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Blue Plaque For Jewish Community

 A Blue Plaque is to be unveiled in Aberdare by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council this week to mark the site of the town’s Synagogue and to recognise the once-thriving Jewish community in the area. 

Cllr John Watts, Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taf, will unveil the commemorative Blue Plaque at Aberdare Library on Thursday, January 29, as part of events around Holocaust Memorial Day. 

The Blue Plaque will later be fitted onto the site of the former Synagogue in Aberdare. 

“I am delighted and honoured to be playing such an important part in marking the site of the Aberdare Synagogue, such an important place of worship for so many people for so many years,” said Cllr Watts. 

“By unveiling this Blue Plaque, the Council is recognising the great place in history the Jewish community held in Aberdare.” 

Historically, Jews came to the South Wales Valleys in large numbers between the 1880s and 1914. But the first registered Jewish person to live in Wales was David Michael, who moved to Haverfordwest in 1749. 

With the increasing number of Jews moving to the area over the years, Synagogues opened up across Wales, the three largest in the valley towns being at Tredegar, Aberdare and Merthyr Tydfil. 

There were also Synagogues at Aberavon, Abertillery, Bridgend, Ebbw Vale, Brynmawr and Pontypridd. 

On October 11, 1889, specialist publication The Jewish Chronicle reported that David Hart, of Seymour Street, had kindly loaned his home to be “fitted for the purpose of a Synagogue in Aberdare.” 

The terraced property went on to be used at a Synagogue for many decades, attracting large congregations at every meeting and service. 

In 1892, Lewis Lazarus was the Secretary of the Aberdare Congregation, and he welcomed the Chief Rabbi to the town for a special ceremony involving hundreds of people. 

Mr Hart sadly died at his home on July 12, 1894, but his residence continued to be used as Synagogue. The current owner of the property is expected to attend the ceremony.

A thriving community, the Aberdare and District Jewish Literary and Social Society was formed in 1910. Chairman of the group was Henry Cohen, with Rose Hann as Vice-Chair and Maurice Levett as Treasurer. 

At its peak, there were up to 100 Jewish families living in and around the Aberdare area. 

During the Second World War, a large number of Jewish refugees and their families fled to safety in Aberdare and became staunch supporters and loyal members of the Aberdare Synagogue. 

But following two World Wars and the nationalisation of the coal industry, many of these people moved to Cardiff and its surrounding suburbs in later years. 

For many years the premises was run by well-known Aberdare businessman Victor Freed, who had a large retail store in the town centre and was also Chairman of Aberdare Rotary Club. 

His son Aubrey Freed became the last-ever Secretary of the Aberdare Synagogue, while his other son Reginald was the last Aberdare representative at the Board of Deputies.

The last service took place at the Aberdare Synagogue in 1957, conducted by the Reverend S Schlachter. Following this historic service, the Scrolls of the Law, which were housed in the Synagogue, were returned to Israel. 

In 1959, The Jewish Chronicle reported that “the Jewish community of Aberdare, which has survived 100 years, was now drawing to a quiet and reverent close as there are now but a handful of Jewish people left in the Aberdare Valley.” 

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is marking the importance of their place in history by unveiling a Blue Plaque in Aberdare on Thursday, January 29.

 

  • A Blue Plaque marking the site of the Aberdare Synagogue is being officially unveiled at Aberdare Library on Thursday, January 29 (10.30am). All are welcome.