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  • Typed speech for the official opening of Michael Sobell Centre, 10 November 1970

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Description

Three pieces of plain paper consisting of the typed speech used for the official opening ceremony of the Michael Sobell Sports Centre, Aberdare, 1970. It is unclear who gave this speech, but it is a short introduction and thanksgiving to some people in attendance and those involved in the construction and funding of the sports centre. The speech mentions the need of the sports centre ‘At Aberdare we have been conscious for a long time of the great need for indoor sports facilities to cater for people of all ages groups. This same need exists in all the surrounding area, and we have felt that Aberdare was conveniently placed to cater for it.’ Also, Mr Sobell is described as the ‘fairy godmother, who made it all possible.’ Other people in attendance included the High Sheriff of Glamorgan, the Chairman of the Glamorgan County Council and the Lord Mayor of Cardiff. Another individual, Mr John Banner, is also mentioned for ‘his close connection with Mr Sobell and long interest in the area’ which was described as ‘responsible for Mr Sobell’s gift being made.’ The speech describes how Mr Sobell and Mr Banner have created ‘the opportunities for work and leisure that we need for a full and happy community.’

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.

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 2009 127

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