Gleaning Whitechapel’s Yiddishe Histories
Louis Berk, Vivi Lachs
A stone wall or an iron gate reveal stories of community and schooling. An expression in a Cockney-Yiddish music-hall song or a union anthem from an 1889 tailors’ strike offer glimpses into a vibrant but conflicted world. Picking up clues and hints from photographs and Yiddish song lyrics, Louis Berk and Vivi Lachs present hidden stories from the Whitechapel shtetl.
Louis Berk is a photographer whose work in the ‘fragile hinterland’ of Whitechapel and Spitalfields has been used regularly since 2008 in newspapers, magazines, books and websites, both in the UK and internationally. He is the joint author (with Rachel Kolsky) of two highly successful books for Amberley Publishing, Whitechapel in 50 Buildings and Secret Whitechapel, as well as a solo effort based on a five-year photographic project in two of London’s oldest Jewish cemeteries, East End Jewish Cemeteries to which he was granted exclusive access. In March 2019 Mango Books will publish his latest book, The Doors of Whitechapel.
Vivi Lachs is a historian of the Jewish East End, Yiddishist pop singer, performer, and Associate Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She worked for 25 years teaching in Hackney schools. Recently called a Yiddish culture activist, she records Cockney-Yiddish songs with the bands Klezmer Klub and Katsha’nes. She set up the Great Yiddish Parade to bring songs of protest from the 1880s back onto the streets of London, co-runs the monthly Yiddish open mic cafe and leads occasional East End historical singing tours. She continues to research the Jewish East End through Yiddish texts.