Welcome news on Merthyr Tydfil synagogue
Dawn Bowden AM welcomes this news from the Foundation for Jewish Heritage and hopes the plan and vision came come to reality. During his recent visit to Merthyr Tydfil Dwn showed the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism the synagogue site and she will continue to support plans for its restoration. It forms part of the rich heritage of the town that we must retain for the future and help to tell the remarkable stories of the many cultures and faiths that have been a part of the town.
“The Foundation for Jewish Heritage has purchased the former Merthyr Tydfil synagogue in Wales with the vision to turn it into a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre and cultural venue.
Merthyr Tydfil synagogue built in 1872 is a Victorian stone structure designed in Gothic Revival style, and the oldest purpose-built synagogue still standing in Wales. Today it is considered architecturally one of the most important synagogues in the UK and has been awarded Grade II listed status.
The Jewish community of Merthyr formally came to an end in 1983 with the sale of the synagogue. Since 2006, the building has been lying empty with its condition deteriorating, and it was recently put up for sale. The Foundation for Jewish Heritage proposed that the building be used to create a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre that would present the remarkable 250+ year history of the Welsh Jewish community and provide a new cultural venue for Merthyr. The idea was well received by the Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council, local MP Gerald Jones and AM Dawn Bowden, and the Jewish and heritage communities in Wales. The Foundation then conducted a Feasibility Study and the conclusions demonstrated that the Heritage Centre concept was viable.
The Foundation views its role as primarily educational – using such historic buildings to inform about the life and contribution of the Jewish community, building awareness and understanding, combating ignorance and prejudice. The Foundation wants the Merthyr project to promote inter-cultural dialogue and inclusion, and bring wider social and economic benefit, which is so important in a place like Merthyr.
Having purchased the site, the Foundation is now looking to secure funding to enable urgent repairs to be carried out. The Foundation is working closely with the Merthyr Borough Council and plans to make an application in due course to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF). It has already informally met with NLHF representatives.
Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, commented – ‘the Foundation is delighted to have bought the former Merthyr Tydfil synagogue, which is currently in a very poor state. The building is a nationally recognised historic site which we want to use to tell a unique national story of the Welsh Jewish community. In restoring the building, we want it to once again play a meaningful role in the life of Merthyr’.
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage was established in 2015 to work internationally on preserving Jewish heritage. The Foundation’s website www.foundationforjewishheritage.com explains its approach and those involved, including our Trustees Sir Simon Schama CBE, Dame Helen Hyde DBE, The Rt Hon Jim Murphy, Lord Daniel Finkelstein OBE, Stuart Roden, Graham Edwards, Daniel Peltz OBE, David Bearman and Stephen Goldman, and Friends including Sir Anish Kapoor, Stephen Fry, Daniel Libeskind, Lord Fellowes, Jimmy Wales, Lord Young, Senator Joe Lieberman, Lord Pickles, Bernard-Henri Levy, and Simon Sebag Montefiore.
The Foundation undertook unprecedented research to map all 3,300+ historic synagogues of Europe in order to identify the most important ‘at risk’ buildings – www.historicsynagogueseurope.org. Merthyr Tydfil synagogue was highlighted in this research”.