“Bravery, loss, unity and endeavour. This is the inspirational story of Jewish London.”
Why a self-led tour?
The 150th anniversary of the United Synagogue’s foundation in 1870 was a time to reflect on the historical development and achievements of our Jewish community and of the US. We – Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum and Ben Vos – designed a walking tour which allows you to guide yourself through London, and through our history, either through the streets or from the comfort of home.
Each of the fifteen stops has a map link to get you there quickly, or written directions if you prefer. And if you’re "walking from home", you can use Google Street View.
The central element of the stops are the podcasts, which are each around six minutes long. Each stop also has a picture and a document. Sometimes the podcast will be about a broad period or area of Jewish history in London, and the picture or text will focus on something narrower. Sometimes, the document or text will be about something seemingly unrelated to the podcast, but we hope it will give you context.
Jewish history in the UK goes back almost a millennium, and has always centred on London. As our tour of London progresses, we slow down the passage of time and look in more detail as more is known about recent events. Even so, we have had to be selective about our choices. This tour is not supposed to give you a complete understanding of London Jewish history. Rabbi Birnbaum speaks about this in his introduction. We do hope, though, that you will learn new information, and gain something from what we hope is a fresh United Synagogue take on our collective past. If you want to feedback in any way at all, please do contact Ben Vos by clicking here.
The length of the tour
The tour begins at the Barbican and ends at Fournier Street, Spitalfields.
Walking at the pace used by Google Maps to calculate distances and timings, if one walked from the first stop at Barbican to the last stop in Fournier Street, Spitalfields, it would take 52 minutes to cover the distance of just under 2.5 miles.
However, each podcast is 5 or 6 minutes long, and there are fifteen of them. That adds an hour and a half to the tour, not including any detours, loo breaks, coffee stops or avoidance of rain.
Not all destinations are equally-distanced. The last six or seven destinations in particular, are closer to each other than the others.
All in all, we hope that a fit walker who is keen but not so uncurious that they won’t be distracted by anything, might comfortably complete the tour in under four hours, taking some time for something to eat and without rushing. This doesn’t include travel time to or from the start (nearest tube: Barbican) or the end (nearest tube: Aldgate).
You might find the walk easier if you don’t do it all on one day, or even if you use a bicycle or a scooter between stops.
Optional equipment you might want to bring
Smartphone with plenty of battery and data (i.e. that doesn’t need WiFi)
Food (optional but at least a bisl is recommended)
Please be sure to keep your possessions secure. Wear shoes suitable for walking a few miles, and carry with you a bottle of water if it’s a hot day.
Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum and Ben Vos