The first Jews in Wales most likely arrived in the 12th century, although they never settled in large enough numbers to have an official community. But by 1768 there were enough Jews in Swansea—brought there by the nearby copper mines—to justify having their own cemetery, to which they added two synagogues by the mid-19th century. And this was only the beginning, writes Matthew Williams:
The Jewish communities of Cardiff, Newport, Neath, Tredegar, Pontypridd, and Merthyr Tydfil all followed a roughly similar process of development in the 19th century with the rise of Welsh industry. The Merthyr Synagogue in particular is unique among all synagogues for having its gable adorned with [the red dragon that is the symbol of Wales]. . . .
The mass immigration of East European Jews [beginning in the late 19th century] dwarfed all prior and future Jewish immigration into Britain and caused the demographic explosion of British Jews; Wales was no exception, with the Jewish community numbering over 5,000 with nineteen congregations by 1918.
Once again new congregations were built around industry (such as shipbuilding in Bangor) and Jewish people in Wales prospered culturally, with dozens of various Jewish literary societies, charity organizations, Hebrew classes, and social centers springing up in both the north and south of Wales.
In 1911, the Jews of the city of Tredegar experienced what Winston Churchill, then the home secretary, called a “pogrom.” While the Jewish community in Wales would shrink during the subsequent decades, its numbers grew significantly once again at the end of the 1930s with the influx of refugees from Hitler’s Europe. Despite subsequently undergoing another period of numerical decline, Jewish life in Wales goes on.