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Swansea has the distinction of being home to the oldest Jewish community in Wales.

According to tradition, German Jews have been resident in the city from at least the 1730s.These included men such as Solomon Lyons who established a business in 1731 and Lazarus David, who was born in Swansea in 1734. Lazarus, it has been claimed, helped to found the Montreal community of Shearith Israel in Canada. Other early pioneers were David Michael and Samuel and Moses Levi who arrived in Swansea in the 1740s.

The first formal Jewish institution to be established in Swansea was the Jewish burial ground on Townhill in 1768. When Jews in Swansea began meeting for formal religious worship is unclear, but we do know that the Jewish community was using a room on the Strand opposite Essery's warehouse as a synagogue in 1789. Even before this date Jews are believed to have met regularly in the backroom of David Michael's house on Wind Street.

The fledgling community flourished. By the mid-nineteenth century its members had established themselves in business as jewellers, watch and clock makers, silversmiths, pawnbrokers and general dealers. The Jewish community made many friends amongst the wider non-Jewish population.

There were occasional squabbles and disputes between Jewish and non-Jewish tradesmen, but in general terms the history of Jewish settlement in Swansea in the nineteenth century is one of peaceful coexistence. Indeed from a relatively early date, Jews in Swansea found they faced no obstacles to holding public office. In 1836 David Michael's grandson Michael John Michael was elected an alderman in the Swansea Corporation. In 1848 he served as the Mayor of Swansea and in 1849 he was made a JP. In 1848, Mr I. M. Moses was appointed to the Board of Guardians in the Swansea Poor Law Union. There were also two Jews amongst the founding members of the prestigious Swansea Philosophical and Literary Institution in 1835 - Douglas Cohen the surgeon and Jacob Moseley the clock maker.

Where did the congregation worship? Read about Wales's first purpose-built Synagogue Early Synagogues

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