Merthyr Tydfil - South Wales
Marcus Roberts


Bookmark this page |  E-mail this page to a friend

Pages < 1   2   3   4   > 

The former Jewish community in the Valleys of South Wales had a distinctive pattern of a relatively large number of smaller Jewish communities along the Valleys of South Wales, rather than a few larger ones, was due to Jews wishing to take advantage of the economic opportunities offered by the South Wales towns and villages, but being unable to congregate in one or more central locations due to the difficulties of travel west to east across the Valleys and consequently accessing a synagogue and community facilities.

Merthyr's Jewish community dates from the 1820's, the first Jewish settlers appear to have been second-hand clothiers, 'old clothes men' (as this was a key Jewish trade at the time) and they may well have been joined by Jewish hawkers and peddlers. There was also an early Baltic / Lithuanian Jewish presence, perhaps because Lithuanian supplied the wooden pit-props used in the mines, as Lithuania, then as now, was rich in woodland. Other early Jews included pawn-brokers, who operated by making small weekly loans to enable the poor to eke out their weekly pay, from one pay day until the next.

Ben Hamilton (Himmelstein), who was the lawyer and Coroner at the Aberfan Inquest in 1966, repeated the local Jewish tradition story, in 1955 at the re-consecration of the synagogue, that the first Jews to come to Merthyr looked through the windows of the houses of the Welsh, saw a Bible displayed on the parlour table of every home, and decided that this was the place to stay, as the natives were so pious. Merthyr was also conducive for Jewish settlement, as it had a strong Dissenting tradition, which was often Philo-Semitic, with the exception of some of the Baptists, and there were many other immigrants who had come for work and settled. It is also the case that the large urban population offered various economic opportunities, and the ports of South Wales were also close enough to offer other opportunities as well.

The Merthyr Hebrew Congregation was founded in 1848, with the first synagogue in Bethesda Street, in 1848, with a second in 1852 off Church Street, adjacent to the Temperance Hall. An account given of the community history in CAJEX states, 'By 1852 they [the Jews] built another synagogue, the walls of which are still in existence, behind the Temperance Hall and recently I saw some people who came from London and wished to see the remnants of a synagogue at Merthyr and I showed them that'.

Post a Comment
Submit to this trail