Brune Street Soup Kitchen, Spitalfields, 2008, Ravish London

Brune Street Kitchen Soup

Only one hundred and thirty years ago, in Eastern Europe a wave of hatred was about to be unleashed against Jewish people. In 1881 the first of what was a series of pogroms leading to the holocaust in the mid twentieth century took place in the Ukraine. The pogroms comprised an orchestrated series of violent acts against Jewish property and peoples. Further pogroms took place during the Bolshevik Revolution and in countries as far away as Greece, Poland and Romania.

In response to the violence millions of Jews fled Russia and Germany in the late nineteenth century arriving in London and Spitalfields. Why the Jews decided to settle in Spitalfields is not clear given that at the time Spitalfields was already suffering from overcrowding bought about by the destruction of working class homes to make way for the Liverpool Street railway line.

Could it have been that there was nowhere else to go?

The Jews settled in and around Petticoat Lane, Commercial Street and Fashion Street. Many of the Jew who arrived were poor and uneducated, and began to make their living in the textiles and furniture industries. They set up synagogues, kosher butchers and kosher restaurants. There are still two bagel shops on Brick Lane. Despite their thrift the newly arrived Jews were treated with hostility by the local people, who blamed them for taking jobs and pushing up house prices.

Despite their industry many Jews remained poor, such that a soup kitchen was set up in Brune Street. The soup kitchen was built in 1902 by the Jewish community to provide charitable support to Jewish immigrants. According to one author, 'Its ornate faŤade testified to the wealth of some sections of the Jewish community offering inspiration to their less fortunate co-religionists that with hard work and determination their living conditions could be improved'. The building was also intended to send a message to existing residents that the Jews were not and were not intending to be a drain on the public purse.

As the Jews became wealthier they began to move out of East London to the suburbs of north London like Golders Green, Hendon, Finchley and Hertfordshire.

The building remained empty for years. Now, whilst the sandstone faŤade remains faithful to its origins, the building itself has been converted into luxury apartments.

In 1936 a number of Jews from Spitalfields took part in the Battle of Cable Street, which involved a scuffle between Jews and socialists and the fascist black shirts of Oswald Mosley.

Date Article Written: 2008

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  • An image of Brune Street Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor when it was derelict
  • Exploring London's Jewish Routes