The Rise and Fall of Welsh Jewry

Aug. 25 2016

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.

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Read more at Wales Online

More about: British Jewry, Jewish history, Jewish World, Kindertransport, Pogroms, United Kingdom

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology