Nineteenth-century Jewish London is brought to life by an immersive historical app documenting the Spitalfields ‘ghetto’.
The walking tour of East London takes users to soup kitchens, schools, and family homes, exploring daily life for poor migrants in the ghetto. It also visits the “festering sewer of lawlessness and vice” around Brick Lane, where gang violence and prostitution reigned.
The app, Zangwill’s Spitalfields, was produced by Historian at Queen Mary University of London, Dr. Nadia Valman in partnership with the Jewish Museum London. It uses photographs and first-hand accounts of life in Jewish East London, as well as being heavily influenced by Israel Zangwill’s novel ‘Children of the Ghetto’.
Zangwill hoped to make the vibrant culture of London’s migrant Jews understood by and palatable to outsiders, but ‘Children of the Ghetto’ nonetheless portrays a conflicted and divided community, at a tumultuous time for European Jews.
App producer and Historian Dr. Nadia Valman highlights that, having fled pogroms and legal restrictions in Eastern Europe during the late 1800s, many Jews were suspicious of outsiders, and lived within self-imposed ghetto gates, disapproving of those who led a freer existence.
Importantly, Valman underlined that while the period covered by the book is “a fascinating chapter in the area’s history”, “Zangwill’s tale of immigrants and their English-born children struggling with new opportunities and new dangers is a story for our time too.”