Welsh Jews are crowdfunding to help raise £30,000 to trace the last 250 years of the community’s heritage and history.
The innovative project by the Jewish History Association of South Wales aims to record memories of Jewish life in the valleys, which stretches back to 1768, with the establishment of Swansea’s Jewish burial ground.
The idea has already won backing from synagogues in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, as well as the support of a Jewish care home, while one anonymous well-wisher has said they will match donations up to £5,000.
“Our aim is to record oral testimonies and memories of Jewish life in communities in all areas of south Wales as well as the digitisation of CAJEX magazine, which flourished from 1950 to 1991, in order to make it widely available,” said the Association’s chair David Lermon.
“There will also be a website to signpost all available resources, visual and oral, and an attempt to record all Jewish artefacts in public collections throughout South Wales.
In order to raise the £30,000 necessary for a full year’s operation, the Association plans to appeal for funds from individuals, trusts and charitable foundations with roots in south Wales, as well as from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
“Apart from funds, there is likely to be a need for volunteers with relevant skills and sufficient time,” said Lermon, revealing a team began recording oral testimonies this month, under the guidance of project manager Klavdija Erzen.
Apart from Swansea’s Jewish burial ground, which is the earliest physical evidence of Jews in Wales, most surviving material heritage is Victorian, since the Cardiff community began in the 1840s. The city still has two synagogues – one orthodox and one reform – but both have falling and ageing memberships.
Historians say Jewish communities have previously flourished in mining and industrial towns, comprising Merthyr, Pontypridd, Newport, Brynmawr, Tredegar and Llanelli.
“Individuals, whose roots are in the Jewish communities of south Wales, have excelled themselves in many disciplines over the past 150 years including writers and artists, politicians, academics, medics and lawyers,” said Lermon, noting “at least one Nobel Prize winner – Brian Josephson”.
He added: “If you can help the project in any way, possibly with your family memories and roots in south Wales, please contact us.”