PortCities London

The Jewish community and the port


The passing of the Jewish East End

The former Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor, Whitechapel.
View full size imageThe former Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor. © NMM
Little remains of the Jewish East End today. Such a concentration of poor Jewish immigrants was the consequence of particular circumstances and would not be repeated.

The Feldgate Street Synagogue.
View full size imageThe Feldgate Street Synagogue. © NMM

As many immigrants dragged themselves out of poverty, and as a new British-born generation grew up, the community changed. Many moved to other parts of London, where they created smaller Jewish communities that thrive to this day. Others left to pursue lives elsewhere.




Bangla Town 

The Great London Mosque on Brick Lane.
View full size imageThe Great London Mosque on Brick Lane. © NMM

Much of Whitechapel is now occupied by Bengalis, who came from what is now Bangladesh.

Like their Jewish and Hugenot predecessors, they are involved in the clothing trades.

The former Hugenot chapel on Fournier Street, which later became the Spitalfields Great Synagogue, is now a mosque serving the local community.


The former Katz shop in Brick Lane.
View full size imageThe former Katz shop in Brick Lane. © NMM
Brick Lane now attracts a trendy clientele from all over London, and is being marketed as Bangla Town.




 A return to hysteria

Brick Lane
View full size imageBrick Lane. © NMM
Despite the hype, similarities with past immigrant groups are still very real. The Bengali community faces hostility and ignorance and suffers great deprivation.

Present-day Britain risks a return to the hysteria about 'hordes' of foreign immigrants. This time, the 'hordes' are asylum seekers and potential economic migrants from the new countries of the European Union. In the light of such attitudes, it is worth recalling the great immigrant communities of the past, and just how much they contributed to British life.


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