Seder Without Fear, London, 1956
This photograph was taken in 1956 of Hungarian and Egyptian refugees celebrating Pesach at the Jews' Temporary Shelter in London.
The title of the photograph is “Seder Without Fear.” In the photograph are Jews who had just arrived in England from Hungary and Egypt. During this time there was antisemitism and political unrest in Hungary and Egypt (as well as other countries) which resulted in the persecution of Jews, and Jews often had to celebrate festivals, such as Pesach, in hiding. Antisemitism and persecution pushed Jews to immigrate to Britain, Israel, and other democratic countries, and this photograph shows the new arrivals celebrating their first Seder in London; their first Seder celebrated without fear.
The nineteenth century was the beginning of the mass migration to Britain of Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe. The new immigrants faced many difficulties in their new country. In order to help these refugees, Hermann Landau, a wealthy Jewish immigrant from Poland, opened the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter in Aldgate in 1885. The shelter offered Jews advice and assistance during their first few weeks in London and temporary lodgings at affordable prices. The immigrants were allowed to stay at the shelter for a maximum of two weeks while they set up their new lives. After World War II, the shelter accepted refugees, both Jews and non-Jews, from Europe, India, Egypt, Aden, Iran, and Iraq. The shelter closed down in the late twentieth century.
This photograph could be used in Jewish Studies lessons before Pesach when discussing the Seder. When presenting this photograph, teachers could mention the fact that throughout history many Jews have not been free to practice Judaism in the open and that many pogroms happened around the time of Pesach. The story of Pesach, the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, is also reflected in the stories of the Hungarian and Egyptian refugees in the photograph. Each person, each family, has a story to tell of why they left their country to move to Britain or other countries. This photograph could be used to demonstrate how all these different people came together to celebrate their shared identity as immigrants in a new land.
Teachers of Social Studies could also use this photograph when discussing immigrants and the various challenges they face.
Describe the photograph.
Who are the people?
What are they doing?
What clues can tell you when the photograph was taken?
Why do you think this photograph was taken?
What are some of the similarities and differences between the people in the photographs?
Write an imaginary conversation that might have taken place between the refugees from Egypt and Hungary who met at this Seder. Have you ever participated in a communal Seder? Was it similar or different to this one? In what ways?