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LONDON SCENE: Exploring Jewish London, Olympics style

Editor’s Note: In addition to covering athletes and events at the Summer Olympics, Cronkite News Service reporters are offering occasional observations about their experiences.

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LONDON – Having visited London twice in the past, it’s always a challenge for me to go beyond the obligatory tourist stops like Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. On Wednesday, London met the challenge when I stumbled upon two northern areas with Judaism and Olympic connections: Hendon and Camden Town.

The neighborhoods and streets just off of Hendon Central Station are crowded with kosher restaurants and delis with Jewish owners. The Hebrew writing on the sides of the buildings was familiar to me and sent tingles down my spine. The area reminded me of my travels in Israel and the many bustling Jewish shops on every street corner. Bakers were hard at work making challah and other kosher delicacies, and families milled around enjoying bagels and cream cheese.

A walk down the street brought me to the place where the Olympic Torch Relay made a stop before the games began. Crowds gathered near Middlesex University’s Hendon campus a week ago to see the torch carried through the streets. In fact, the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade performed, underlining the prevalence of the Jewish community in Hendon.

The Jewish Museum London was my next stop in Camden Town, but first I escaped the drizzling afternoon rain with a lunch of turkey soup and cucumber salad at a coffee shop. The museum on Albert Street featured tons of interesting exhibitions ranging from a touching Holocaust exhibit and a display of Ludwig Guttman’s personal objects and photos. Guttman is known as the “Father of the Paralympic Games” and helped to organize the event in 1948. Definitely learned something there.

Before I left, my charming tour guide Marjorie Grossman asked me if I was enjoying my escape from the desert heat. Of course, I answered, “Yes!”

I knew there was a Jewish population in London but was unaware how far-reaching it is and the significant part Jews have played in British history. It made me proud of my Jewish heritage!

Next stop: Brick Lane in the East End, an area famous for its Jewish roots and old synagogues.