The Poet of Whitechapel

Avram Stencl by Derek Reid

A programme about the extraordinary life and work of the Yiddish poet Avram Nachum Stencl (1897-1983) who went from an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community in southern Poland to the bohemian cafés of pre-war Berlin before finally escaping Nazi Germany to arrive in Whitechapel, the heart of the Jewish East End. He soon became London’s foremost Yiddish poet, founding the literary journal ‘Loshn un Lebn’ (Language and Life) and the weekly ‘Friends of Yiddish’ meetings at Toynbee Hall with its lively mixture of poetry, politics, literature and song, all part of his mission to keep the Yiddish language alive.

Presented by Rachel Lichtenstein – author of Rodinsky’s Room, On Brick Lane and Estuary – who continues to explore her deep connection with the Jewish East End, and featuring the many voices she has collected over the years of those who knew and loved Stencl. Produced by Patrick Bernard. Archive material courtesy of the BBC and BFI.

Contributions from – in order of appearance – Bill Fishman, Heather Valencia, Dovid Katz, Beruriah Wiegand, Vivi Lachs, Bob Chait, Kathi Diamant, Majer Bogdanski, Miriam Becker and Julie Bloom. All interviews recorded by Rachel Lichtenstein.  

Featuring sound from ‘The Vanishing Street’ (©BFI) and ‘Belonging’ (©BBC) by Robert Vas, and ‘Heritage’ (©BBC) by Derek Reid. Music by Ernest Bloch, Klezmer Klub and Majer Bogdanski.

Recording of a ‘Friends of Yiddish’ meeting by Dovid Katz:

Interview with Avram Stencl in Yiddish by Dovid Katz:

Stills from ‘Belonging’ (©BBC) by Robert Vas: