It will soon be time for one of the East End’s most spectacular events, the Great Yiddish parade, and you are all invited.

The date is Sunday November 19, when East End streets will echo with the sound of songs once sung there and forgotten for more than a century, as a marching band with singers and klezmer musicians bring Yiddish Victorian songs of protest back to the London of today.

The parade, part of the Being Human festival, is organised by Dr Nadia Valman, Reader in English Literature and historian of east London at Queen Mary University of London, and Yiddish historian and JEECS member Dr Vivi Lachs.

The band and singers will march along Whitechapel Road from Goulston Street to the General Booth statue, Whitechapel, setting off at 11.00 and finishing around 12.30.

“The Parade takes us back to 1889, a moment when east London was gripped with strike fever. The recession had hit hard, unemployment was high, and casualised labour and miserable working conditions were causing chronic poverty and ill health. But a new spirit of working-class defiance was rising,” says Dr Valman.

The previous year, the women of Bryant and Mays’ match factory in Bow had launched a strike demanding better conditions of employment, and their success had galvanised other trades to unite and harness the power of collective action. The Great Dock Strike was about to erupt.

In this promising political climate the East End’s sizeable Jewish immigrant population, most of them tailors employed on low wages, staged their first public protest.

“On a Saturday morning in March, a large crowd, accompanied by banners and a brass band, marched to the Great Synagogue in Aldgate and from there to Mile End Waste in Whitechapel, ‘to show the world our plight and that we will no longer be slaves’, as they put it” says Dr Valman.

The Great Yiddish Parade will recreate the Whitechapel march, using song and oratory from 1889 to evoke the fervour of political protest in the Victorian East End.

“The songs were sung in Yiddish because that was the everyday language of Jewish immigrants in Victorian London,” says Vivi, who rediscovered the songs when researching for her doctorate and established the Great Yiddish Parade with musicologist Dr Sarha Moore in 2015.

“They appeal to Jewish workers to join together with English workers to fight for better working conditions for all. Singing, chanting and marching together are very effective ways of fostering solidarity and political optimism.”

Dr Valman says Victorian protest has some surprising resonances with concerns of today. “In late 19th-century east London, campaigners and activists were questioning why so many workers were employed as casual labour. Others called on middle-class consumers to think about who made their clothes, and under what conditions.”

As part of the project, Nadia and Vivi have been working with three east London schools to produce banners and new verses to Victorian songs reflecting their own messages of protest.

Everyone is welcome to join in the Parade, but if you want to march registration is recommended. Assemble at 10.30 at the corner of Goulston Street and Whitechapel High Street, No knowledge of Yiddish or proficiency in singing is needed. Song sheets will be provided. You can find out more here.



Latest news

  • 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
  • Stepney Synagogue book

    People have been asking us about the top picture on our Facebook page (JEECS Facebook). It is the East London Synagogue in Rectory Square, Stepney Green, long closed and now turned into flats, some of which retain features of the synagogue.. The picture (see above) dates from August 1948 The synagogue’s fascinating history has been told by Marc Michaels in Read More
  • Harking back through the centuries

    News that a change of use application to turn the historic Whitechapel Bell Foundry into a boutique hotel has been submitted to Tower Hamlets Council has prompted us to resurrect this interesting short article by the late Philip Walker z"l, revealing a mysterious Jewish link, from our magazine The Cable, originally published in 2013. To find out more about the plans for Read More
  • Newsletter: January 2019.

        From Clive Bettington, JEECS chairman   1. Isaac Rosenberg Statue I continue working on the above project as I want to ensure that the statue commemorating Rosenberg, the acclaimed East End artist and poet who is recognised as one of the finest poets of the Great War, is erected this year. JEECS has to continue until the project Read More
  • Nelson Street on Wikipedia

    The beautiful East London Centre Synagogue in Nelson Street (30-40 Nelson Street, E1 2DS) now features on Wikipedia, with an entry that draws in part from an article in JEECS magazine, The Cable. Read More
  • JEECS Newsletter August 2018

    From Clive Bettington, JEECS chairman        1. Email address change Clive Bettington’s new email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Please change your contacts lists if necessary. The previous email addresses no longer function. Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

For the old Jeecs site, visit