Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford visited the Merthyr Tydfil synagogue at the invitation of Dawn Bowden, Member of the Senedd for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, and a Special Ambassador for the project.
He came to learn about the preservation of the grade II listed Victorian synagogue and the Foundation's special initiative to turn it into a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre.
The First Minister was joined by National Lottery Heritage Fund Wales Chair Denise Lewis Poulton and Director Andrew White. The development of the building is made possible as a result of funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil Country Borough Council.
Once established, the Heritage Centre will present the 250+ year history, culture and contribution of the Welsh Jewish community, and will also address contemporary issues relating to diversity and social inclusion, promoting cross-cultural understanding. The visit featured a briefing on progress by Michael Mail, Chief Executive of the Foundation, and the Heritage Centre Project Manager Neil Richardson.
The First Minister said "It is a great pleasure for me to visit this important project and to learn more about the Foundation's ideas for the future. The development of a sustainable plan for the future of this historic synagogue building is an interesting challenge and today's discussions have been a very useful part of that process.”
Dawn Bowden added "I am delighted that the First Minister of Wales accepted our invite to visit the synagogue. This is a very important project, not only for the town itself but also to a wider and international community. The Foundation for Jewish Heritage has worked very hard to put in place the project team and to develop their plans for the future of the building. I thank the funding partners who have helped the project to get this far. Today we learnt more about their evolving plans. I would urge people to visit the website and read about this project. I wish the Foundation every success as they prepare for future funding bids in order to restore this splendid gothic building as a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre.”
Andrew White said “This is a special place in Merthyr and it was lovely to visit and hear more about its history and potential future. It was uplifting to speak with such enthusiastic local people and their connections with the synagogue. We’re delighted to support the Foundation with a development grant to refine their plans and apply for additional funding to realise their ambitious vision for a Welsh Jewish Heritage Centre.”
Michael Mail remarked “We are thrilled to have the First Minister visit our special synagogue project in the company of Dawn Bowden. Adding to the significance of the day was the fact that we were joined by NLHF Wales Chair Denise Lewis Poulton and Director Andrew White. The visit underscores the importance of this unique project, and we are so grateful to NLHF and the Welsh Government for their financial support which is enabling us to take the project forward. This historic synagogue represents shared heritage – it is a recognised Jewish and Welsh landmark building that had fallen into disrepair which we are saving and giving an important new purpose. We are confident that the Heritage Centre will have a big impact, in Merthyr, across Wales and beyond.”