Benjamin Feigenbaum was one of a number of radicals active in the East End when it was a centre for Jewish immigration. Although not a household name, he has secured his place in history through the speech he made in 1885 on Yom Kippur (one of the holiest days of the year for religious jews).
At a packed meeting in Christ Church Hall, Hanbury Street, he asked ‘Is there a God and if he is Almighty as the clergy claims he is, I give him just two minutes’ time to kill me on the spot so that he may prove his existence!’ Two minutes passed, the band struck up a revolutionary song and Feigenbaum triumphantly exclaimed: ‘See! There is no God!’
Feigenbaum was one of the editors of the radical Yiddish newspaper ‘Der Arbeiter Fraint.’ The meeting was one of a number of similar events held during that period to challenge the religious orthodoxy that gripped the community.
Christ Church Hall is an interesting microcosm of East London. Built in 1719 as a French Huguenot church, it was subsequently occupied by Lutherans, Baptists and Methodists, before being taken over by Christ Church, Spitalfields, in 1887. As a public hall it served the community in many ways. Charles Dickens gave readings of his works there. The Bryant & May match girls held strike meetings there in 1888, organised by another freethinker featured here, Annie Besant, and Eleanor Marx.