The location of Wales (dark green) in the United Kingdom in Europe
Welsh Jews
Iddewon Cymreig
יהודים וולשים
Total population
2,044[1] (2021)
Regions with significant populations
English, Welsh, Hebrew, Yiddish
Related ethnic groups
British Jews, English Jews, Scottish Jews, Irish Jews, Northern Irish Jews, Ashkenazi Jews

The history of the Jews in Wales begins in the 13th century. However, after the English conquest of Wales (1287–1283), Edward I issued the 1290 Edict of Expulsion expelling the Jews from England. From then until the formal return of the Jews to England in 1655, there is only one mention of Jews on Welsh soil.

Jewish communities were recorded in the 18th century, while major Jewish settlement dates from the 19th century.

Middle Ages

Like the rest of Western Europe, medieval Wales was Christian.

The clergyman and author Gerald of Wales (c. 1146 – c. 1223) wrote an account of his journey through Wales in 1188 in order to recruit soldiers for the Third Crusade, the Itinerarium Cambriae (1191). In it, he makes no reference to Jews in Wales but includes an allegorical narrative concerning a Jew and a Christian priest travelling in Shropshire, England.[2]

During the 13th century, there are records of Jews in Abergavenny, Caerleon and Chepstow, all of which were in the Marcher Lordships of South Wales.[3]

When Edward I established new borough towns in North Wales, both before and after 1290, he ensured that the charters banned the presence of Jews. The 1284 town charters of Bere, Caernarfon, Conwy, Criccieth, Flint, Harlech and Rhuddlan stated that "Jews shall not sojourn in the borough at any time". Despite the general expulsion in 1290, the same clauses were used in the charters of Beaumaris (1296) and Overton, (1292).[4]

It is likely that most, if not all, Jews left Wales after Edward I's act of 1290 although the writ of the English king would not have run in many of the Marcher Lordships. The Welsh chronicle Brut y Tywysogion refers to the act but only in the context of the Jews in neighbouring England.[5] There is a record of an unnamed Jew in the commote of Manor Deilo in Carmarthenshire (outside the Marcher Lordships) in 1386/7.[3]

Early modern period

In England, between 1290 and their formal return to that country in 1655, there are no other official traces of Jews as such except in connection with the Domus Conversorum, which kept a number of Jews who had converted to Christianity within its precincts up to 1551 and even later. There is no comparable evidence for Wales.

The BBC notes, "The oldest non-Christian faith [in Wales] to be established was Judaism, with a presence in Swansea dating from around 1730. Jewish communities were formed in the next century in Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Pontypridd and Tredegar."[6]

Modern period

The former Cardiff Synagogue on Cathedral Road. This synagogue is now an office block

The rapid expansion of the coal mining industry in the 19th century led to major economic growth and a vast increase in immigration to Wales. The Jews immigrated to Wales in large numbers, leading to the founding of new Jewish communities, particularly in the heavily industrialized South Wales Valleys. While the Cardiff Jewish population was 13 families in 1852, after the influx of Jews fleeing from Russian pogroms in the 1880s the city's Jewish population rose to a peak of 5,500.[7] A synagogue was founded in Merthyr Tydfil in 1875, and by the end of the century, most towns in the Valleys had small Jewish communities and trading stations.[8] Generally, these communities appear to have been well tolerated, though there were some notable exceptions. In 1911, antisemitic sentiment came to a head in the Tredegar area, where working-class mobs attacked Jewish-owned businesses, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.[9] Early 20th-century Welsh Jewish society is featured in the 1999 film Solomon & Gaenor, which is set at the time of the Tredegar riots.

Some of these topics were covered in the documentary The Kosher Comedian presented by Jewish-Welsh writer comedian Bennett Arron.

Jewish communities continue to be substantial in Wales, being augmented by refugees from Nazi-dominated Europe in the late 1930s. See also Jews escaping from Nazi Europe to Britain.

The modern community in South Wales is centred on the Cardiff Reform Synagogue and the Cardiff United Synagogue. There is also a synagogue in Swansea. The synagogue of Merthyr Tydfil, the major one north of Cardiff, ceased to hold regular services in the 1970s and was later sold. It is a listed building and, while there is planning permission to convert it into flats, there are calls for it to be moved to the National Museum of Wales at St Fagans, near Cardiff.[10]

The Welsh Jewish community held numerically steady between the 2011 and 2021 censuses.

Notable people

Notable people of Welsh-Jewish background include:

Mythical history of the Jews in Wales

Main articles: British Israelism and Assyria and Germany in Anglo-Israelism

See also


  1. ^ "Religion, England and Wales - Office for National Statistics".
  2. ^ Gerald of Wales. The Itinerary through Wales and the Description of Wales, trans. Richard Colt Hoare (Everyman's Library), p. 137.
  3. ^ a b Patricia Skinner (2003). The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary, and Archaeological Perspectives. Boydell Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-85115-931-7.
  4. ^ Hillaby & Hillaby 2013, p. 143.
  5. ^ Thomas Jones (ed.), Brut y Tywysogion, Peniarth MS. 20 (Cardiff, 1941), p. 229b.
  6. ^ "Multicultural Wales". British Broadcasting Company. Retrieved 6 December 2007.
  7. ^ "The Jewish Community of Cardiff". The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  8. ^ Endelman, Todd M. (2002). The Jews of Britain, 1656–2000. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. p. 130.
  9. ^ Endelman, Todd M. (2002). The Jews of Britain, 1656–2000. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. p. 162.
  10. ^ "Call for permanent Welsh Jewish museum". 16 December 2017.
  11. ^ "Valley G's wicked Welsh rootz". BBC News. 28 March 2002. Retrieved 22 November 2006.

Further reading


Articles and miscellanea