Jewish city story of London

London and Jews: A History Intertwined

London town is famous for its stunning architecture, diverse food culture, and a highly praised theater scene. In addition to all of these attractive features London hosts the largest Jewish community in the country. Since the 11th century Jews have called this metropolis home. Despite a few ups and downs the community has managed to become one of the most prosperous and respected in the world. 

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Emily Eisenberg May 14, 2023

London 2-day itinerary highlighting Jewish sites and restaurants

Behold the grand tour of Jewish London in a 2-day sample itinerary, neatly bundled up for you both on Tripographer and in the blog below. On the free Tripographer app, you can tailor the itinerary to your choice. Fancy swapping an extra museum visit for one less bagel stop? It is easy to adjust on the app. Tripographer is more than a travel planner - it's a platform for sharing your travel stories. Whether you're regaling the community of chatting with a sales vendor in Camden Market or your discovery of the fluffiest challah in Golders Green, your tales add to the richness of our collective travel knowledge. After all, isn't the best advice often born from first-hand experience? Below find a sample 2-day itinerary to visit the main Jewish sites in London, while stopping at some delicious places to eat along the way: Where to stay: A great mid-range option is the Tower Hotel. It is located next to the Tower Bridge, offering great views and comfortable rooms. It's also within walking distance of the Bevis Marks Synagogue. A more luxurious, and iconic stay is the Savoy. It's centrally located, close to many attractions, and offers exceptional service and comfort. DAY 1: Exploring Jewish History and Culture Start your day at the Jewish Museum in Camden. It houses a variety of exhibits on Jewish history, culture, and traditions in Britain. How to get there: If you stay in central London, take the Northern Line tube to Camden Town station. It's just a short walk from there. Enjoy Lunch at Reubens, London's famous kosher restaurant known for their salt beef sandwiches. How to get there: From the Jewish Museum, it's about a 30-minute journey by tube. Take the Northern Line from Camden Town to Euston, then switch to the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street. Or dine at The Good Egg (non-kosher, Jewish-owned) - They serve a blend of Middle Eastern and Jewish cuisine. Try their famous Shakshuka. (93 Stoke Newington Church St, Stoke Newington, London). How to get there: From the Jewish Museum, take the Overground from Camden Road to Dalston Kingsland, then switch to bus 67 or 76 to Stoke Newington Church Street. In the afternoon, visit the Bevis Marks Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the United Kingdom. How to get there: From either restaurant, take the tube to Liverpool Street station. The synagogue is a short walk from there. In the evening explore Brick Lane, where the Jewish community was concentrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It's also known for its vibrant street art and food scene. How to get there: It's a short walk from Bevis Marks Synagogue. For dinner dinner enjoy Monty's Deli (non-kosher, Jewish-owned) - Known for their homemade pastrami and salt beef. How to get there: From Brick Lane, take bus 8 from Shoreditch High Street Station to Hoxton Street. Or enjoy White Fish - A popular kosher fish restaurant. How to get there: From Brick Lane, take the tube from Aldgate East to Hendon Central. DAY 2: Discovering the Modern Jewish Community Start the day by visiting Golders Green, a neighborhood with a large Jewish population. Explore the local shops and enjoy the community atmosphere. How to get there: From central London, take the Northern Line tube to Golders Green station. Enjoy lunch at White House Express - A popular kosher pizza and falafel spot. Or at The Happening Bagel Bakery (non-kosher, Jewish-owned) - Known for their authentic, hand-rolled bagels. How to get there: From Golders Green, take the Northern Line to Finsbury Park. In the afternoon visit the Holocaust Memorial Garden and Anne Frank Tree in Russell Square. The tree is a sapling from the original one that Anne Frank could see from her hiding place in Amsterdam. How to get there: From either restaurant, take the tube to Russell Square station. Spend your evening at the JW3, the Jewish Community Centre London. They often host a range of cultural events. How to get there: From Russell Square, take the Piccadilly Line to Swiss Cottage Station. JW3 is a short walk from the station. Enjoy dinner at Zest at JW3 - A contemporary Kosher restaurant located in the same building as JW3, serving a variety of Middle Eastern inspired dishes.Or try the Palomar (non-kosher, Jewish-owned) - Renowned for its Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. How to get there: From JW3, take the Jubilee Line from Swiss Cottage to Green Park, then switch to the Piccadilly Line to Piccadilly Circus. The restaurant is a short walk from there. Remember, you can always tweak the itinerary to better suit your preferences and travel style on the Tripographer app. You can also check out Tripographer's other London trips, bookable experiences, and featured attractions to help you further plan your trip.

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World Jewish Travel Official July 28, 2022

Diamonds Are Made Under Pressure: The Story of Jewish London

London and Jews: A History Intertwined London town is famous for its stunning architecture, diverse food culture, and a highly praised theater scene. In addition to all of these attractive features London hosts the largest Jewish community in the country. Since the 11th century Jews have called this metropolis home. Despite a few ups and downs the community has managed to become one of the most prosperous and respected in the world.  From Acceptance, Rejection, and Resettlement: Jewish History in England While the exact date of arrival of Jews to England is debated historians can all agree that the first written mention of Jews was in 1066. After the Saxon conquest of England Jews from Rouen made their way to London attracted by the economic opportunities. With all this good fortune it is no surprise that London also had a flourishing Jewish intellectual life. This was noticed by Jewish Torah scholars from across Europe and attracted visitors such as the famous Abraham Ibn Ezra, who authored the Iggeret HaShabbat.  [caption id="attachment_39829" align="alignnone" width="1599"] The Jewish quarter in East London[/caption] Antisemitism was still rampant in the country and throughout the Medieval period the Jewish quarter was set ablaze numerous times. Jews were also forbidden from owning land. This pushed them into professions such as tradesmen. Most other Jews worked as moneylenders, a profession forbidden to Christians. This made Jews very valuable to the upper classes.  In 1290 the community was expelled from the country. The return of Jews to England finally came in 1632 when persecuted Jews fleeing from Spain and Portugal settled in the country. Around 1690 Ashkenazim from Amsterdam and Germany followed their pioneering Sephardi cousins and established their own congregation.  [caption id="attachment_39832" align="alignnone" width="1200"] The West London Synagogue, the oldest reform synagogue in Great Britain[/caption] The Salvation of London Jewry Then in the 19th century Jews earned their emancipation. They were allowed to move outside the quarter and establish legitimate retail businesses, something they had been barred from for centuries. In addition to this the first Jewish sheriff was elected and in 1858 Jews became represented in English Parliament. The Jewish population also grew substantially during this period with the arrival of Russian Jewry. This raised the overall community numbers from 47,000 to well over 100,000 individuals. From this point the discrimination against the community was less apparent. Then came the historic event that would change the whole of European Jewry forever. In 1939 Germany invaded Poland. Not long after Britain declared war on Germany. This action saved countless British Jews from mass murder, the remainder of European Jewry was not so fortunate. Today British Jewry continues to increase and make a name for itself on the world stage. Some of the most famous Jewish names in the world hail from London. These include the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, one of the most respected Torah scholars and Jewish community leaders in history. Other notable names include Vidal Sassoon, the hair tycoon and celebrity stylist. In addition, these British Jews excel in the world of film and music. Names such as Amy Winehouse and Sacha Baron Cohen are sure to ring a few bells.     [caption id="attachment_39833" align="alignnone" width="1280"] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks | Credit: cooperniall from England, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] From One Neighborhood to the Next: London’s Jewish Quarters and Sites The first mention of a Jewish quarter in London dates to the Terrier of Saint Paul’s published in 1128. Under Milk Street archaeologists discovered a 13th century mikveh. During the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century London's Jewish Quarter was divided. Jews lived in Whitechapel, Spitalfields, and Mile End Old Town districts. Some also lived in the parish of St. George-in-the-East. Eventually the community migrated to London’s East End. There are bits and pieces of Jewish culture and history in every aspect of the city.   The Bevis Marks Synagogue stands as one of Europe’s oldest active synagogues. During the 17th century waves of Jewish Sephardi immigrants flocked to England. In 1701 the community built one of the largest and most extravagant synagogues in all Europe. Wooden pews and chandeliers give the space a very ethereal aura.  [caption id="attachment_39834" align="alignnone" width="1600"] Bevis Marks Synagogue | Credit: Edwardx, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] When Hitler’s nazi party was rising to power many Jewish families saw their destruction coming and immigrated to England. Sigmund Freud moved his family from Vienna to London in 1938, just escaping the claws of the Nazis. London would be where Freud developed the study of psychoanalysis. You can visit his home in London at The Freud Museum which houses his books, art, and even the famous reclining couch.  London is one European city where Jewish intellectual life and creativity could flourish. It is no surprise then that one of the oldest and most established Jewish art galleries in the world is in London. The Ben Uri Gallery opened at the turn of the century as a premier gallery for artists of Jewish descent from around the world. In its nearly 120 year history the gallery has hosted a number of famous Jewish artists including Chagall and Epstein.  [caption id="attachment_39836" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Freud Museum London | Credit: Matt Brown from London, England, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons[/caption] Upwards and Onwards: The Continued Thrival of London Jews  There seems to be no end in sight for the potential of English Jewry. The community serves as a testament to the resilience of world Jewry. They have been knocked down over the years but have always managed to come back stronger than ever. Today Jewish history and culture is preserved and celebrated attracting visitors and immigrants from across the Jewish diaspora.   

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Would not normally be `my thing` to go on a tour of the London district of Spitalfields (and hate endless Jack the Ripper groups) but the Gentle Author Tour today was v v good. I thought I knew the area well but I learned a lot. A v informed and rounded take on the political, social, architectural and cultural history of a fascinating area of London that leaves you with pointers for further exploration. Bravo thegentleauthor. Without such informed and motivated enthusiasts the architectural history of East London would have been obliterated and subsumed into the corporate mass of the City. Instead real vestiges of life just beyond the Roman City walls of London allow us still to trace London`s subsequent history. Thank you to alice.rawsthorn for the welcome invitation to join. #spitalfields #spitalfieldslife #spitalfieldsmarket #spitslfieldslondon #thegentleauthor #londonhistory #huegenotlondon #jewishlondon #bangladeshilondon #tudorlondon #georgianlondon #victorianlondon #quakermeetinghouse #bishopsgate #eastlondon #eastlondonlife ...

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It’s the 1930s and Ruthie is living in the East End of London. Ruthie’s grandparents immigrated to Britain from Poland and settled in Whitechapel, which had become the center of London’s Jewish community in the 1880s. At home, Ruthie is called Rut or Ruteleh, her Yiddish name. (In Yiddish, -leh is often added at the end of names as a nickname/term of affection.) At school, she is called Ruthie. At the Jews’ Free School, Yiddish is banned and Ruthie’s teachers encourage her and her classmates not to speak Yiddish at home.

Ruthie knows she can’t do that. Her parents speak English fluently, but they both write in Yiddish for the daily Yiddish newspapers. Her parents spent most of their childhoods in the East End, and they’ve told Ruthie that the area is not the bustling center of Jewish life that it was when they were younger. More and more Jewish families left Whitechapel for other areas of London, or for America—die goldene medina (the golden country). Ruthie’s parents, however, were determined to stay, and to preserve Yiddish, the language of their parents and grandparents.

Ruthie sometimes isn’t sure how to be both British and Jewish. She is proud that her parents are helping keep Yiddish alive, but she knows that all of the kids her age have stopped speaking Yiddish—to be seen as a true Briton, you have to speak English. But she is also proud to be British. She knows it’s safer for her to live in Whitechapel than it was for her grandparents living in Poland.

Ruthie walks along the Whitechapel high street (main street), weaving between people and lorries and trolleybuses. She passes Kosher restaurants and the bustling Kosher marketplace. For Ruthie, Whitechapel is home.

(Stay tuned for another post about the Jewish community living in the East End of London in the 1930s. In the meantime, I’m going to share a Patrons-only post on my Patreon with a behind-the-scenes look at my historical research/how I put this post together. To become a Patron, visit the link in my bio.)

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Another excellent walking tour of Chasidic Stamford Hill with rabbioftiktok. Maybe the best yet. It had all the insight, jokes and snacks you need, and some meaningful interaction with locals you might not expect. I’m not doing any more friends and family tours (everyone’s done it by now) but Mendy will be doing more public tours after Passover / Easter. Link in my bio #stamfordhill #stamfordhilljews #jewishlondon #hasidim #londonwalks ...

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Every Friday at grodzinskilondon it’s a great Yiddish bake off. Trays and trays of challah here, plus bagels, rugelach and other bakes. Smells amazing. #grodzinskibakery #challah #stamfordhill #jewishlondon #stamfordhilljews ...

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In my most recent post about Jewish life in the East End of London in the 1930s, I discussed the Battle of Cable Street—when members of the British Union of Fascists organized a march through London’s Jewish neighborhoods, but were greatly outnumbered by protestors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who forced the fascists to turn around, despite police attempting to clear the way for the march. By marching through the center of Jewish life in London, the fascists sought to intimidate the Jews of London.

On Sunday, a group of white men carrying giant American flags and signs that read “kneel for the cross” marched outside my state representative’s house, where he was inside with his three young children. The men identified themselves as “Christian veterans.” My state rep is a veteran, but he is also one of two Jewish members of the Ohio House of Representatives. When asked, they had no specific policies they wanted to discuss. By identifying themselves as Christians, then targeting a Jewish state rep at his home and attempting to take photos of his family through the windows, they made their intentions clear: this was an act of antisemitism intended to intimidate.

The parallels between the two events are striking. And terrifying.

I discussed Sunday’s events in more detail on my story yesterday. Today, I want to delve back into Ruthie’s story.

Before the planned fascist march through London’s Jewish neighborhoods, synagogues warned their congregants to stay home. But they didn’t. And that’s due to the organizing of trade unions and Jewish organizations, including the Worker’s Circle (Arbiter ring, in Yiddish). Ruthie’s parents are both members of the London Worker’s Circle, which was established in 1909 as a mutual aid organization for London`s Jewish community. Along with over 2700 other members, her parents pay a weekly fee that then provides sick benefits and aid to unemployed workers, as well as funding cultural programming, including lectures and classes. The Worker’s Circle’s activities are centered in a bustling building in the East End of London called Circle House.

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The Jewish holiday of Tu b’Shevat begins tonight at sundown. The holiday is known as the new year for the trees, and we celebrate by planting trees and eating fruit and nuts. It is a time of new growth and renewal; a time to consider what we can do to care for the Earth for the generations that come after us.

When I started my photo series about Ruthie living in the East End of London in the 1930s, I always knew that I would end the series by talking about the antisemitism Jews faced in 1930s London and how antisemitism continues today. But I wasn’t expecting to make this post today. All antisemitic acts are abhorrent, but the events that occurred yesterday in Texas were heartwrenching.

Although the Battle of Cable Street, which I discussed in my last post with Ruthie, happened 86 years ago in the UK, it’s impossible to overlook similarities with the political climate today in the United States. In the US, Jews are the target of 58% of religious hate crimes, despite making up only 2% of the country’s population. Although the story that I shared for Ruthie is a fictional story, I can imagine the fear that she felt seeing fascists marching down the streets of her beloved neighborhood because I know the fear that accompanies being Jewish. I know the anxiety about whether or not my friends and family will be safe at synagogue, even in 2022, when you would think that there should be nothing to fear.

Despite all of that fear, we will still celebrate Tu b’Shevat, just like Ruthie would have in 1937. Ruthie is paging through her family’s recipes for date bars and date and nut loaf to make for the holiday while watching the snow fall softly outside. She’s thinking about the generations who came before her, and the generations who will come after her, perhaps baking the same recipes for Tu b’Shevat, deciphering the scribble of her grandparents’ pencil on the ragged scrap piece of paper. Because, our recipes and our shared cultural heritage will persist with us.

(Note: These recipes are actually from the 1950s, a couple of decades after Ruthie’s era, and they belonged to my grandfather, who was a baker.)

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