Massive turn out for Merthyr Tydfil synagogue open day

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Massive turn out for Merthyr Tydfil synagogue open day

'Palpable excitement' as Foundation for Jewish Heritage throws open the doors of planned Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre

Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage
Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

Five hundred guests attended a special open day in Wales to see the planned Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre being developed at the former Merthyr synagogue.

Visitors flocked in from across Wales and beyond throughout Sunday 18th February to see inside the shul for the first time since the building was closed in 2006.

Merthyr Tydfil Synagogue was built in the 1870s and is the oldest purpose-built synagogue surviving in Wales. The community came to an end in 1983. The Foundation for Jewish Heritage purchased the building in 2019 with the vision to turn the site into a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre.

In 2022, the Foundation secured funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council to develop the plans.

Guests on Sunday were also able to visit the nearby Soar community centre where they could meet the professional team driving the synagogue project, view the architect’s plans, and examine artefacts associated with the former Jewish community.

Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

Many of those who attended brought their own memories and memorabilia associated with Jewish life in Wales and a number of guests represented families who had once been members of Merthyr synagogue.

Local historian Chris Clifford gave two talks and entertainment was provided by a Welsh klezmer band.

London-based cantor Yudi Cohen, whose grandfather had been a cantor in the Merthyr synagogue in the 1950s, gave a moving rendition of ‘Hashivenu’ in the synagogue.

Special visitors included local MP Gerald Jones, Merthyr Tydfil county borough council leader Geraint Thomas, National Lottery Heritage Fund Wales director Andrew White, Rabbi Rose from the Cardiff Orthodox community, and various representatives of local Merthyr organisations.

Pic: Foundation for Jewish Heritage

Dame Helen Hyde DBE, Chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, said: “It was a very special occasion that demonstrated the huge level of interest in the project. We received lots of good information and feedback that will help to shape the future of the project. The excitement in the room was palpable!”

Michael Mail, chief executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage said: “The numbers coming through the door surprised us all. And the stories that people brought with them of being Jewish in Wales, or their experience of the Jewish community, was fascinating and moving. We felt very encouraged that the project was truly welcomed and would be widely supported.”

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