Bethnal Green: Judaism

Pages 240-241

A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11, Stepney, Bethnal Green. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1998.

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Sephardi worshippers at Bevis Marks synagogue (Lond.) rented houses in Bethnal Green from the early 18th century. (fn. 1) They included Jacob Alvares in the 'Great House' before 1728 (fn. 2) and the hazan or chief rabbi Moses Cohen d'Azevedo (d. 1784) in 1760. Aldgate House was leased by Israel Levin Salomons in 1765 and by Abraham de Mattos Mocatta of the bullion-broking family in 1769. The boxer Daniel Mendoza (d. 1836) lived from 1788 at no. 3 Paradise Row, while Ephraim Lopez Pereira, Baron D'Aguilar (d. 1802), a wealthy but eccentric miser, pastured cattle at Bethnal Green and stored furniture in houses there. (fn. 3) Among the few Ashkenazim were Jospa ben Jacob Buchtel, who organized services in a minyan at his house in Bethnal Green in 1747, provoking fears that it might come to rival the Great Synagogue. (fn. 4) The western portion of Old Ford Lane was named Jews' Walk by 1779 (fn. 5) and a statement in 1788 that the inhabitants of Bethnal Green were 'mostly French Jews', (fn. 6) while exaggerated, reflected Huguenot numbers and the importance of Jews.

In the late 18th century the Sephardi merchants, like other wealthy Londoners, began to abandon the large houses round the green. Jews of a lower class, both Sephardi and Ashkenazi, moved into the areas bordering Mile End and Spitalfields. In 1761 the Ashkenazi New Synagogue acquired a burial ground west of Ducking Pond Lane, on the boundary with Mile End, where the Great Synagogue bought the freehold in 1795. The cemetery, called successively North Street and Brady Street, was closed in 1858 (fn. 7) and maintained throughout by Jews who occupied a house on the site. (fn. 8) About 1783 Isaac Mendes Furtado, who was among rioters ejected for overexuberance at the celebration of Purim, built a terrace on the east side of Dog Row, which he called Purim Place. (fn. 9) By the 1840s Jews were being married there at no. 7. (fn. 10) A little to the north, on the east side of Cambridge Road in Queen's Row, (fn. 11) a Jews' asylum existed from 1820 (fn. 12) and possibly from 1800 (fn. 13) but had closed by 1832. (fn. 14)

Jews lived in Bethnal Green throughout the 19th century, some with Anglicized names, (fn. 15) a few of them merchants but most of them small tradesmen or hawkers. (fn. 16) Large-scale immigration came towards the end, with the pogroms of Ashkenazim in Russia and Poland, and spread from Whitechapel into south-west Bethnal Green and the new Boundary Street estate where in 1899 some 75-95 per cent of the population was Jewish. (fn. 17) In the population as a whole, however, the foreign-born formed only 3.5 per cent in 1901, rising to a peak of 6.3 per cent in 1911. Although Jews settled in other districts and never formed more than a small minority, (fn. 18) their concentration around Brick Lane lay behind the growth of anti-semitism in the 1930s. After dispersal during the Second World War, their numbers never recovered. Most early immigrants attended tiny synagogues in private homes in Spitalfields and Whitechapel (fn. 19) and a few were later established in south-west Bethnal Green. The Federation of Synagogues claimed the foundation of Rosiner synagogue from 1901, Bethnal Green Great synagogue from 1905, and the Glory of Israel synagogue from 1910. Two Independent synagogues, in Teesdale and Hare streets claimed foundation in 1901. There was only one synagogue, in Globe Road from 1928, in the eastern part of the borough. Half had closed by the 1950s, two survived until the 1980s, and one until 1990.

The following abbreviations are used: Fed., federation; reg., registered; syn., synagogue.

Nos. 68-70 Teesdale Street claimed to have been established as Independent congregation 1901, (fn. 20) although not reg. until 1927. (fn. 21) Sole syn. listed in Bethnal Green 1990. (fn. 22) Closed by 1991.

United Workman's or Wlodowa Synagogue, claiming establishment as Independent congregation 1901 (fn. 23) or 1914, (fn. 24) reg. at no. 21 Hare St. 1919. (fn. 25) Bldg. closed as unsafe soon after 1987, when membership was 180. (fn. 26)

Rosiner Synagogue, no. 13 Buxton St., claimed foundation by Fed. of Syn. 1901 and reg. 1912-64; probably closed before 1964. (fn. 27)

Bethnal Green Great Synagogue, member of Fed. of Syn., was built on site of Bapt. chapel at no. 13 Bethnal Green Rd. by Lewis Solomon, reg. 1905, and opened officially with 250 members 1906. (fn. 28) After damage by bombing (fn. 29) svces. at nos. 2 and 4 Chance St. from 1941 until rebldg. 1956 and reg. again at nos. 11-15 (odd) Bethnal Green Rd 1960. (fn. 30) Absorbed Princelet St. syn., Spitalfields, 1970. (fn. 31) Membership 360 in 1984 but poor attendance led to closure 1985. (fn. 32)

Glory of Israel Synagogue, member of Fed. of Syn., was reg. 1910-54 behind no. 10 Code St. near Brick Lane. (fn. 33)

Green Street Synagogue was reg. at no. 223 Globe Rd. 1928-54; probably closed before 1954. (fn. 34)


  • 1. Section based on Jewish Hist. Soc Trans. xxx. 78-9.
  • 2. M.L.R. 1728/5/241.
  • 3. Vale, Old Bethnal Green, 95; A. M. Hyamson, Sephardim of Eng. (1951), 31, 102-3.
  • 4. C. Roth, The Great Syn. (1950), 68.
  • 5. Ibid. 154; Horwood, Plan (1792-9).
  • 6. The Times, 12 Sept. 1788, 2d; 18 Sept. 1788, 1c; 27 Sept. 1788, 1b.
  • 7. Roth, Gt. Syn. 177; Lond. Gaz. 11 May 1858, p.2352.
  • 8. e.g. G.L.R.O., THCS 446; P.R.O., HO 1541/3/6, f. 144.
  • 9. Hyamson, Sephardim, 197; G.L.R.O., C/93/1538.
  • 10. T.H.L.H.L., TH/8362/1.
  • 11. Bowles's New Pocket Plan of Lond. and Westm. (1783).
  • 12. G.L.R.O., MR/PLT 5065.
  • 13. Perhaps the unlocated Jews' home in Bethnal Green rated in 1800: G.L.R.O., MR/PLT 5024.
  • 14. Vestry mins. 1831-3, p. 205.
  • 15. e.g. Phillips and Martin.
  • 16. T.H.L.H.L., TH/8362/1.
  • 17. C. Russell and H. S. Lewis, The Jew in Lond. (1900), map at back; The Jewish E. End 1840-1939, ed. A. Newman (1981), 30-5.
  • 18. Census, 1901-51.
  • 19. H. Blacker, Just Like It Was (1974), 21, 71.
  • 20. Jewish Year Bk. (1953 et seq.). Existed by 1914: Harris and Bryant, Chs. and Lond. 382.
  • 21. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 50967.
  • 22. Jewish Year Bk. (1990).
  • 23. Jewish Chron. 24 Apr. 1987 (T.H.L.H.L. cuttings file 226.7).
  • 24. Jewish Year Bk. (1953 et seq.). Not listed in Harris and Bryant, Chs. and Lond. [1914], 382.
  • 25. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 47489.
  • 26. Bethnal Green M.B. Official Guide [1950], 79; Jewish Chron. 24 Apr. 1987.
  • 27. Jewish Year Bk. (1953 et seq.); G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 45403; Harris and Bryant, Chs. and Lond. 382.
  • 28. Jewish Year Bk. (1906-7), 46; G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 41317; Bethnal Green M.B. Official Guide [1921], 81.
  • 29. Bethnal Green M.B. Official Guide [1950], 79.
  • 30. G.R.O. Worship Reg. nos. 59870, 67758.
  • 31. T.H.L.H.L., note in cat. for TH/8262.
  • 32. Jewish Chron. 31 Aug. 1984; E.L.A. 5 July 1985 (T.H.L.H.L., Cuttings file 226.7).
  • 33. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 44359; Harris and Bryant, Chs. and Lond. 382.
  • 34. G.R.O. Worship Reg. no. 51279; Bethnal Green M.B. Official Guide [1938]. Not in ibid. [1950].