Jewish people have lived in different parts of London for hundreds of years. Some parts of London have a particular Jewish character that is defined by the levels of observance of some of the Jewish community who live there, the Jewish owned shops and the number of synagogues and community centres to be found in the area.
Which Jewish areas of London are you familiar with? Explain in detail what gives them their Jewish character.
Now watch this clip from an interview with actor, director and playwright Steven Berkoff in which he talks about Jewish Hackney.
In this clip, Berkoff mentions two other playwrights: Harold Pinter and Sir Arnold Wesker.
Listen to this audio clip of an interview with Sir Arnold Wesker about his memories of growing up in Hackney and reflections on Jewish identity. Then try to find answers to the questions below.
• What can you find out about these writers with Hackney roots?
• Where did they live and go to school?
• In what ways and to what extent did their Jewish London backgrounds affect what they wrote about?
There are many areas in Hackney that have significant Jewish history – one of the most significant is Ridley Road. Watch this clip with tour guides Rachel Kolsky and David Rosenberg telling stories about the famous Ridley Road street market.
Based on what you see and hear in this clip, what do you think makes Ridley Road special?
Our identities are complex. Who we are is the result of lots of different genetic and environmental factors. Watch these two clips from interviews with actor, director and playwright Steven Berkoff and politician, Lord Levy who both went to Hackney Downs Grammar School, known as Grocers. As they talk about their memories of growing up in Hackney, think about how life in this part of London might have influenced their identity.
Now look at the statements below and try to prioritise them – at the top of your list place the factors you think have the most influence on your identity. Put at the bottom your list, the factors you think have the least influence. You may wish to put some at the same level.