Stephen Pushkin, creator of the East End documentary film My Jewish London, died on New Year’s Day.
A retired assistant film director, he spent six years working on the film, initially in conjunction with producer Peter Harrison, interviewing people about their East End experiences as a way of telling the history of the East End and the people who settled there in the latter part of the 19th century.
Among those involved were novelist Bernard Kops, the late Yiddish actress Anna Tzelniker, Professor Bill Fishman, who also recently passed away, the actor Lee Montague, and Gerladine Auerbach, founder of the Jewish Music Institute. The late Philip Walker, one of the stalwarts of JEECS, also took part.
In an interview with the Jewish Chronicle in 2011, Mr Pushkin, then aged 71, said: “It's all about the experiences that people and their families had, and what drove them to the East End.
“I wanted to look at Jewish history and show people the hardships that these immigrants faced.”
Mr Pushkin grew up in the East End and worked in the film industry for over 40 years.
His aim, he and Peter Harrison told the JEECS magazine The Cable when they began the documentary project, was “to tell the magnificent London Jewish stories” and to “enlighten the viewing public about the positive Jewish influence that benefits everyone”.
They cited the example of Barnet Salmon, who moved from the abject poverty of Spitalfields to become a commercial traveller and later co-founded J Lyons of teashop and Corner House fame.
“From the grasp of deprivation, he worked very hard and became highly successful. His family prospered greatly.
“Barnet Salmon is the great great grandfather of TV celebrity Nigella Lawson.”
Anna Tzelniker, who has a prominent place in the film, was one of the last survivors of the East End Yiddish theatre and played Yente, the matchmaker, in Fiddler On the Roof at Her Majesty's Theatre for five years and also played the part of Mrs Kovner in the Barbra Streisand film Yentl.
She tells of her life with her famous father, Yiddish actor/manager Meier Tzelniker. His East End theatre company presented The King of Lampedusa, which opened at the Grand Palais, Whitechapel, on December 31, 1943 during the darkest days of the war. This played to packed houses and ran for an unprecedented seven months with 10 performances a week, drawing audiences from the West End and beyond.
She also talks about her childhood in Romania and the theatrical tours to the capitals of Europe, as well as her continuing family life in London.