Oral History

Oral History Archive

The story within living memory of Sandys Row Synagogue is an important part of this project. Volunteers have received training from oral historian and project manager Rachel Lichtenstein on how to record audio testimony. Sandys Row members past and present have shared their stories, focusing on memories of life and events at the synagogue and the many changes that have taken place over the years in the Spitalfields area, which has transformed beyond recognition during the lifetime of our interviewees from the vibrant Jewish quarter they experienced as children to the bustling international tourist zone it is today. Excerpts of a small selection of these interviews are available to listen to here. The full oral history recordings, along with summaries and transcripts have been deposited at the Bishopsgate Institute Archives and are available for the public to access in the  Reading Room.

If you are a former member of Sandys Row Synagogue or lived in the area and have memories you would like to share for this project please do get in touch.

 


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Barry Gelkoff's family came to the East End in the early 1950's. Their sweet shop Gelkoff's was situated a few shops away from Blooms in Whitechapel High Street. Gelkoffs was internationally famous for its kosher confectionary and was the largest supplier of passover sweets in London. They supplied Harrods and Selfridges too but in 1988, like many other Jewish-run businesses in that area, Gelkoff closed.

Pamela Freedman was born on the 5th August 1923. As a young woman she lived and worked in her father’s pub in Whitechapel. She joined Sandy’s Row through her husband and she still attends today.

Minni(e) Sugarman(n) (nee Jacobson) was born in Goulston Street, opposite the baths, which she visited 3 times a week as a child. She remembers fondly the Jewish East End of her youth.

Irene Kingsley was one of the oldest members of Sandys Row Synagogue. Irene was born in 1936 and remembers being evacuated with her mother during the war. She joined the Synagogue when she was about 15 and has been going ever since. Irene worked on the local markets. She married Ivan in 1994. They had a civil ceremony in Finsbury Park in April and then a religious ceremony and a reception at Sandys Row on 2nd June 1994.

Rochelle Cole was born in 1968 and owns a chicken shop in the East End that has been handed down through four generations of her family. She fondly remembers helping her father in the shop as a child.

Harvey Rifkind, current President of Sandys Row Synagogue, gives a brief introduction to the history of the synagogue.

Harold (Harry) Gilbert was born in 1930 and has been a member of Sandys Row Synagogue all his life. All of his family were well-known members of Sandys Row Synagogue and Harry was both Bar Mitzvah'd and married there.

Henry Glanz was born in 1924 in Poland, he lived in Germany under the Nazi’s and escaped to England on the last Kinder Transport. Henry was responsible for blowing the shofar at Sandys Row Synagogue.

Julius Waldman was born in Adler Street in 1923, to Romanian migrant parents, he was one of 8. He attended the Jews’ Free School, later joining the army and then worked as a tailor.

Maria Driffil is 93 years old and was born in the Mother Levee’s Home in Spitalfields. She is from Dutch and Spanish/Portuguese descent. She re-affirmed her wedding vows at a ceremony at Sandy’s Row.

Marion Zargel is 91 years old and lived with her grandparents, who were of Dutch descent, in Goulston Street. She is an active member of Sandys Row Synagogue and has been so since the age of 18.

Rosemary Hoffman was born in 1944 and moved to the East End with her father Sidney Davis in 1956 when her father bought the King's Doors pub a few buildings away from Sandys Row Synagogue. Sidney and his family were all members of Sandys Row. His son had his Barmitzpah at Sandys Row and his daughter Rosemary remembers Friday night services as a child.

Sylvia Pomper is one hundred years old. As a child she lived with her family above her families confectionery shop on Brick Lane. She was married at Sandys Row in 1934. Her father was Dutch.