Jews of the West End

The Jewish community of the West End is less well known than the much larger population in the East End, but Jewish people lived in the West End from the mid-18th century onwards. During the first half of the 20th century, there was a thriving community including many immigrants from Eastern Europe, working in a range of occupations.

Much of the housing was cramped, and many families lived on low and unreliable incomes, but the community was close-knit and residents took an active part in the cosmopolitan life of the area. They were one among many minority ethnic groups, which, together, formed one of the most culturally diverse populations in the country.

One of the commonest professions for Jewish people in the West End was tailoring. Tailors and dressmakers often worked from home, or in small workshops, producing the high-quality suits and other garments for which the West End is well known. A variety of shops catered to the industry, selling cloth and trimmings as well as the finished products, including hats, underwear and furs. Berwick Street, with its busy market, was a centre of the trade. In the 1920s, two thirds of all the businesses on Berwick Street were Jewish-owned.

Jewish people also ran various other shops and businesses in the area, such as barbers' and tobacconists', as well as specialist shops catering to the Jewish community. These included grocery stores selling kosher food and shops selling religious items.

As well as the working-class inhabitants of Soho and Fitzrovia, there were many wealthy Jewish people living in the West End in areas such as Mayfair and Bloomsbury. They included politicians, lawyers and bankers, and many had lived in the West End since the mid-19th century. Families such as these formed the congregation of the Western Synagogue, a beautiful building destroyed during the Blitz.

The population declined after the Second World War when many people moved out to northern suburbs such as Golders Green.

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