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Disgrifiad

This book contains the minutes of committee and general meetings (including Annual General Meetings), annual reports and accounts of the Newport (Mon) Jewish Literary and Social Institute, together with descriptions of literary evenings, debates, dances, lectures, presentation of papers and outings. The book also contains the programme (“syllabus”) for each season. The meetings were usually held in “the schoolroom” or private addresses.

The first meeting recorded here was on 25 May 1902 and included:
• the election of president, vice-president/treasurer, secretary and ladies and gentlemen to serve on the committee;
• three delegates were appointed to represent the society at the London Conference of Literary Societies;
• a cycling club was to be formed, with an extra charge for membership and its own sub-committee;
• an annual subscription of two shillings and sixpence was to be proposed.

On 15 March 1908 a conference of the Union of Jewish Literary Societies was held at the Kings Road Hotel. This was the first ever such conference in South Wales and was attended by delegates from Birmingham, Tredegar, Swansea, Newport, Merthyr, Bristol, Aberdare, Cardiff, and Cardiff Zionists' Society. The meeting was followed by a luncheon attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, Dr Garrod Thomas (founder of the South Wales Argus and former South Monmouthshire M.P.), the Editor of the Argus, Rev J Polack of Clifton College and over 60 others. After a “very substantial meal”, there were toasts and speeches. A “Conversazione” provided evening entertainment.

An entry for Thursday, 27 July 1911, describes the annual picnic was to Caerphilly Castle:
“…the char-a-banc left Cambrian Rd at 2 o’clock, and after a 3 hours delightful drive through some very picturesque scenery Caerphilly was reached. A sumptuous spread was then partaken of in the castle grounds, after which sports & games were indulged in, numerous and beautiful prizes were then distributed among the successful competitors.
The most important item on the programme was the presentation of a leather suitcase to the late honorary treasurer Mr Henry Phillips, who resigned this position after 15 years service which was thoroughly appreciated by all members of this society. The picnic party reluctantly left for the return journey at 8 o’clock after having had a “ripping” time.
The moonlight drive home was thoroughly enjoyed and made the “most of”.
At the conclusion, it was termed the most enjoyable picnic ever experienced by the members of the Jewish Literary Society.”

The minutes of 1 November 1914 record that “owing to the war, all the usual social functions were abandoned”. A talk was given on the “History of the Jews in Belgium”, “this rich and fertile country, now fighting so gallantly to maintain its independence”. The minutes continue to 7 January 1917, after which there is a pause. They recommence on 2 November 1919. The last record is a description of a lecture on 3 April 1921.

Included with the minutes are syllabus cards for 1909-1910, 1912-1913 and 1920-1921, a Form of Application for Membership, a blank Invitation to a Lecture, the balance sheet for November 1919 – April 1920 and a blank invitation to a meeting of the Newport Zionist Association at the Nathan Harris Memorial Hall, Queen's Hill.

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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