Jewish London walk for Hanukkah
Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday celebrating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, is on December 21 this year. Whatever your faith, why not take a tour of radical Judaism’s East End?
Start and end
Aldgate East tubeDuration
One hourWe start in Angel Alley, where there’s a portrait of the German anarchist and union organiser Rudolf Rocker, who came to London in 1895 and became a hero of the immigrant Jewish sweatshop workers who sought freedom – initially from eastern European pogroms, then from oppressive work practices – in London’s East End around the turn of the twentieth century. Exiting Angel Alley, turn left. A hundred years ago the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel High Street housed Feldman’s Post Office, where older Jewish immigrants received help completing forms. Walk up Osborn Street. At the junction with Old Montague Street, site of the original Bloom’s Restaurant, Brick Lane begins. In the 1930s, Jewish communists gave soapbox speeches to galvanise people to combat fascism.
Turn left into Wentworth Street. At Flower and Dean Walk, a reconstructed arch fronts a low-rise housing estate. The original arch graced Rothschild Buildings, a crowded tenement block financed by Jewish philanthropists in the 1880s. At Flat 184, Morris Mindel, the revolutionary, chaired weekly meetings of the Workers Circle, formed in 1909.
Head back to Brick Lane. The huge seventeenth-century building on the corner of Fournier Street – the Jamme Masjid (Mosque) – was the Great Spitalfields Synagogue from the 1890s until the 1960s, and before than a Huguenot church. Its sundial clock proclaims 'Umbra Sumus' (‘we are shadows’). The preserved shopfront of Ch N Katz, one of Brick Lane’s last Jewish traders, is opposite the mosque. Turn left off Brick Lane into Hanbury Street. A plaque outside Hanbury Community Centre recalls its past as Christ Church Hall, where political rallies were held. Lewis Lyons, who led Jewish tailors on a six-week strike for a 12-hour day in 1889, spoke here, as did Eleanor Marx (daughter of Karl) and Annie Besant.
Cross Wilkes Street to see the plaque above 12 Hanbury Street marking the birthplace of Bud Flanagan (born Reuben Weinthrop in 1896). In the late 1940s Flanagan contributed funds to the anti-fascist ‘43 Group’. Turn back into Wilkes Street then right into Princelet Street. No 6 housed the East End’s first Yiddish Theatre. Turn back into Wilkes Street. Among the beautifully restored Huguenot houses, the fading sign of Suskin’s textile factory is almost obscured by ivy. Turn right on to Fournier Street and cross Commerical Street into Brushfield Street. In 1894 militant Jewish bakers established a short-lived cooperative bakery at number 52 (Market Café). Turn into Crispin Street (which becomes Bell Lane), then left into Brune Street to see the stunning 1902 façade of the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor, which only closed in 1990. Turn right at Toynbee Street, left, then right on to Commercial Street. A path approaches Toynbee Hall, built in 1884 to house Oxbridge graduates working among the poor. Continue to the junction with Whitechapel High Street where 100,000 Jewish and non-Jewish East Enders gathered in October 1936 to stop Mosley’s blackshirted fascists entering the Jewish heartland.
At Cable Street to the south, barricades blocked the Blackshirts’ path and the Jews remained free from fascist attack. Happy Hanukkah!
David Rosenberg leads two walking tours: the ‘Radical Jewish East End’ and ‘Anti-Fascist Footprints: a walk through the 1930s East End’. www.eastendwalks.com.
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