The East End's 'last' synagogue
Always walk the back streets - it's amazing what you will come across!
I thought I knew the East End fairly well, but walking along Nelson Street in Whitechapel this week, I came across this squat and architecturally distinctly plain building. A synagogue! And it seems to be still in use.
The Nelson Street shul declares on its website that it is 'the last purpose-built synagogue in London's East End'.
There are a few other shuls still going in what was once the Jewish East End - but for example the beuatiful synagogue on Sandy's Row in Spitalfields was initially a Huguenot church.
The signage referring to 'sfardish' made me think this was a Sephardic synagogue. It isn't. It's Ashkenazi - but the term 'sfardish' suggests that the congregation originally followed a liturgy intended to bring together the two main Jewish traditions.
In the entrance porch there are rather wonderful inscribed plaques, some pre-dating the building of this synagogue in 1923, which I could only see through the padlocked gates -
I haven't managed yet to see the interior, but it is clearly much more ornate and splendid than the exterior. You can get a sense of that in this photo which is on the site of the Jewish East End Celebration Society.
And the always wonderful Spitalfields Life site three years ago profiled Leon Silver, the president, senior warden and treasurer of the synagogue.
In case you are wondering, as of 2018 there were four working synagogues in the East End and the adjoining City of London.
Oh, and by the way, on Varden Street, close to Nelson Street, is the London church of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, aka the 'Wee Wee Frees'. They bought the 1920s church building from the 'Gospel Standard Strict Baptists' in 1974.
A synagogue in what was once the Jewish East End makes some sense. But a Scottish Presbyterian citadel? What's that all about??
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