Historic Welsh synagogue receives over $600,000 to reopen as cultural center
(JTA) — The Welsh and British governments are giving a Jewish heritage organization more than $600,000 to open a Jewish cultural center in a historic former Welsh synagogue.
The Foundation for Jewish Heritagea British group that researches, defends and restores Jewish heritage sites across Europe, announced on Tuesday that it will receive funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), which is administered by the UK government, and the Welsh government’s Transforming Towns scheme to begin a development phase.
The Foundation purchased the Merthyr Tydfil Synagogue building in 2019 with the aim of creating the first museum dedicated to Jewish history in Wales.
The synagogue was opened in 1877, when an influx of Central and Eastern European Jewish immigrants to South Wales necessitated a second synagogue in the area.
However, as the local industrial economy declined in the later part of the 20th century, so did the local Jewish population. With no one to fill it, the synagogue was officially sold in 1983. It had various functions over the years, but was listed as so deteriorated in 2006 that it has since been out of use.
Dame Helen Hyde, chair of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, said the new center ‘will tell the remarkable story of Welsh Jewry while tackling important issues within our society today’ .
The 2011 National Census, the latest official estimate of the Jewish population of Wales, reported 2,064 people. Today, the number is believed to number in the hundreds. The closest active synagogue to Merthyr Tydfil is in Cardiff.