A rich new interactive digital resource provides detailed audio, video, and text information about the life and history of London’s East End — the city’s historic Jewish immigrant neighborhood. It’s a fascinating new resource to explore, at a time when most of us are confined to our homes because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Called Memory Map of the Jewish East End, it’s a web site based on an interactive, clickable map that includes interviews, photographs, and essays about more than 70 sites that consistently appear in people’s recollections of Jewish East London — including schools and synagogues, street markets and cafes, cinemas and theatres, youth clubs and shops, as well as other places.
The aim is to “create a lasting document of both the history and memory traces of the Jewish East End and attempts to bring the stories and memories of this vanishing landscape to new audiences.”
By 1900 around a hundred thousand Jewish migrants had settled in East London, after fleeing their homelands in Russia and Eastern Europe, following pogroms and economic hardship. Many disembarked at the Port of London and settled in London’s East End, where there was an already established Jewish community and cheap lodgings to be found. Whitechapel and Spitalfields became the heart of a thriving Jewish quarter, Yiddish was the language on the streets and in places such as Petticoat Lane over 95% of the population were Jewish.
By the outbreak of the Second World War the community had already started to dwindle, although there was still a visible Jewish presence in the area until the 1980s. Today, the bustling Jewish street life, commercial and trade centres, social, political, religious and entertainment hubs that dominated the area for over a century have all gone. The Jewish East End has become a lost landscape, which is in danger of slipping out of living memory.
The sites that can be accessed bu clicking the map can be view according to several color coded themes — Education, Community, Business, and Religion.
Specific sites can be access through a search function.
In addition, a preview of some of the sounds and voices of the Jewish East End have been collected together as a podcast. You can listen to it or download it on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-887101577/memory-map-of-the-jewish-east-end
The project is a collaboration between the artist and writer Rachel Lichtenstein and Dr Duncan Hay, Professor Laura Vaughan, and Peter Guillery, from three research units from the Bartlett Faculty for the Built Environment, University College London: the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, the Space Syntax Laboratory, and the Survey of London, respectively.
Here are some other online resources for the Jewish East End:
It’s on the “Sounds Jewish” series by Jason Solomons, posted on The Guardian’s web site and created in association with the Jewish Community Center of London.