May Day film festival looks back on once-thriving East End Jewish life

The Jewish heritage of London’s East End is being highlighted at a free film festival on the May Day Bank Holiday—in the heart of the area where the community once thrived.

‘Sights and Sounds of the Jewish East End’ forms the centrepiece of a film festival at Whitechapel’s Brady Arts centre on Monday as a ‘visual and aural landscape.’

It features contributions from Dr Gil Toffell, who is researching a project on Jewish cinema culture between the First and Second World wars.

“The fascinating thing is how the Jewish community carved out a distinctive local culture despite massive pressure to assimilate,” says Dr Toffell. “This ranged from Yiddish theatre to radical left-wing and anti-fascist politics, as well as a vibrant cinema culture. Now this world has disappeared.”

Dr Toffell traces how leisure and politics combined as a mix in cinema auditoria such as the Rivoli, where the East London Mosque stands today, and the People’s Palace now part of Queen Mary’s Mile End college campus which is also the site of the oldest Jewish cemetery in Britain.

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The East End Film Festival screens the classic 1962 short ‘The Vanishing Street’, which examines the disappearing way of life of Whitechapel’s Jewish community.

Other contributors include historian and East End tour guide David Rosenberg, writer Bernard Kops and Klezmer Klub singer Vivi Lachs.

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It starts at 2pm on Tuesday, May 2, at The Brady centre in Hanbury Street, free tickets online at

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