Disused synagogues in the Welsh valleys and North-East England are among shul buildings across Europe earmarked for restoration under a new heritage initiative.

Historian Simon Schama and broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky addressed the formal launch of the Historic Synagogues of Europe project in the Speaker’s Rooms in Parliament on Wednesday.

Project leaders have identified more than 3,300 historically significant synagogues from Cork to Vladivostok, which are in need of renewal.

The Merthyr Tydfil and Sunderland buildings are the two from the UK included in the priority group of 19 which have garnered support in their localities.

Merthyr’s Jewish community was established in 1848 when the Welsh town’s ironworks made it a centre of the industrial revolution.

Sunderland Synagogue was home to a community descended from Lithuanian Jews, most of whom migrated to the area in the mid-to-late 19th century.

The Jewish community reached its zenith of around 1,500 in the 1960s and among prominent figures down the years were Sir Jack Cohen and Charles Slater, who both served as mayor. The latter — affectionately known as “Mr Sunderland” — was behind a successful bid to bring a Nissan factory to the area in 1987.

The Art Deco-style synagogue is one of three UK shuls designed by Marcus Kenneth Glass and received Grade II-listed status in 1999.

The 19 Buildings on the initial list

Híjar Synagogue, Spain
Sunderland Synagogue
Merthyr Synagogue
Second Temple, Hamburg, Germany
Bytca Synagogue, Slovakia
Synagogue in Police and Jemnice, Czech Republic
Thann Synagogue, France
Medieval Synagogue, Korneuburg, Austria
Soldiers’ Synagogue, Tomsk, Russia
Great Maharsha Synagogue, Ostroh, Ukraine Great Synagogue, Przysucha, Poland
Great Synagogue, Rashkov, Moldova
Cetate (Citadel) Synagogue, Timisoara, Romania
Alanta Wooden Synagogue, Lithuania
Apatin Synagogue, Serbia
Etz Haim Synagogue, Izmir, Turkey
New Great Synagogue, Novoselytsia, Ukraine
Great Synagogue, Slonim, Belarus
Great Synagogue, Oshmiany, Belarus