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  • Minute book of the Newport Hebrew Congregation from 16 September 1962 to 3 October 1993

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Description

A maroon minute book with “Minute book” inscribed on the spine. It contains the minutes of Council, general and extraordinary meetings, and AGMs of the synagogue. An initial A-Z section only has an entry at “A”. The earlier minutes are hand-written, later ones are typed and taped in. The back has a list of the names of Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit (congregants who are honoured to commence and conclude the annual cycle of readings of the Jewish Bible) each year from 1962 to 1992. Pasted on the back flyleaf is an amendment to the synagogue rules, passed on 18th September 1988. Taped to the back cover is a newspaper photograph showing the mayor of Newport paying a courtesy visit to the Newport synagogue; this is dated (by hand) May 20th 1976.

The minutes discuss a range of matters as varied as synagogue rules, repairs to the synagogue, arrangements with ministers including Reverend Snadow leaving, the purchase of a house for a new minister, subscriptions, vandalism, tombstone consecration, the winding-up of the Brynmawr community, visits to the synagogue by non-Jews and Kashrut (Jewish religious laws concerning the suitability of food, the use of ritual objects, etc.).

As an example, the book begins with a Council meeting on 16 September 1962. Matters discussed included:
• expressions of pleasure at recovery from operations and improving health of members;
• congratulations on son’s bar-mitzvah, births and marriages;
• passing minutes of last meeting;
• decision to circulate times of High Festival to members;
• charitable donations including appointment of treasurer and helper for Kol Nidre charity appeal;
• election of member to approach local council to express their “opinion on the recent outbursts of anti-Semitism in London and elsewhere”;
• provision of bookcase for library; and
• replacement head-mistress.

On 10th May 1964 it was stipulated that “any person who ceases to be a member of the Congregation will forfeit the right to have a plot reserved in the cemetery…” [except widows]. Reverend Snadow’s retirement was discussed on 31st May 1964. The purchase of a house for the new minister and teacher was discussed on July 12th 1964.

The Brynmawr community’s decision to wind up and an invitation to join forces are recorded on 25th January and 21st February 1965. The minutes record Rev Snadow leaving Newport (and his house there) in February 1968 and his death on 7th October 1971. A decision to increase subscriptions “due to the continuing inflation, the loss of members etc.,” is recorded on 4th September 1977 (with a letter to members).

The final minute illustrated is for 18th September 1988 and discusses repairs and maintenance of the synagogue, the service of consecration of a tombstone, re-election of officers, distribution of the Kol Nidre appeal, thanks for services and a donation, and the appointment of Chatan Torah and Chatan Bereshit for the year.

The final minute is dated 3rd October 1993. (On 19th March 1993 it had been decided to combine trustee and general meetings, and minutes continue in the trustee minute book.)

Newport Monmouthshire Hebrew Congregation was founded in 1859 by orthodox Jews meeting at a temporary synagogue in Llanarth Street. A synagogue at Francis Street was opened in 1869 and consecrated by the Chief Rabbi Dr Herman Adler in 1871. In 1934 the congregation moved to the Nathan Harris Memorial Hall in Queen’s Hill which was converted to a synagogue. In 1997 this synagogue was closed, and the congregation moved to the Prayer House by the Jewish Burial Ground on Risca Road. Within 20 years the congregation had dwindled to a few members able to attend and this too had ceased to hold services.

Sources:
- “History of our Shul. The First Hundred Years", published by Newport Congregation in 1959;
- Oral history interviews with members of the Newport Mon Hebrew Congregation, recorded in 2018 by JHASW.

Depository: Gwent Archives.

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