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Project traces history of East End Jews as community disappears

Ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for the Youth Synagogue at Earlham Grove Shul in West Ham Ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone for the Youth Synagogue at Earlham Grove Shul in West Ham

Monday, May 5, 2014
8:00 AM

A new project coming soon to the East End will document the ancestral history of Jews living in the area.

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The War Memorial inside Earlham Grove Shul in West HamThe War Memorial inside Earlham Grove Shul in West Ham

Eastside Community Heritage will explore the lives of Jews who emigrated to Newham and surrounding boroughs, delving into stories about where their families are today.

Judith Garfield, 47, of Bisson Road, Stratford is the executive director of Eastside Community Heritage and traces her family ancestry to the heart of the East End.

“With this project we want to track down those who used to live here and where they have gone now.

“It’s really important because the community is disappearing and dying out,” she said.

Judith Garfield the executive director of Eastside Community HeritageJudith Garfield the executive director of Eastside Community Heritage

Judith’s ancestors were from the Pale settlement which was part of the Ukraine.

From about 1880 up until the First World War a huge number of Jews came into the country and settled in the East End due to Pogroms in the Pale.

“They came here because it was cheap and there was already a small Jewish community settled,” Judith said.

“My parents were fairly orthodox, it was a very close knit community. When I was growing up we (Jewish people) were quite segregated due to fear and I remember having to run away from the BNP in South Woodford on a weekly basis.

“East Ham cemetery was attacked a few times too.”

Judith explained that Redbridge has the largest Jewish Community in Europe, many having moved there after originally settling in Newham and Tower Hamlets.

The last synagogue in Newham was called Earlham Grove in Forest Gate and it closed down in 2004 to make room for housing on the site.

Other than the East Ham cemetery the Jewish community barely exists in Newham anymore.

Judith has seen a big change since moving to Stratford 35 years ago and recalls a large Jewish presence once upon a time in Queen’s Market.

“Even the community in Redbridge is disappearing now too so we want to trace the stories of people before it is too late,” she said.

“I’m hoping the project will get people involved in Jewish heritage, give them a chance to find out about another community and encourage a better understanding between different cultures.”

The project will be a two-year venture and when finished will include an exhibition and a website and is set to travel all around the East End.

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