The Jews of Wales: A vibrant though declining community

Cardiff’s United Synagogue is a modern, bustling centre of worship and of the community.

The complex in the city’s upmarket Cyncoed district hosts 11 services a week as well as classes, study groups, events and acting as a hub for work in the community.

Yet the number of Jews in Wales is declining to the extent that there were barely 2,000 followers of Judaism in Wales, according to the 2011 census.

But that has not dampened spirits at the United Synagogue in the capital, one of just three active synagogues in the whole country.

“Censuses are difficult, because not everybody wants to tick the box that says Jewish, for a whole variety of reasons,” explained Stanley Soffa, chairman of the South Wales Jewish Representative Council.

“Some because they are worried about antisemitism and figures being used, some are old enough to remember a time when Jewish people had to register, so they don’t always do so.

“[But] the Jewish community in Wales, certainly in South Wales, is declining. Newport’s, for example, is virtually non-existent.”

The census taken six years ago showed there were five times fewer Jews in Wales than the proportion in the UK as a whole.

Two in five Jews in Wales, or about 800, live in Cardiff, it indicated.

At the other end of the scale, the county boroughs of Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil between them had just 12 adherents of the Jewish faith.

There are, however, likely to be many more secular Jews who did not put themselves down on the census as being adherents of the Jewish religion itself.

“We have got a lively community and will have one for quite some time. But we have got an ageing community. The vast majority of members of both shuls will not see 50 again,” Mr Soffa said.


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