Jewish legacy of Newham remembered

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

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

The director of a Jewish history project has called on people to remember Jews who helped form the borough’s identity.

Judith Garfield MBE thinks it is important to remember the once thriving Jewish community of Newham

Judith Garfield MBE thinks it is important to remember the once thriving Jewish community of Newham - Credit: Archant

Executive director of Eastside Community Heritage Judith Garfield MBE says that though there haven’t been any synagogues in Newham since the 2004 closure of Forest Gate’s Earlham Grove, she today invites people to remember the importance of Jews in east London’s history.

“From the 1960s the Jewish community had a presence in Newham, moving east from Whitechapel,” she said. “Like many new communities, they owned businesses and worked hard to contribute to the life of Newham people.”

Judith, who settled in Stratford 37 years ago with her Orthodox Jewish family, says that the decline of the Jewish population in the borough makes it even more important to safeguard historical information about Jews in Newham to ensure that they aren’t forgotten.

“Over the past 30 to 40 years the community has moved out to Redbridge and even further into Essex,” she said. “However their legacy lives on, with places such as Earlham Grove Synagogue, a Star of David that still remains, this held its place in the borough for over 100 years and East Ham Jewish Cemetery.


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“Let us not forget the communities that have been, and are now gone, and their contribution to our sense of belonging and shared heritage.”

A large number of Newham’s Jewish population arrived after fleeing persecution at the hands of the Russian Empire, following the assasination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881 and from 1903-1906.

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During the 1930s, Jews based in Forest Gate engaged in anti-fascist action against Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascist bodyguards, who had opened a bookshop in Woodford Road.

The fascists would regularly hold Sunday meetings at Wanstead Flats, which would feature Mosley speaking surrounded by blackshirt bodyguards.

Jewish resistance included catapulting missiles at the bookshop’s windows.

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