Dr. Gil Toffell is working on a research project entitled ‘Ruins and Reconstruction: Jewish Habiation of the East End of London in the Post-War Period (1945 – 1970).
The dominant narrative explaining Jewish settlement in London’s East End offers an account of growth from the 1880’s until 1914, consolidation in the interwar period, and exodus in the years following WWII. Whilst this understanding has much to recommend it, it has often worked to occlude the details of an East London Jewish life-world distinct to the post-war moment. Employing oral history, archival and literary approaches Ruins and Reconstruction directly addresses this ‘dark age’, putting on record a continued association of Jews with the East End in the years 1945 – 1970.
I am developing my project along two thematic axes. Firstly, I wish to understand how the legacy of events associated with WWII influenced Jewish life in the East End following a return to peace. This is investigated through three interrelated critical contexts:
My second line of inquiry is the discursive construction of the ‘Jewish East End’ in a range of films, novels, plays and memoirs that appeared immediately post-war. Frequently elegiac in tone these have been central in establishing the dominant narrative of Jewish habitation of East London. Central to my exploration is an understanding of this corpus as both constituting the Jewish East End as a pre-WWII time-space, whilst encoding a post-war ‘structure of feeling’.