the former

Merthyr Tydfil Jewish Community

Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales




Page created: 25 May 2003
Latest revision or update: 23 February 2016

Personal Encounters

Subject: Merthyr Tydfil

Extract from an email sent by Dora Rees, nee Bernstein,
to Wendy Bellany on 14 August 1998


I was born in Merthyr in 1923, & therefore knew all the people at the cemetery ceremony, & lived there until 1945, when I got married and lived in London. Incidentally, although my surname is Rees, my husband's father was a kosher butcher in the W. End (New Cavendish Street). To add to the confusion, my daughter's name is Watkins, and her husband's parents were kosher caterers in Bulawayo, Rhodesia.

I lived in London for 17 years. During which time my brother, who was a dentist in Manchester, met & married a girl from S. Africa. When my parents went to the wedding, they loved Cape Town so much they decided to retire there so they emigrated about 1965. My mother was ill so they decided to go without disposing of their house & business, and we returned to Wales to perform that task for them.

It took a little longer than we though as we could not leave until '68. During those few years in Merthyr, the congregation had dwindled considerably, but they still had a Rabbi (can't remember his name but I think he was the last they had).

Also, during that time some of the last Jews left there were very eminent and respected by the non-Jewish community.

You mentioned Rev. Eli Bloom, our much-loved & fondly remembered Rabbi. I believe he died about 1938, not sure, but I remember his funeral. They brought the coffin into the shul.

He had three sons and two daughters who were teachers. Sam, the eldest son was for many years the only surgeon Merthyr had and he was brilliant. He married Nora (can't remember her name) but she died just a couple of months ago. Sam retired from practice just about 1965 and became Registrar in the Merthyr Infirmary. He was still in that position in 1968 when the Troeyrhiw disaster took place (I'll never forget that morning) so he was most heavily involved, whereas Nora was the head of the Merthyr Red Cross at that time, so to say that she was heavily involved was just the least of it. (She personally pieced together and attended to the bodies of the children).

The irony of it all was that afterwards, when awards came to be handed, the lady who was head of the Red Cross in Cardiff received the accolades.

Sam's brother, Meyer, was also in practice and was loved by all. Another brother, Abe, had a pharmacy. He was the father of my dearest friend Celia, with whom I regularly correspond and will be the first to receive all this material relating to the cemetery. (She told me she doesn't go because it is all so difficult).

Isaac Hamilton's brother, Ben, who was a solicitor, was the Merthyr coroner at the time of the disaster.

Another resident was Abe Sherman, formerly of the football pools. My cousin who visited the cemetery told me that his was one of the graves which had sunk into the ground.


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