Western Mail

Heritage centre plan for former synagogue secures funds


A FORMER Merthyr Tydfil synagogue which is to be turned into a Welsh Jewish heritage centre and cultural venue has secured major funding to preserve and re-purpose the historic building.

The plan to restore the oldest purpose-built synagogue still standing in Wales, has also been boosted by the announceme­nt that Welsh tech billionair­e Sir Michael Moritz and comedian David Baddiel have both agreed to become patrons of the project.

After purchasing the site last year the Foundation for Jewish Heritage has now secured major funding, in the form of grants from Cadw - the Welsh Government’s heritage agency, and three major foundation­s – The Pilgrim Trust, the Los Angeles-based GRoW @ Annenberg and the Philip King Charitable Trust.

In addition, UK heritage body the Architectu­ral Heritage Fund, which has been advising on the project, has given a grant to enable the commission­ing of a consultant to carry out research and prepare a detailed business plan. This will provide crucial informatio­n on the synagogue’s future use and its long-term viability.

The synagogue, a stone structure designed in Gothic Revival style, is considered architectu­rally one of the most important synagogues in the UK.

Merthyr Tydfil was the industrial powerhouse of Wales in the 19th century with a large Jewish presence in the town since the 1830s. The synagogue’s constructi­on in 1872 reflected a community that was growing and prospering.

Worship at the site came to an end in 1983 when the Grade II listed synagogue was sold. Since 2006 it has been lying empty, its condition deteriorat­ing. The fabric of the building has been compromise­d with a gaping hole in the roof and broken windows. The seriousnes­s of the threat was recognised when the synagogue became formally designated as a Welsh heritage site at risk.

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage, which works internatio­nally on the preservati­on of Jewish heritage, purchased the building in 2019 to save it, with the vision to create a ‘Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre’ that would present the 250+ year history of the Welsh Jewish community, promote inter-cultural dialogue and provide a new cultural venue for Merthyr.

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