Cardiff Characters: Welsh Cakes and Latkes

Rabbi Rose of the orthodox Cardiff Jewish community talks Wales, international living and spirituality.

Michoel Rose
Photo Credit: Michoel Y Rose on Facebook

Rabbi Michoel Rose epitomises the modern internationalist who has lived all round the world, taking on new challenges. Speculating on what it means to be a part of Welsh culture now, he puts his philosophical religious teachings into practice and asks a pressing question on identity:

“I think Welsh cakes are great, does that make you Welsh?”

Laughingly, he relaxes in his armchair at home. “I think, as a family, we have embraced Welsh culture, we participate in all the Wales national holidays. I don’t know about rugby though, I was never interested in sports, but if my kids choose to be into sports they can support Wales by all means.”

Family Life

Though not at the age for picking sports teams, his two young children certainly make their energetic presence known. As we speak, the floor surrounding us is littered with toys and the sound of shrieking laughter and splashing echoes around the house from bath time endeavors upstairs.

Yet, as well as taking care of his two children, his heavily pregnant wife and his Jewish community of 250 children and adults, Rabbi Rose still finds time to study, undertaking a part-time engineering degree at University of South Wales. It’s difficult to envisage how this atypical science student brings together engineering with religion, but the Rabbi’s religious upbringing set him on the path of spirituality early on.

Rabbi Rose Image

“When I was born my parents were already observant in the Jewish Halacha, the Jewish laws,” he explained. “They continued to grow in their observance and knowledge when we moved to Israel – my parents always had a dream to live there – and there schooling every day until midday for me was Jewish studies. We returned back to Manchester when I was high school age, I continued with my religious education there and after that I went away to study at Yeshiva, rabbinical college.”


Taking his religious education further in locations such as New Jersey, London and Budapest, Rabbi Rose offers a great perspective on cultural acceptance across the world, comparing it to his experiences in Cardiff. “In every city the perspective and acceptance of religion is different,” he muses. “For a young religious Jewish person, growing up in Israel is unparalleled because you have such religious freedoms and you don’t live in fear of attacks for your faith.” Terrorism, he considers to be a separate issue from religious freedoms. “In 2011 we were in Israel and we heard rockets falling but it doesn’t affect day to day life the same as fear of personal religiously motivated attacks.”

Antisemitism is still rife. (Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski on Flickr)

In comparison to locations where there isn’t a Jewish majority, he references life in Manchester. “You get hostility there. People stop, people make comments, I have had someone spit at me, and I have had to run. Wales in general is a lot more tolerant.”

Tolerance and Hostility

Coexistence is key to The Rabbi’s approval for the Welsh people and life in Cardiff. “Cardiff is an example of what we should be doing,” he praises. “I’ve seen so many interfaith activities here it’s quite impressive. Just yesterday we organised volunteering with Cardiff Foodbank with the Muslim community to promote a relationship. We have children of all different backgrounds come to visit the synagogue and generally there’s a lot more tolerance and acceptance here than in other main cities,” he pauses; “Maybe it’s because the Welsh people don’t see many observant Jews here so they don’t know to be hostile.”

In Budapest, a city with one of the largest eastern European Jewish communities of 80,000 people, Rabbi Rose experienced more problems. “You can sense, almost palpably, the hostility. 20% of the population voted in an openly fascist party that aims to expel Jews. It’s institutional anti-Semitism that’s endemic in the people and it’s so worrying. Many Jewish people there are Holocaust survivors and choose not to tell their children about their Jewish roots out of fear and you can see where the fear has manifest from.”


It’s clear to see why Rabbi Rose has relaxed into Cardiff life, where the community feeling is strong and he can practice his religion without fear. Offering perspective on his religious teachings to the @InterCardiff international audience, many of whom have not encountered Jewish people in the past, he becomes animated. “Helping people who are ill, who are needy, helping people improve their spiritually to change their perspective on the world – that is what it’s all about,” he exclaims.

“You learn to do better than you did yesterday, and as a community you work to do better together.”