Jewish Presence (2) - Synagogues

See other pages on local Jewish life:
Jewish Presence (1) - Settlement
  |  Jewish Presence (3) - St George's Settlement Synagogue
Jewish Presence (4) - Hessel Street  |  Jewish Presence (5) - convert clergy

Synagogues in the parish
The history of Jewish settlement and life in East London has been extensively researched and written about. This is purely a record of the known synagogues that existed, for longer or shorter periods, in or close by this parish. The historic roots of East London Jewry were in Spitalfields and Whitechapel, but spread over time east towards Bethnal Green, and south into this area.

All but one (see here) were Orthodox and Ashkenazi in their foundation and ritual. This was for two reasons: primarily because most of the settlers were from Eastern Europe, but also because the establishment of Sephardic synagogues in the area was inhibited by the presence of the historic Bevis Marks synagogue on the edge of the City, representing a somewhat different style of Jewish life, which reacted nervously to the new influx. (This is the oldest synagogue in England, built in 1701 and designed by the Quaker Joseph Avis who had worked with Wren, so its style is not unlike that of Anglican and nonconformist churches of the period - deliberately so, both since this was the prevailing architectural style and also because they did not wish to draw attention to themselves. It is tucked off the main street, since at that time Jews were not permitted to build on main thoroughfares. Benjamin Disraeli's family had been members here, before a dispute which led to the children being baptized as Christians - which in due course enabled him to serve as prime minister.)  Apart from the divisions between Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, there were tensions between the various, very different immigrant groups:  for example, urban Jews from Kiev, Ukrainian farmers, those from small Galician (Austrian) towns and those from Polish ghettoes.

Willy Goldman (1910-2009), who grew up near the St George-in-the-East district and wrote East End my Cradle in 1940 and several other books about East End life, said that Rumanian and Polish Jews mutually regard each other as God's lowest creation. As one who largely rejected his religious heritage, he also wrote We Jewish children acknowledged the superiority of the Gentiles' method in one field: religion. He was practically exempt from it. With us the Rabbis dominated one part of our life as the school-teacher dominated the other. Most of their teaching, he reckoned, would have been forgotten within a week of barmitzvah.... But other East End Jewish writers (of which there are many) have a different take: Emanuel Litvinoff (1915-2011), for example, did not have a bar mitzvah because his father returned to Russia and his mother could not afford it: see Journey Through a Small Planet  (1972).

The oldest congregations in this area were on the edge of, or just within, the City, in what became the parish of St Mark Whitechapel, many of whose late-19th century clergy were actively involved in Christian-Jewish mission, but which closed a generation later for lack of a local Christian population. Here are details of several Jewish convert clergy who served at St Mark's and at Christ Church, Watney Street.

In 1887 the Federation of Synagogues was established on the initiative of Samuel Montagu MP [see above] who was concerned by the spread of worship in small, unregulated and often insanitary premises. (It also ran a burial society, with an office at 45 St Mark's Street). Those marked (1) in the second column of the table below were represented from the time of the preliminary meeting on 16 October 1887, those marked (2) from its official launch on 6 November 1887, and those marked (3) affiliated later. The title 'Great' does not mean that they were grand buildings - most were not - but rather that they were purpose-built amalgamations of small synagogues which previously met in homes or converted workshops.

In time, all those in the parish closed, amalgamating with other congregations, both local and further afield. A few remain on its borders - Nelson Street, Commercial Road and Fieldgate Street – but they are struggling to survive. However, they are actively involved in interfaith activity, through Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum - (especially by the wonderful and ever-helpful Leon Silver, warden of Nelson Street) and an increase has been noted in young Jewish professionals living in the 'City Quarter' attending daily prayers.

The synagogues are listed in historical order of foundation.

subsequent history
Prescot Street Synagogue
pre-1870s: Love and Kindness Chevra (Chevra Ahavat v'Chesed), originally Rosemary Lane congregation - Mahazike Torah
Prescot Street (or Great Prescott Street), Goodman's Fields
pre-1870s: Rosemary Lane (now Royal Mint Street)
closed between 1887 and 1896
Scarborough Street Synagogue 
previously The Gun Yard, or Gun Square, 'Polish' Synagogue
Scarborough Street, Goodman's Fields - until 1870s: Mansell Street; originally Guy Yard, or Square, Hounsditch closed 1920s
a private minyan
Moses Moore's Synagogue
66 Mansell Street
closed late 19th century
not known
Flasch's Synagogue (or Flasch's Congregation) Mansell Street
not known
Mansell Street Synagogue (Zussmann's Synagogue) Mansell Street
Peace & Tranquility Chevra (originally Mansell Street Synagogue, then Buckle Street Synagogue Mansell Street, then Buckle Street (off Leman Street)
closed pre-1918
(United) Kalischer Synagogue, or Kalischer Chevra St Mark's Street
closed by 1896
Lodzer (the Lodz) Synagogue
probable successor to Bikkur Cholim Sons of Lodz Chevra
80-81 Davis Mansions, New Goulston Street
(previously Newcastle Street)
merged c1934 with Lubiner to become Lubmer & Lomzer (Lubimer & Lodzer) Synagogue; closed after 1947, joined Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue
(Great) Alie Street Synagogue
41 Alie Street (formerly 40/41 Great Alie Street) closed 1969, joined Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, which in turn closed 2007
Cannon Street Road Synagogue
143-145 Cannon Street Road
closed 1970s, joined East London Central Synagogue (Nelson Street)
1898 3 at times,
and also to the Adath Yisroel Burial Society
of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations

Commercial Road Talmud Torah Synagogue 
(also Christian Street Synagogue or Talmud Torah Synagogue)

9-11 Christian Street closed some time between 1930 and 1980 (reports vary), and now based at 153 Stamford Hill N16

since 1980 the site has housed Markazi Masjid mosque
independent, later 3
Shadwell and St. George's Synagogue 
(Chebrah Torah & Bikkur Cholim)
191 The Highway
(previously 59 St George Street)
closed c1951
Buross Street Synagogue 47a Buross Street, Commercial Road closed pre 1956, joined East London Central Synagogue (Nelson Street)
3, later independent
Sander Street Synagogue
2 Sander Street
closed after 1947
(50 members in 1905, 70 in 1915)

Commercial Road [Beltz] Synagogue
90 Commercial Road
(corner of Berner [Henriques] Street
linked in some way with Plotsker Synagogue [below]; now joined with East London Central Synagogue (Nelson Street)
Neshelska Synagogue Lawrence Buildings, Cannon Street Road closed 1920s
Little Alie Street Synagogue (New Synagogue)
(formerly Zoar Baptist Chapel)
Little Alie Street
closed 1920s
Lubiner (the Lublin) Synagogue
3 Lawrence Buildings,
Cannon Street Road,
merged c1934 at this address with Lodz to become Lubmer & Lomzer (Lubimer & Lodzer) Synagogue; closed after 1947, joined Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue
Plotsker Synagogue
45 (previously 90?) Commercial Road closed pre-1930
pre-1919 3
Stertzover Synagogue
15 Fenton Street, Commercial Road
(84 members in 1919) closed post-1956
Commercial Road Great Synagogue
262 Commercial Road
closed 1969, joined East London Central Synagogue (Nelson Street)
B'nai Brichtan (Sons of Brichtan) Synagogue 23 Bromehead Street closed 1952, joined East London Central Synagogue (Nelson Street)
The Rumanian Synagogue
6/7 Christian (previously Matilda) Street closed after 1947
Grove Street (Great) Synagogue 96 Golding (formerly Grove) Street closed after 1949, joined East London Central Synagogue (Nelson Street)
Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations Special Verein (Society) Bikur Cholim 39 Harris Buildings, Burslem Street [d]
closed c1948
Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations Hebrew Centre Synagogue 74 Jane Street
closed 1940s
Philip Street - independent (with burial rights West End Great Synagogue, Soho), then 3 as...
...Philip Street & Shadwell Synagogue
25 Philchurch (formerly Phil[l]ip) Street, Backchurch Lane
closed after 1956

[a] two of the three small congregations established in London in the eighteenth century. The third was the Cutler Street 'Polish' Synagogue.
[b] pictured inside in 1930, and site today; also Chazan (cantor) Halter with his pupils. There had also been a Kurland Synagogue at 133 Cannon Street Road [now part of City Wellbeing Practice], not recommended for inclusion in the Federation because it had no accommodation for women and no fire exit; in 1946 LBM took a 99-year lease on the premises to establish, or perhaps continue an existing, mikveh (ritual bathing place for women).
[c] the Barry Sisters sang Meyn Shtetele Beltz - this YouTube recording is accompanied by a wonderful collection of photographs. In the late 1930s the synagogue employed Bernat Hecht, born in Ruscova, Romania, as a cantor - the father of former Conservative party leader Michael Howard.
d] right is Harris Buildings, on the corner of Golding and Burslem Streets, in 1970.

See further Peter Renton The Lost Synagogues of London (Tymsder 2000) and many others' historical and autobiographical writings about local synagogue life.

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