Discovered in a suitcase: 19th century records of south Wales Jewish community

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Discovered in a suitcase: 19th century records of south Wales Jewish community

Researchers excited by the historical find which includes documents and photographs soon to be made available online

Suitcase featuring the minute books of the Cardiff Ladies’ Sewing Society (1926-1947) and Cardiff United Synagogue Ladies’ Guild (1952-1991)
Suitcase featuring the minute books of the Cardiff Ladies’ Sewing Society (1926-1947) and Cardiff United Synagogue Ladies’ Guild (1952-1991)

Researchers have discovered a wealth of information on the history of the Jewish Welsh community in an old suitcase at a city synagogue.

The finds included annual reports, documents and photographs relating to the cemetery and minute books from various synagogue committees. These are now available to view at Glamorgan Archives in Cardiff and searchable through its online catalogue (‘Canfod’ – document reference D765).

A selection of the material will also be available to view digitally on People’s Collection Wales.

The work was carried out as part of an ambitious year-long project to preserve and make publicly available the records of Cardiff United Synagogue – the last remaining orthodox synagogue in south Wales – and make the records available to the wider audience.

The former Cardiff Synagogue on Cathedral Road. This synagogue building is now an office block. Pic: Wikipedia

The Cardiff United Synagogue records date back to the 19th century. They survived the floods in Cardiff of 1979-80 when most of the records, which at that time were held in the basement of the former Cathedral Road Synagogue, were lost. Since 2003, the records were stored at Cardiff United Synagogue but were at risk of deterioration.

None of the records had been digitised, were not available to the public and were not searchable as there was no inventory or catalogue.

Klavdija Erzen, project manager of the Jewish History Association of South Wales says: “We discovered lots of fascinating material, including annual reports, architectural and building plans, cemetery documents and photographs, stored away in a suitcase at the synagogue.This included the minute books of the Cardiff Ladies’ Sewing Society (1926-1947) and Cardiff United Synagogue Ladies’ Guild (1952-1991).”

Rhian Diggins, senior archivist at the Glamorgan Archives, said: “Thanks to this project, delivered with the Jewish History Association of South Wales, we have succeeded in safeguarding for the future and making accessible to the public for the first time, a significant collection documenting the history of the Jewish community in Cardiff and the wider South Wales area.

“This contributes significantly towards our aims as a service of engaging with new audiences and developing our collection so that it reflects the whole of the community that we serve.”

The project was supported by the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe along with the Jewish History Association of South Wales/Cymdeithas Hanes Iddewig De Cymru (JHASW/CHIDC).

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