The Jews in Wales starts with the medieval Welsh clergyman and author Gerald of Wales (1146–1223) wrote an account of his journey through Wales in 1188, the object being a recruitment campaign for the Third Crusade. In his account of that journey, the Itinerarium Cambriae (1191), he gives an obviously allegorical account of a Jew and a Christian priest travelling in Shropshire, England, but makes no reference to Jews in Wales.
In 1282 with the fall of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the last native Prince of Wales of direct descent, Wales became subject to Edward I of England. He decreed the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290; whether this affected Wales, where the writ of the English king was for a long time limited to the implanted boroughs and some of the Marcher territories, is not known. The Welsh chronicle Brut y Tywysogion refers to the event but only in the context of Jews in neighbouring England and that over three hundred English Jews were executed.
Wales has traditionally been a majority-Christian country, which has meant that Jews have experienced minority status, but that there was some familiarity with certain Jewish scriptures. In neighbouring England, between 1290 and their formal return to that country in 1655, there is no official trace of Jews as such except in connection with the Domus Conversorum, which kept a number of them within its precincts up to 1551 and even later.
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. Increased Jewish immigration in the 19th century led to the founding of new Jewish communities in Wales: By the end of the 19th century, there were small Jewish trading communities in most industrial towns in the South Wales Valleys.
Generally, the Jewish communities appear to have been well-tolerated in Wales, with some notable exceptions: The one major outbreak of anti-Semitism in Wales before World War I, occurred in South Wales in August 1911, when working class mobs looted and destroyed Jewish shops in Tredegar and ten surrounding towns, inflicting damaged estimated at £12,000 to £16,000.
Jews continue to flourish in Wales. The modern community in South Wales is centered in the Cardiff Reform Synagogue and the Cardiff United Synagogue.
NOTABLE Welsh Jews
Welsh people of some Jewish background, or Jewish people with a Welsh background:
Louis Barnett Abrahams
Gerald Cohen, Welsh-Jewish origin, father of Sacha Baron Cohen