jewish World 2nd May 1902 celebrating the opening of a Yiddish theatre in the East End
  • A trip to the seaside An outing to Margate
  • Party frocks A group of East End girls dressed up for their Purim party
  • Formality at the Friendly Society Executive of the Workers Circle Friendly Society, 136 Brick Lane, Spitalfields
  • The East End at work Interior of Lichtenstein’s carpentry workshop
  • Rudolf Rocker East End Anarchist leader and German exile Rudolf Rocker with his wife Millie Witkop and comrades
  • Socialist pamphlet Front page of the Hebrew Socialist Union pamphlet 1876
  • A leading Socialist Lithuanian born Aaron Lieberman, resident of Gun Street and founder of the Hebrew Socialist Union
  • The East End at work A posed photo in a Jewish East End tailoring workshop
  • The East End at work The ‘Sweating Song’, which referred to working conditions in tailoring workshops, many of them Jewish owned and staffed
  • East End shopping David Cohen's closing down sale
  • East End shopping I Silkoff, General Store, Aldgate

East End synagogues

  • Vine Court Synagogue The former Vine Court Synagogue is half a mile east of Aldgate East Station, and worth the walk. Vine Court is a tiny turning off Whitechapel Road. Walk into a cobbled alleyway under an arch and there on your left hand side is 'Malhi House', formerly Vine Court Synagogue. The dome in the distance is the crumbling roof of the old flop house next to the East London Mosque. Step back 100 years when you step into Vine Court. The synagogue combined with Fieldgate Street Synagogue in 1965,
  • Vine Court Synagogue Plaque at Fieldgate Street Synagogue marking the amalgamation with Vine Court Synagogue
  • Heneage Street Synagogue The former Heneage Street Synagogue, which closed in 1972
  • Nelson Street synagogue Foundation stone of the East London Central Synagogue in Nelson Street, dating from 1923
  • Congregation of Jacob Synagogue The Congregation of Jacob Synagogue (Kehillas Ya'akov) at 2, Commercial Road, London E1 2PS, was founded in 1903.
  • Congregation of Jacob Synagogue The Congregation of Jacob Synagogue in Ciommercial Road
  • The Congregation of Jacob Synagogue The ark of the Congregation of Jacob Synagogue
  • Bevis Marks Synagogue The imposing gateway to Bevis Marks from the street
  • Bevis Marks The entrance to Bevis Marks Synagogue
  • Bevis Marks Synagogue Inside Britain's oldest synagogue, Bevis Marks
  • Bethnal Green Great Synagogue Bookplate from a Bethnal Green Great Synagogue siddur (prayer book)
  • Commercial Road Great Synagogue Rabbi Shlomo Halstuck enjoys the music of the boys choir at Commercial Road Great Synagogue.
  • Commercial Road Great Synagogue Rabbi Shlomo Halstuck at the Commercial Road Great Synagogue
  • Heneage Street synagogue The former Heneage Street synagogue, closed in 1972
  • Philpot Street synagogue Inside Philpot Street synagogue in 1923
  • Philpot Street synagogue Philpot Street Ketubah (marriage certificate)
  • Princelet Street synagogue 19 Princelet Street , 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. The synagogue was built over what would have been the back garden.
  • Princelet Street Interior of Princelet Street synagogue: view from the upstairs ladies' gallery
  • Princelet Street Inside Princelet Street synagogue
  • Princelet Street The former Princelet Street synagogue photographed in 2006
  • Nelson Street synagogue The East London Central Synagogue at Nelson Street is a Sphardish (not Sephardic) synagogue.
  • Nelson Street synagogue Inside the East London Central Synagogue
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue This festival prayer book (machzor) – this is the inside cover – in Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue was printed in Warsaw in 1888.
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue Fieldgate Street's foundation stone from 1899
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue Inside Fieldgate Street
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue One of the longest surviving of the East End synagogues, Fieldgate Street closed in 2013.
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue Inside Fieldgate Street
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue Inside Fieldgate Street.
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue The interior of this historic building, which closed as a synagogue in 2013.
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue: parading the Torah Scrolls (early 1950s)
  • Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue Fieldgate Street wedding from the 1950s
  • Beaumont Grove The St George's Settlement synagogue at the Bernhard Baron Settlement

Scenes from the East End

  • Drinking fountain Drinking fountain outside St Botolph's church, Aldgate, dedicated to Frederic David Mocatta (1828-1905), bullion broker and philanthropist. He was a member of a Sephardi banking dynasty.
  • Wall plaque Wall plaque opposite the soup kitchen in Brune Street commemorating those who have passed through the East End
  • Stepney Jewish School Stepney Jewish School in 2007
  • Stepney Jewish School Stepney Jewish School Purim Play of January 1937
  • Stepney Jewish School Stepney Jewish School: a 1938 class photo
  • Robert Montefiore School Robert Montefiore School
  • Aldgate sign The sign above Albert's, Aldgate, marking the former offices of a Yiddish newspaper. JEECS has adopted it as its emblem.
  • Stepney Green Dwellings Stepney Green Dwellings, erected by Lord Rothschild's 4 per cent Industrial Dwelling Company in the late 19th century
  • Sidney Street The Lodzer Café at 97 Sidney Street, directly opposite the site of the siege at 100 Sidney Street. It was known as the Lodzer Café because the owner came from Lodz in Poland.
  • ArbourSquare The Raine’s Foundation School in Arbour Square
  • East End children, 1917 The little girl on the right is 4-year old Leah Lachman, born in 1913, with her sister on the left and baby brother in the arms of a midwife. Their proud mother Rachel stands behind. Tragedy was to follow; a year later Rachel would be dead, victim of a flu epidemic. Brought up in poverty in Whitechapel, Leah subsequently became Leah Walker and lived to the age of 86. Her grandson, Jonathan, designed this website.
  • Jubilee Street Caves Dairy in Jubilee Street
  • Jewish Board of Guardians Plaque marking the site of the Jewish Board of Guardians, 125-129 Middlesex Street
  • Jews Temporary Shelter The Jews Temporary Shelter in Leman Street provided a place to stay for penniless immigrants.
  • Hessell Street Hessell Street, site of a famous market
  • Jackie Brafman "You've heard of Christian Dior, well I'm the Yiddisher Dior." The quote is from the film A Kid for Two Farthings, based on the Wolf Mankowitz novel. But it seems apt for Jackie Brafman, Wentworth Street trader
  • Friend and Co The former butchers shop of Friend and Co, 40 Wentworth Street. Note the orignal blue and white tiles, to the left, sticking out beyond the modern frontage
  • Goides bakers The former premises of Goides a famous East End bakers and caterer, in Wentworth Street
  • Grodzinski's Bakery Grodzinski's Bakery, which adjoined Fieldgate Street Synagogue. Chaim Grodzinski, a founder of Grodzinski's, was vice president of Redmans Road Talmud Torah.
  • Christian Street Talmud Torah Christian Street Talmud Torah (the red building)
  • Bud Flanagan Bud Flanagan (a.k.a. Reuben Weintrob) of Hanbury Street and elsewhere
  • Brady Street Ashkenazi Cemetery The Brady Street Ashkenazi Cemetery, Whitechapel, London E1. Closed since 1858

Latest news

  • JEECS News Update March 2020

    Isaac Rosenberg bust JEECS now has sufficient money to commission the above bust as a memorial to the great East End war poet and artist, but finding a site has been surprisingly difficult. Read More
  • Nelson Street ceiling collapse is a major blow

      The ceiling collapse at the East London Central Synagogue in Nelson Street on January 10 is a big blow to the East End's Jewish legacy. Read More
  • Osborn Street memories sought

    I was wondering if anyone could help me. I am looking for information on what the East End of London, mainly Whitechapel or Osborn Street, was like from 1900 to about 1969 and what is it like today. Read More
  • What do you know about beigels?

    Can you help? From JEECS chairman Clive Bettington.   1: Beigels A British company with American finance is making a film about the   international history of beigels. The company has been filming all over the world – Israel, Canada, the US etc – and has come to me for more information. It also wants me to organise a film premiere in the East End. Read More
  • I remember, I remember

    Among my most powerful memories of living in Petticoat Lane are the smells. I make my own bread and when I smell baking I’m taken back to our cold water tenement in Wentworth Dwellings. Read More
  • Hoping for a connection

    Back in 2013 our magazine The Cable published a fascinating article by Ivan Koop Kuper about his maternal family's East End origins in Whitechapel. Read More
  • In search of a better life

    IVAN KOOP KUPER takes a personal journey through his mother’s East End from his home in Houston, Texas.    The average American’s only exposure to London’s East End, if any, is typically through the BBC television series EastEnders, syndicated to the US to be shown by PBS. This long-running British soap opera depicts the offbeat characters who live in the fictional neighbourhood Read More
  • Minnie Lansbury: one of the most remarkable women to emerge from the East End

    A gleaming green and gold clock on the side of Electric House in Bow Road forms a fine tribute to Minnie Lansbury, one of the most remarkable women to emerge from the East End, whose life and achievements are the subject of a recent book from Five Leaves Publications. It was a life cut tragically short at the age of Read More
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