Singing in Yiddish about London

1880–1940

in European Judaism

Singing in Yiddish about London: 1880-1940 is the story of six Yiddish songs that tell of mainly East End people and places and experiences; these snippets of history give insights into what was happening in London at the time. They tell of poverty and work, of street life and of love. They tell of characters; an old fiddler, a bagel seller, a prostitute. They tell of places, the Pavilion Theatre, Victoria Park, Morgan Street. They sparkle with life, whether deeply moving or comic. This article explores Jewish history through the songs, as well as exploring the history of the songs themselves. The songs were collected in Denmark, Canada, Germany, Liverpool and London. The article describes some of the people who sung them, who collected them and who wrote them. There is a lot unknown about the songs and why they were written, so there is much to conjecture by London Yiddishists and folk collectors. These answers throw more light onto the politics and issues of the day. Today these songs are being performed by Vivi Lachs and Klezmer Klub, a London-based band who are seeking to revive them and imbue in them a sense of their meaning for today.