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  • Aberdare Urban District Council Handbook and Directory, 1960

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Description

The Aberdare Urban District Council Handbook and Directory for 1960. The booklet contains the history of Aberdare, including the people, places and businesses. Some of the adverts inside present Jewish businesses in Aberdare.

On page carries an advert for Sobell Radio and Allied Industries. Michael Sobell was a British businessman and philanthropist. He was born in Galicia into a Jewish family. His family owned factories in the Austro-Hungarian empire. The family moved to England in 1903 in order to escape antisemitism. Sobell made a career as a pioneer in electronics through his Radio and Allied Industries Ltd. In 1961, his company merged with The General Electric Company (GEC), making the family GEC’s largest shareholders.

As Michael Sobell’s business flourished, he became involved in educational and other institutions that advanced science. He also set up the Anne and Michael Sobell Trust, which provided financial support to a variety of benevolent causes including medical, educational and fitness endeavours. As a result of this the Michael Sobell Sports centre in Aberdare was built. Michael Sobell gave a donation of £366,000 to Aberdare Urban District Council. The Sports Centre was opened in 1970 by HRH the Prince of Wales and Michael Sobell.

Another page shows an advert for Victor Freed Ltd, which boasted many departments including furniture, electrical, soft furnishings. The advert promotes a new ‘walk through' store and the finest selection in South Wales…and also the finest G-Plan Centre in Wales.’ There is also a small illustration of a Victor Freed store. The store addresses provided are 1 & 60 Cardiff Street and 7 Market Street, Aberdare and it also mention stores in Mountain Ash and Merthyr Tydfil.

Victor Freed was a prominent member of the Jewish community in Aberdare. Born in Russia in 1883, he opened his first shop in Mountain Ash in 1904. By the 1930s he had opened multiple shops in Aberdare and by the 1950s had also started trading in Cardiff.

The shops sold house furnishings, musical instruments and electrical goods, with many stores specialising in one type of product. The entire family became involved in the Victor Freed business, including his two daughters, Edna and Beatrice, who worked as shop assistants at the radio department.

In 1941, he was elected as President of Aberdare Rotarian Club, after being a member for 8 years, and was recognised for his public services in the valley. His son, Aubrey, became President in 1968.
Victor was known for his philanthropic works, helping to furnish the 1960s council houses in Aberdare and in 1958 funded an entire ward in the new Penylan Home for the Aged Jews of Cardiff.

He was heavily involved with the synagogue in Aberdare, filling a variety of roles including being its last ever secretary.

Victor died in 1966, aged 83.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Cynon Valley had a small Jewish community, consisting of some fifty families throughout the towns of Abercynon, Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash, Aberaman and Aberdare. Most of Jewish families came to Aberdare from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia. The earliest record of Jewish presence and activity in the Cynon Valley dates to 1858-9. The name of Harris Freedman and the partnership of Lyons and Hyman are listed as trading as pawnbrokers and general dealers in Aberdare.

Initially the Jewish community worshipped in individuals' homes or business premises but in 1887 David Hart allowed the use of his premises at 19a Seymour Street, Aberdare, as a permanent Synagogue. The Aberdare Hebrew congregation was at its largest, with around 90 members, from the 1910s to the 1930s. However, the community declined and services had virtually ceased by 1957, when the congregation was down to 35. In 1966 it was reported that services were no longer held there. The building, now a private residence again, received a blue commemorative plaque in 2015.

Depository: Cynon Valley Museum: ACVMS 1991 268

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