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Making and Remaking the Jewish East End: Space, Language and Time

Project team

Professor Nadia Valman, Principal Investigator

Nadia Valman is Professor of Urban Literature in the School of English and Drama, Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on the literature of east London, and she has recently published essays on the writers Israel Zangwill, Arthur Morrison, Margaret Harkness and Alexander Baron. She is an expert on British Jewish literature, author of The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and editor or co-editor of eight books situating writing about or by Jews within wider debates about politics, culture and nation including The ‘Jew’ in Edwardian Culture: Between the East End and East Africa (Palgrave, 2009), Remembering Cable Street: Fascism and Anti-Fascism in British Society (Vallentine Mitchell, 1999) and Nineteenth-Century Jewish Literature: A Reader (Stanford, 2013). She was awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship (2014-15) and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2019-20).

Nadia’s research on East End history and culture has frequently involved work with museums and schools and collaborations with artists and musicians. She has created guided walks in east London for the Migration Museum, walking tour apps for the Jewish Museum and the Royal London Hospital, site-specific events at the Royal London Hospital and the Tower of London using text and projected images, and schools’ workshops on Victorian protest and the 1971 Stepney Words poetry strike.

For ‘Making and Remaking the Jewish East End’, Nadia is researching English-language fiction by Jewish writers from the East End. Her research explores links between English and Yiddish writing in the late nineteenth century, and the ways the East End and its Yiddish-language culture figured in the work of postwar British Jewish writing.

Professor David Feldman, Co-Investigator

David Feldman is Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and a Professor of History at Birkbeck, University of London. He has written extensively on the history of the Jewish East End. His current research deals with the history of antisemitism. In addition to his work on Jewish history, David has published extensively on the history of migration and immigration in Britain from 1600 to the present. He has written on systems of immigration control, migrants and entitlement to welfare and the history of multiculturalism.

David is actively engaged in research which addresses public policy. He led a pan-European research project exploring antisemitism in Europe. His expertise has been sought by EU and international institutions including the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations  and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, the Antisemitism Policy Trust and the Runnymede Trust. He provides expertise and advice on antisemitism to a wide range of political, philanthropic and cultural organisations. His writing on the Labour Party and antisemitism has appeared in The Guardian, Financial TimesHaaretzHistory Workshop Online and The Independent. Together with Ben Gidley and Brendan McGeever his assessment and analysis of the crisis appeared in The Political Quarterly.

For ‘Making and Remaking the Jewish East End’, David is exploring the ways in which the East End figures in oral testimonies. This research has two dimensions. On the one hand it looks at the ways in which the “East End” and the “Jewish East End” figure in oral histories. How frequently do the terms arise? In what contexts were the terms significant?  What did they mean spatially? What was their significance in people’s lives and memories? The other dimension of the research asks whether those who gathered the oral histories were on a quest to find the East End? And, if this was the case, to what extent the testimonies were shaped by the historians’ preconceptions about local community.

Dr Vivi Lachs, Research Fellow

Vivi Lachs is a historian of London’s Jewish East End, a Yiddishist and performer. Her book Whitechapel Noise (Wayne State University Press, 2018) draws new historical detail from Yiddish poetry and music-hall song of the Jewish East End. London Yiddishtown (Wayne State University Press, 2021) is her translation of selected Yiddish East End stories from the 1930s and 1940s, offering a new history of London’s Yiddish writers of that period. She has also published articles about the Jewish socialist leader Morris Winchevsky. She gives both academic and public talks.

Vivi performs and records with the bands Klezmer Klub and Katsha’nes, co-runs the Yiddish Open Mic Cafe, and the Great Yiddish Parade – a marching band bringing Yiddish songs of protest back onto London's streets. She is vice-chair of the Yiddish Cafe Trust and is co-organising a Yiddish-speaking weekend in June 2022. She also leads East End tours.

For "Making and Re-making the Jewish East End", Vivi is researching fiction published in the London Yiddish press from 1884–1954, including novels and novellas, stories, sketches, scenes and feuilletons. She is translating a selection of these texts for an anthology of British Yiddish fiction. She is also researching local Yiddish plays and theatre sketches.

Dr Katy Pettit

Katy Pettit is a historian of the East End and the administrator of the ‘Making and Remaking the Jewish East End’ project.

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