The restoration and conversion of Merthyr Tydfil’s former synagogue into the Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre, has received a major boost with the injection of £125,000 in funding.
The Foundation for Jewish Heritage purchased the Grade II-listed property as part of its flagship project, which is also seen as "a new cultural venue" for the wider community.
The new cash injection includes grants from Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage agency, as well as three charitable and philanthropic initiatives - the Pilgrim Trust, the Philip King Charitable Trust and the Los Angeles-based GRoW@Annenberg.
In addition, Architectural Heritage Fund, which promotes the conservation of historic buildings around the UK, has contributed funding to enable the foundation to hire a consultant to research and prepare a detailed business plan setting out a timetable for the project.
Marcus Roberts of JTrails and the Muriel & Gershon Coren Foundation were instrumental in kick-starting the project, initially in terms of a feasibility study. The foundation donated one third of the cost of the freehold purchase, plus a further pledge towards FJH's annual administration costs.
Projects leaders also report that comedian David Baddiel and venture capitalist and philanthropist Sir Michael Moritz have agreed to become patrons.
The 1870s' property is the oldest remaining purpose-built synagogue in Wales. It was home to the Merthyr community until its decline and disbandment in 1983, when the building was sold.
In recent times, it has stood empty, its condition deteriorating. It has been designated an “at risk” Welsh heritage site.
"It is an important piece of Jewish and Welsh heritage,” said Michael Mail, chief executive of the Foundation for Jewish Heritage.
“We hope to preserve the building and, while respecting its past, give it a meaningful role for today’s society.”
The project has received strong backing from both Merthyr Tydfil MP and shadow minister for Wales, Gerald Jones, and local member of the Welsh Parliament, Dawn Bowden.
Mr Jones was “delighted that this exciting regeneration project is progressing” and offered “whatever support” was necessary to ensure its successful restoration.
Merthyr Tydfil borough councillor Geraint Thomas was also enthusiastic about the scheme.
“The synagogue is a prominent landmark building within the Thomastown Conservation Area and an extremely important part of the town centre’s historic landscape,” he said. In its new guise, it would “become another feature in our ever-growing tourism offering”.