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The Old Jewish East End - Journey through a Vanished Shtetl

In 1881 Czar Alexander II of Russia was assassinated by revolutionaries.  The Russian government’s response was to launch an anti-Semitic onslaught against its Jewish subjects.  Murderous attacks, known as pogroms were launched against centres of Jewish population. Restrictions on employment and residence were an additional part of this campaign.  The result was that between 1881 and 1914 an estimated 3,000,000 Jews fled to the West.  The majority went to the USA, but approximately 100,000 settled in the UK, many of them in the East End of London.  Today most of their descendants have moved away and only a few elderly Jewish people remain.  These late 19th and early 20th century photographs record aspects of a largely vanished Jewish East End.

double click all photos to enlarge

1 Late 19th century view of Jewish owned chemist’s shop, Aldgate

2 Hyman Weiss’s hairdressing saloon, Aldgate

3 J Minsky, tailors’ trimmings, Aldgate. Many immigrant Russian Jews worked in the tailoring trades

4 Myer Rose, hatter and tailor, Aldgate

5 General store, Aldgate. Note the hoardings with Hebrew writing on them advertising Yiddish newspapers

6. I Silkoff, General Store, Aldgate

7 David Cohen's closing down sale

8 The ‘Sweating Song’, which referred to working conditions in tailoring workshops, many of them Jewish owned and staffed

9 A posed photo in a Jewish East End tailoring workshop.

10 East End Anarchist leader and German exile Rudolf Rocker with his wife Millie Witkop and comrades

11 Lithuanian born Aaron Lieberman, resident of Gun Street and founder of the Hebrew Socialist Union

12 Front page of the Hebrew Socialist Union pamphlet 1876

13 Interior of Lichtenstein’s carpentry workshop


14 Executive of the Workers Circle Friendly Society, 136 Brick Lane, Spitalfields

15 A group of East End girls dressed up for their Purim party

16 An outing to Margate

17 Front page of The Jewish World 2nd May 1902 celebrating the opening of a Yiddish theatre in the East End

18 Music Hall artist Harry Claff, son of Reverend Moses Claff. Harry Claff’s stage name was ‘The White Knight’. He died in 1943 aged 62

19 Two Jewish comedians. The one on the left is Max Bacon, music hall artist and drummer with Ambrose and his orchestra

20 The 1899 front cover of The Jewish World celebrating the inauguration of the English Zionist Federation. Sir Francis Montefiore is in the chair

21 A 1901 letter from Theodore Herzl, founder of Zionism, to Mrs Maurburger of 39 Fashion Street, apologising for not being able to attend a meeting

22 Saturday 11th July 1915: notice of a special meeting for 'Zionists only' organised by the Association of East London Zionists, 4 Fulbourne Street

23 Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue and opponent of East European immigration to the UK

24 Lord Nathan Myer Rothschild, banker and philanthropist

25 1908 sketch of Leonard Lionel Cohen, banker, philanthropist and President of the Jewish Board of Guardians

26 Jews Temporary shelter, 82 Leman Street, London E1. The shelter provided emergency accommodation for destitute Jewish immigrants

27 Moshe Kramer an elderly Jewish immigrant posing as a farmer in an East End photographic studio

28 Morris Bilson, posing in an East End photographic studio. Perhaps he had received assistance from the Jewish Board of Guardians?

29 Cicely Marie with her grandson

30 Abraham Cassel with his parents

31 The Reverend Norman Halter, chazzan, mohel and minister of Cannon Street Road synagogue, photographed with pupils

32 Advertisement for J Bonn, cook and confectioner, 2 Wentworth Street, London E1.

33 A print of a Jewish secondhand boot seller in an East End bazaar perhaps the forerunner of Petticoat Lane?

34 The womens’ sitting room in an East End Jewish institution

35 38th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, raised from East London Jews in World War One. They called themselves 'The Royal Jewsiliers'

36 Royal Fusiliers tailoring for the War effort. These tailors refered to themselves as 'The King's own Schneiders'. Schneider is Yiddish for tailor

37 More of the King's own Schneiders at work