Today, the thriving metropolis of London sees a generous scattering of synagogues and Jewish cultural centers throughout its myriad boroughs. None however has seen the proliferation of Jewish daily life like in London’s East End.
Owing to economic hardship and ever-frequent Russian pogroms, the period between the years 1881 - 1914 saw a massive influx (over two million) of predominately Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews into the eastern boroughs of the English capital. Concentrated around the Spitalfields parish area in London’s East, the burgeoning Jewish community rapidly established itself in a tight-knit array of schuls, yeshive, soup kitchens, Yiddish theaters and local kosher shops. By 1900, Jews accounted for 95% of the East End’s Wentworth Street residents.
Modern-day London East End continues in its multi-cultural vibe with a large Bengali community with previous Jewish generations having since moved on. Despite this, the area around Spitalfields leaves behind a wealth of Jewish heritage hidden in the multitudinous Georgian-era buildings.
The site of a former synagogue on Princelet Street, now the aptly-named Museum of Immigration and Diversity, holds the curious tale of cabbalistic scholar David Rodinsky, who after years of reclusive study in the synagogue attic suddenly vanished – his quarters discovered untouched 20 years later. Digging up her Jewish roots, author Rachel Lichtenstein went in search of answers to the Rodinsky mystery in her book, Rodinsky’s Room. Now a veritable piece of London East End folklore, the enigma around Rodinsky as well as many other Spitalfield urban legends line the borough’s streets.
Our guides at Milk and Honey Tours would be delighted to take you on an engaging tour around the diverse monuments that make up Jewish London. Immerse yourself in the history of Jewish communities that have left their indelible mark on the cultural heritage of the ever-happening English capital.