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At Fieldgate St Great Synagogue

December 6, 2015
by the gentle author

There is an overwhelming melancholy at Fieldgate St Great Synagogue. A place of reverence for over a century, it is no longer required now the congregation has departed. It closed for regular services in 2007.

When the synagogue was founded in 1899, Whitechapel was defined by the Jewish community that filled the surrounding streets, yet they dwindled away through the second half of the last century, moving to better housing and better lives in the newly-built suburbs.

After bomb damage in World War II, Fieldgate St Synagogue was rebuilt and reopened in 1959, retaining significant features from the earlier building. There is a lonely grandeur to the place today, worn and dusty now but still with evidence of the attention exercised in its care. Fine gilt texts upon panels around the balcony record benefactors and commemorate loved ones, never to be forgotten. A cotton roller towel still hangs by the sink in the hallway, stale matzos sit in a cupboard upstairs and tablecloths grace abandoned tables, awaiting those who will not return.

Sold last summer to the East London Mosque, which has extended itself upon three sides of the building in recent years, the empty structure sits in limbo awaiting an uncertain future yet, for the meantime, Fieldgate St Great Synagogue harbours the lingering presence of all the worshippers who passed through.

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11 Responses leave one →
  1. Carolyn Badcock - nee Hooper permalink
    December 6, 2015

    Thank-you, gentle author…….. What a wealth of genealogical data is stored upon those timber panels! They would be treasure indeed to Jewish descendants of those names.

    Leaves me reflecting ……… All things – all things – come to pass.

  2. December 6, 2015

    How sad. Valerie

  3. Richard permalink
    December 6, 2015

    So much in that hot water urn picture. The old style carpet still in good condition, maybe chosen with pleasure. The plastic tablecloths, the awkward heater. Time gone.

  4. Rina permalink
    December 6, 2015

    Thank you for documenting this so sensitively. It’s important that the Jewish community’s presence in the area is never forgotten.

  5. Ros permalink
    December 6, 2015

    This is a beautiful piece, beautifully photographed. Yes, that hot water urn….

  6. Lynn Roffee permalink
    December 6, 2015

    It would be a shame if those panels, detailing such wonderful family details, were destroyed. Perhaps the buyers should be approached with a view of carefully removing the panels and offering them to the Jewush community.

  7. Neville Turner permalink
    December 7, 2015

    An interesting post and good photo’s just as I remember the layout owing to many of my friends from Robert Montifiore school inviting me inside some times to make up the number required for a service which is 10 called a minyan. Keep up the good work.

  8. Emmanuel Grodzinski permalink
    October 31, 2017

    The bomb that damaged the synagogue in December 1941, destroyed the next door building: Grodzinski’s bakery that had stood on that site for decades. Indeed, the basement of the bakery, which contained the ovens, extended underneath the synagogue.
    On Fridays, in the winter, local families would leave their cholent pots in the ovens and collect them after Shul the following morning.

  9. Martine Kaufman permalink
    December 6, 2017

    This made me so sad. It has now gone the way of my childhood Shul Great Garden Street. These synagogues have a beauty of their own, a heritage. Our East End has nearly all gone. Could this Shul
    Not be made into a museum. Perhaps it would be somewhere to bring our grandchildren, into a world they never knew.

  10. Vivienne Wright (Roll) permalink
    June 1, 2018

    I was married in Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue in 1952 and served in the Ladies Guild until babies took over my time. I met Mr Zlotnicke senior. My father in law, Maurice Roll, served the synagogue in various capacities. Thank you for the photographs.they revived many memories.

  11. Karen Rennie permalink
    June 13, 2019

    my grandfather Alex Fishman was a chairman at no.2 Heneage Street Synagogue
    – here is a link
    found by my cousins to it’s history…
    and also
    If walls could speak?

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