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.
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.