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A black and white photograph, 19th century, of the Aberdare Furnishing Company store, 61 & 62 Cardiff Street. The shopfront is bold and striking in its design and the company name stands out in large black text against the white background. The store also displays the phrase ‘Cash or easy terms’ in large font. The shop windows display available products including fine china and tea sets, mirrors and a large wooden bedframe and mattress. The store also has an extra level upstairs and the windows show numerous styles of prams and trolleys on display.

Aberdare Furnishing Co. Ltd was founded by bothers Benjamin and Lionel Schwartz sometime around 1919. The brothers’ business originated in Merthyr Tydfil as the Dowlais Furnishing Company and later expanded to Mountain Ash. Benjamin appears to have managed the business at 61 & 62 Cardiff Street, Aberdare, whilst Lionel ran the store at 47 Oxford Street, Mountain Ash.

Benjamin was born in Merthyr around 1893. A long-standing member of the local Jewish community, he was heavily involved in Aberdare Synagogue.

Lionel was born in Russia in 1887. He seems to have been less involved in the local Jewish community than his younger brother, but regularly appeared in the County Court sections of local newspapers, being sued or fined for dubious business practices.

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 1997 2354

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