London's East End Synagogues, cemeteries and more......

My personal journey through the Jewish East End of London

Purim and more at Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue 2003


Purim and more at Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue 2003

The history of the Jewish East End can be read on the walls and pews of Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue.   Next time you visit look at the plaques in the entrance hall (see photos below), look at the inscriptions below the ladies gallery, look at the names on the scroll covers and look at some of the siddurs (prayerbooks).  Some siddurs date back to the C19th and contain just two languages: Hebrew and Russian.  The earliest Ashkenazi immigrants would have brought these with them and they are still in use today  (see photo on right).

Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue, London E1 is located next door to the East London Mosque.  Fieldgate Street was founded in 1899 (see the Foundation plaque below).  Their first President was Sir Samuel Montagu MP - who was the prime mover in founding the Federation of Synagogues in 1887.  His daughter - Lily Montagu - was one of the founders of the Liberal Jewish Movement.  Fieldgate Street was badly damaged during the War and was rebuilt in 1950.  It remains affiliated to the Federation of Synagogues and incorporates the former Vine Court, Alie Street, Ezras Chaim & Stepney Orthodox synagogues. The inscriptions on the wooden panelling fronting Fieldgate Street's Ladies  gallery (see photo above) detail monies given as donations for the synagogue's maintenance. The sums described are small by today's standards but must have been enormous at the time of their giving, and are a measure of the dedication and sacrifice of those who founded synagogues such as these. A momento of Vine Court synagogue still exists on a plaque on the panelling showing money donated by their Ladies Guild.  A plaque commemorating Vine Court's 1965 amalgamation with Fieldgate Street is also on display in the synagogue's entrance hall.

Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue 1899 Foundation Stone. The inscription reads:

This Memorial Stone was laid by The Hon Chas N Rothschild, Monday July 17th 1899 - Ab 10th 5659. Hon President Sir Samuel Montagu Bart M.P; Acting President: S Michaels; Vicer President J Cohen; Treasurer: J Payne; Wardens: H Crown & A Gluckstein; Hon Sec: Joseph E Blank; Sec: Frank W Woolf

Fieldgate Street Synagogue 1999 Centenary Comemorative Plaque in entrance to Synagogue. The inscription reads:

Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue - To commemorate the centenary of our community 1899 - 5659 to 1999 - 5759. Presiden t: J Gayer; Vice President: N Roos; Treasurer: R Wynn; Wardens: M Burns; C Davidson; G Barnett

Memories of Vine Court Synagogue - 1965 amalgamation plaque located in the entrance to Fieldgate St Great Synagogue. The inscription reads:

This tablet was presented by Mr P Weiser to commemorate the amalgamation of Vine Court Synagogue with Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue. Honorary officers committee of Vine Court Synagogue: P Weiser - President; N Cohen - Vice President; W Brown - Warden; B Dubosky - Treasurer; A Dubosky - Trustee; A Spital - Trustee; S Wolfkind - Secretary. 19th December 1965

Purim is an ancient story celebrating The Persian Jewish Queen Esther's triumph over the wicked Haman - whose ambition it was to rid the World of Jews.  On Purim we read the Megillah - a special scroll on which the story of Purim is written.  When the name Haman is read the congregation make loud noises, stamp their feet and generally act in a rowdy way in order to blot out his evil name - great fun!  The other tradition on this festival is the wearing of fancy dress, eating triangular shaped cakes filled with poppy seeds (called Haman's ears) and having a good time.  Who says religion is dull!

Double click the March 2003 Purim photos below to enlarge - rest your mouse on photos to read captions

To view scenes from Purim at Fieldgate Street Synagogue, 14 March 2006 click: Purim 2006

website copyright of Philip Walker