Jewish history of Romania

Emerging Rumania.
Communal Institutions
Independent Rumania
Internal Organization
The Struggle for Naturalization
Increasing Anti-Semitism
Jewish Political Life

Social Structure
Cultural Life
Holocaust Period
During the War

Jewish Resistance
Contemporary Period Through the 1960s
The Liquidation of Jewish Organizations
Community Life
Contemporary Period 1970–1981
The Mid-1990s

Also: Moldavia; Romania (rep.); Romania

RUMANIA (Rum. Romania), republic in N.E. Balkan peninsula, S.E. Europe. The territory of present-day Rumania was known as Dacia in antiquity; Jewish tombstones dating from early times have been found there. The Jews may have come as merchants or in other capacities with the Roman legions which garrisoned the country from 101 C.E. Early missionary activity in Dacia may have been due to the existence of Jewish groups there. Later the Khazars dominated parts of Dacia for a short time. The region was close enough to Byzantium for some contact with its Jewry to be assumed. Another wave of Jewish immigrants spread through Walachia (a Rumanian principality founded around 1290) after they had been expelled from Hungary in 1367. In the 16th century some refugees from the Spanish expulsion came to Walachia from the Balkan peninsula. A few served as physicians and even diplomats at the court of the sovereigns of Walachia. Since it was on the trade routes between Poland-Lithuania and the Ottoman Empire many Jewish merchants traveled through Moldavia, the second Rumanian principality (in the northeast), founded in the middle of the 14th century. Some settled there and were favorably received by the rulers of this underpopulated principality. At the beginning of the 16th century there were Jewish communities in several Moldavian towns, such as Jassy, Botosani, Suceava, and Siret. More intensive waves of Jewish immigration resulted from the Chmielnicki massacres (1648–49). From the beginning of the 18th century the Moldavian rulers granted special charters to attract Jews. While still in Poland they were told about the advantages offered (exemption from taxes, ground for prayer houses, ritual baths, and cemeteries). They were invited either to reestablish war-ravaged towns (1761, Suceava) or to enlarge others (1796, Focsani). The newcomers were encouraged by the landowners to found commercial centers, the so-called burgs. Among the privileges offered was the right to be represented on the local council. In some cases they undertook to attract other Jews from over the borders. When two counties of Moldavia were annexed by their neighbors (Bukovina by Austria in 1775 and Bessarabia by Russia in 1812), the Jews from these countries preferred to move to Rumanian Moldavia, where they were not harassed by the authorities and had both family and business connections. Jewish merchants exported leather, cattle, and corn. Many of the Jews were craftsmen, such as furriers, tailors, bootmakers, tinsmiths, and watchmakers.

From an early date one of the main components of anti-Jewish hatred in Rumania was commercial competition. In 1579 the sovereign of Moldavia, Petru Schiopul (Peter the Lame), ordered the banishment of the Jews on the grounds that they were ruining the merchants. In the Danube harbors it was the Greek and Bulgarian merchants who incited riots against the Jews, especially during Easter. Anti-Jewish excesses which occurred in the neighboring countries often extended to Rumania. In 1652 and 1653 Cossacks invaded Rumania, murdering a great number of Jews in Jassy. Greek Orthodox Christianity also preached intolerance toward Jews and shaped the first codes of law: the Church laws of Moldavia and Walachia in 1640. Both proclaimed the Jews as heretics and forbade all relations with them. With the exception of physicians, Jews were not accepted as witnesses in trials. In the codes of 1746 and 1780 the Jews are scarcely mentioned. On the other hand, the first books of anti-Jewish incitement of a religious character appeared around this time: the "Golden Order" (Jassy, 1771) and "A Challenge to Jews" (Jassy, 1803). For the early history of the other regions which later made up Rumania see Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania.


Emerging Rumania

Trouble for the Jews began in 1821, with the first stirrings of Rumanian independence and unity. In the course of the rebellion against the Turks, Greek volunteers crossed Moldavia on their way to the Danube, plundering and slaying Jews as they went (in Jassy, Herta, (now Gertsa), Odobesti, Vaslui, Roman, etc.). Between 1819 and 1834 Moldavia and Walachia were occupied by Russia, which gave them a unifying constitution (the so-called Organic Law). From 1835 to 1856 the two principalities were protectorates of Russia, through whose influence anti-Semitism increased. From then on the prevailing attitude was that the Jews exploited the Christian population in order to enrich themselves and so their immigration must be stopped. On the Russian model, Jews were forbidden to settle in villages, to lease lands, and to establish factories in towns. Citizenship was denied to Jews. The corrupt Rumanian administrators used this legislation to add to their income by persecuting the Jews. The completions of the Organic Law promulgated in 1839 and 1843 included special measures directed against the Jews. Its new provisions conferred on the authorities the right to determine which Jews were useful to the country, the others being declared vagrants and expelled.


Communal Institutions

In 1719 a hakham bashi, Bezalel Cohen, was first appointed for Walachia and Moldavia by the suzerain, the sultan. He resided in Jassy and he had a representative for Walachia in Bucharest. The hakham bashi's function was hereditary and included the right of collecting taxes on religious ceremonies and contributions from every head of a family—comprising 30,000 taxpayers altogether in the two principalities in 1803—as well as conferring exemption from taxes and tolls. Yet his prestige was slight, and learned rabbis were considered by the Jews as their real spiritual leaders. The growing Russian and Galician element in the Rumanian Jewish population at the beginning of the 19th century opposed the hakham bashi, since such an institution was unknown to them and many of them were followers of Hasidism and led by zaddikim. As they were foreign subjects they asked their consuls to intercede, and in 1819 the prince of Moldavia decided that the hakham bashi should have jurisdiction only over "native" Jews. Because of permanent strife among the diverse groups of Jews and their complaints to the authorities, the latter decided in 1834 on the abolition of the hakham bashi system. Under this system there was also a Jews' Guild, one of 32 guilds set up according to nationality (Armenians, Greeks, etc.) or profession, which took care of tax collection proportionately to the number of persons organized in it. For the Jews the guild was really the legal body of the community. The collective tax was paid from the tax on kasher meat, the expenses of the institutions (talmud torah, hekdesh, cemetery) being covered by the remainder.

The center of the guild was in Jassy and its head was named staroste ("senior"; Heb. rosh medinah). In Bucharest this function was carried out by the representative of the hakham bashi. When the hakham bashi system was abolished (1834), the Jews' Guild disappeared as well; the result was the disintegration of the Jewish communities. The collective tax, formerly fixed by the guild, was now imposed by the government. The functions of the community devolved on the various prayer houses and the artisans' guilds and sometimes on the hevra kaddisha or the Jewish hospital (in Jassy).


Independent Rumania

Both in the 1821 revolt against the Ottoman-appointed rulers as well as in the 1848 revolt against Russia, the revolutionaries appealed for the participation of the Jews and proclaimed their civic equality. Some Jews took part in the 1848 revolt, which was put down by the Russians. The peace treaty of Paris (1856), which concluded the Crimean War and granted the principalities a certain autonomy under Ottoman suzerainty, proclaimed inter alia that in the two Danubian principalities all the inhabitants, irrespective of religion, should enjoy religious and civil liberties (the right to own property and to trade) and might occupy political posts. Only those who had foreign citizenship were excluded from political rights. The leaders of the Moldavian and Walachian Jews addressed themselves both to the Rumanian authorities and to the great powers, asking for the abolition of the discriminations against them. However, the opposition of Russia and of the Rumanian political leaders hindered this. The two principalities united in 1859; Alexandru Ioan Cuza, who was a member of the 1848 revolutionaries' group and not anti-Semitic, became their sovereign. The number of Jews was then 130,000 (3% of the total population). In 1864 native Jews were granted suffrage in the local councils ("little naturalization"); but Jews who were foreign subjects still could not acquire landed property. Political rights were granted to non-Christians but only parliament could vote on the naturalization of individual Jews—but not a single Jew was naturalized.

In 1866 Alexandru Ioan Cuza was ousted by anti-liberal forces. A new sovereign, Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, was elected and a new constitution adopted. Under the pressure of demonstrations organized by the police (during which the Choir Temple in Bucharest was demolished and the Jewish quarter plundered), the seventh article of the constitution, restricting citizenship to the Christian population, was adopted. Even the visit to Bucharest of Adolphe Crémieux, president of the Alliance Israëlite Universelle, who delivered a speech in the Rumanian parliament, had no effect. In the spring of 1867 the minister of interior, Ion Bratianu, started to expel Jews from the villages and banish noncitizens from the country. In the summer of the same year Sir Moses Montefiore arrived in Bucharest and demanded that Prince Carol put a stop to the persecutions. But these continued in spite of the promises given. Hundreds of families, harassed by humiliating regulations (e.g., a prohibition on building sukkot), were forced to leave the villages. Local officials regarded such persecution as an effective method of extorting bribes. Neither the repeated interventions of Great Britain and France nor the condemnatory resolutions in the parliaments of Holland and Germany had any effect. The Rumanian government reiterated that the Jewish problem was an internal one, and the great powers limited themselves to protests.

At the Congress of Berlin (1878), which finalized Rumanian independence, the great powers made the grant of civil rights to the Jews a condition of that independence in spite of opposition by the Rumanian and Russian delegates. The Rumanian representatives threatened the delegates of the Jewish world organizations, as well as the representatives of the Jews of Rumania, by hinting at a worsening of their situation. Indeed, after the Congress of Berlin other anti-Semitic measures were introduced, and there was incitement in the press and public demonstrations organized by the authorities on the Russian model, in order to prove to the great powers that the people were against Jewish emancipation. Their aim was also to create an anti-Semitic atmosphere on the eve of the session of parliament which was to decide on the modification of the article in the 1866 constitution concerning Jewish naturalization. Prince Carol, opening parliament, declared that the Jews had a harmful influence on economic life and especially on the peasants. After stormy debates parliament modified the article of the constitution which made citizenship conditional on Christianity, but stated that the naturalization of Jews would be carried out individually, by vote of both chambers of parliament. During the following 38 years 2,000 Jews in all were naturalized by this oppressive procedure; of those, 883 were voted in en bloc, having taken part in the 1877 war against Turkey.

This caused the great powers to refuse for a time to recognize independent Rumania. However, they finally followed the example of Germany, which took the first step after having received pecuniary compensation from the Rumanian government through the redemption of railway shares belonging to Silesian Junkers and members of the German imperial court—at six times their quoted value. The situation of the Jews continued to grow worse. Up to then they had been considered Rumanian subjects but now they were declared to be foreigners. The Rumanian government persuaded Austria and Germany to withdraw their citizenship from Jews living in Rumania. The Jews were forbidden to be lawyers, teachers, chemists, stockbrokers, or to sell commodities which were a government monopoly (tobacco, salt, alcohol). They were not accepted as railway officials, in state hospitals, or as officers. Jewish pupils were later expelled from the public schools (1893). Meanwhile political intimidation continued. In 1885 some of the Jewish leaders and journalists who had participated in the struggle for emancipation, among them Moses Gaster and Elias Schwarzfeld, were expelled from Rumania. Both major political parties in Rumania—the Liberals and the Conservatives—were anti-Semitic, with only slight differences. In 1910 the first specifically anti-Semitic party, the National Democratic Party, was founded, under the leadership of the university professors A. C. Cuza and Nicolae Iorga.


Internal Organization

The first general Jewish representative body, after the dissolution of the Jews' Guild and the internal strife in the communities, was the Brotherhood of Zion society, the forerunner of the B'nai B'rith, created in 1872 under the influence of Benjamin Franklin Peixotto, the first American diplomat in Rumania. He thus succeeded in shaping a cadre of leaders for the Jewish institutions, but did not see any solution for the masses but emigration. For that purpose he initiated a conference of world Jewish organizations which convened in Brussels (Oct. 29–30, 1872). Under the influence of assimilationist circles, emigration—considered to be unpatriotic—was rejected as a solution of the Jewish problem. The conference suggested to the Jews of Rumania that they should fight to acquire political equality. After some years, however, a mass movement started for emigration to Erez Israel.

The political organization founded in 1890, under the name The General Association of Native Israelites, tended to assimilation and strident patriotism, claiming citizenship only for those Jews who had served in the army. Under pressure by a group of Jewish socialists it extended its demands, claiming political rights for all Jews born in the country. In 1897 anti-Semitic students attacked members of the congress of the association and caused riots in Bucharest. The association ceased its activity, and an attempt at reorganization in 1903 failed. Under the pressure of increasing persecution accompanied by an internal economic crisis, in 1900 a mass emigration of Jews began; they traveled on foot as far as Hamburg and from there went to the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Up to World War I about 70,000 Jews left Rumania. From 266,652 (4.5% of the total population) in 1899 the Jewish population declined to 239,967 (3.3%) in 1912. The 1907 revolt of the peasants, who at first vented their wrath on the Jews, also contributed to this tendency to emigrate; Jewish houses and shops were pillaged in many villages and cities of Moldavia, 2,280 families being affected. At the same time the persecution of the Jews increased. Their expulsion from the villages assumed such proportions that in some counties of Moldavia (Dorohoi, Jassy, Bacau) none remained except veterans of the 1877 war.

In 1910 the political organization called the Union of Native Jews (U.E.P.) was founded to combat anti-Jewish measures and to achieve emancipation; it existed up to 1948. Its first head was Adolphe Stern, former secretary of B. F. Peixotto. The U.E.P. tended to assimilation. It operated by intercession with politicians, through mass petitions to parliament, and by printed propaganda against anti-Semitism. In a single case it was successful through direct intercession with King Carol I, who held up the passage of a bill discriminating against Jewish craftsmen (1912).

At the end of the 19th century there began the organization of Jewish communities, together with the creation of a Jewish school system as a result of the expulsion of Jews from the public schools (1893). The impoverishment of the Jewish population also created a need for social assistance which could not be provided by the various existing associations. To achieve the legalization of the communities, several congresses of their representatives were organized (April 1896 in Galati, 1902 in Jassy, and 1905 in Focsani), but they could not agree on the proper nature of a community. Some claimed that it should have an exclusively religious character; others wanted a lay organization dealing only with social welfare, hospitals, and schools. The different Jewish institutions (synagogues, religious associations, hospitals) endeavored to preserve their autonomy. There was a struggle for the tax on meat, too, each demanding this income for itself. At the same time assimilationist groups of students and intellectuals launched a drive against the community, which they defined as an isolationist instrument; in this move they were joined by anti-Semites who called the community a "state within a state," a Jewish conspiracy aiming to establish supremacy over the Rumanians. Some proposed putting the communities under the Ministry of the Interior. An attempt in 1897 to introduce into parliament a bill on the Jewish communities, its purpose being defined by the proposer as "to defend the Jewish population against its ignorant religious fanatics," failed because of the opposition of the liberal government of the day. Later the principle of autonomy prevailed at Jewish community congresses, owing to the influence of the Zionists, especially Rabbis J. [Jacob] Nacht and J. Niemirover. Protests were lodged against the interference

of the local authorities (mayors, chief commissioners of police, etc.) as well as against the oath more judaico. The principle of autonomy finally triumphed, owing to the young Zionists who penetrated the local communities, especially in the country.


The Struggle for Naturalization

Following World War I Rumania enlarged her territory with the provinces of Bukovina, Bessarabia, and Transylvania. In each of these the Jews were already citizens, either of long standing like those who had lived in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or more recent like those from Bessarabia who achieved equality only in 1917. Indeed, the naturalization of the Jews of Rumania was under way in accordance with the separate peace treaty concluded with Germany in the spring of 1918. In August 1918 the Rumanian parliament passed an act concerning naturalization with many very complicated procedures, the latter being, moreover, sabotaged when they had to be applied by the local authorities. After the defeat of Germany, Prime Minister Ionel BrGtianu realized that at the peace conference the naturalization of the Jews would be brought up again, so he tried to resolve the problem in good time by issuing a decree of naturalization on Dec. 28, 1918, proclaiming individual naturalization on the lines adopted after the Congress of Berlin. The decision had to be made by the law courts instead of parliament, on the basis of certain certificates which were very difficult to obtain. Though threatened by the government the Jewish leaders rejected the law, and, following their warning, the Jewish population abstained from putting in applications to the court. Their demand was for citizenship to be granted en bloc by one procedure—after a declaration by every candidate at his municipality that he was born in the country and held no foreign citizenship the municipality would have to make out the certificate of citizenship.

Although the Rumanian government continued to assert that the Jewish problem was an internal one, of national sovereignty, when the delegation led by Ionel BrGtianu appeared at the peace conference in Paris (May 1919) Georges Clemenceau reminded him that after the Congress of Berlin Rumania had not implemented the provisions concerning the political rights of the Jews. This time the great powers decided to include guarantees in the peace treaty. A Jewish delegation from Rumania, composed of U.E.P. and Zionist representatives, arrived in Paris. They joined the Jewish delegations participating in the peace conference and claimed that the peace treaty should lay down the kind of obligatory laws concerning naturalization which Rumania should pass. To prevent the conference's imposition of naturalization of Jews, Ionel BrGtianu wired to Bucharest the text of a law (promulgated as a decree on May 22, 1919), according to which citizenship could now be obtained by a declaration of intent in writing to the law court, the latter being obliged to make out a certificate of confirmation which conferred the exercise of political rights. Those who did not possess foreign citizenship, those who satisfied the requirements of the enlistment law, and those who had served in the war were declared citizens, together with their families.

The peace conference did not, however, fail to include in the treaty the obligation of Rumania to legislate the political emancipation of the Jews, which no other measure should abrogate. BrGtianu resigned in protest, and only after an ultimatum sent by the peace conference did the new Rumanian government led by Alexandru Vaida-Voevod sign the peace treaty. In Bukovina 40,000 Jews were threatened with remaining stateless, on the pretext of their being refugees who had only recently entered the country. A professor of the faculty of law at Jassy published a study in 1921 asserting that this naturalization was anti-constitutional. In 1923 there began a new struggle for the enactment of naturalization in the new constitution. Adolphe Stern, the president of the U.E.P., was elected as a deputy to parliament and had to fight the law proposed by the BrGtianu government which in effect canceled most of the naturalizations already acquired. After hard bargaining, not without renewed threats on the part of the government, the naturalization of the Jews was introduced into the constitution on March 29, 1923, thus also confirming the naturalization of those from the newly annexed territories who would otherwise have been threatened with expulsion. Nevertheless, as nearly always in Rumania, there was a great difference between the laws and the way in which they were implemented. In a regulation published two months after the passing of the constitution, many procedural restrictions on the Jews living in the new provinces were introduced. In practice, the civil service, the magistracy, university chairs, and officers' corps remained closed to Jews.


Increasing Anti-Semitism

Growing social and political tensions in Rumania in the 1920s and '30s led to a constant increase in anti-Semitism and in the violence which accompanied it. Anti-Semitic excesses and demonstrations expressed both popular and student anti-Semitism and cruelty; they also served to divert social unrest to the Jews and show Western public opinon that intervention on their behalf was bound to miscarry. In December 1922 Christian students at the four universities proclaimed numerus clausus as their program; riots followed at the universities and against the Jewish population. As was later revealed in parliament, the student movements were organized and financed by the Ministry of the Interior. The leader of the student movements was Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, the secretary of the League of National Christian Defense which was headed by A. C. Cuza. The students formed terrorist groups on the Fascist and Nazi models and committed several murders. In 1926 the Jewish student Falic was murdered at Chernovtsy. The assassin was acquitted. In 1927 Codreanu broke away from A. C. Cuza and founded the Archangel Michael League, which in 1929 became the Iron Guard, a paramilitary organization with an extreme anti-Semitic program.

On Dec. 9, 1927 the students of Codreanu's League carried out a pogrom in Oradea Mare (Transylvania), where they were holding a congress, for which they received a subsidy from the ministry of the interior: they were conveyed there in special trains put at their disposal free of charge by the government. Five synagogues were wrecked and the Torah scrolls burned in the public squares. After that the riots spread all over the country: in Cluj eight prayer houses were plundered, and on their way home the participants in the congress continued their excesses against the Jews in the cities of Huedin, Targu-Ocna, and Jassy. At the end of 1933 the liberal prime minister Duca, one of the opponents of King Carol's dictatorial tendencies, dissolved the Iron Guard and after three weeks was assassinated by its men at the king's instigation. The guard was reformed under the slogan, "Everything for the Country." Codreanu's ties with the Nazis in Germany dated from that time. Carol II later aided other political bodies with an anti-Semitic program in an attempt to curb the Iron Guard. From 1935 Vaida-Voevod led the Rumanian Front, and made use in his speeches of such slogans as the blood libel, the parasitism of the Jews, their defrauding the country, their international solidarity, and the Judaization of the press and national literature.

After Hitler came to power in Germany (1933), the large Rumanian parties also adopted anti-Semitic programs. In 1935 the National Peasants' Party (which united with Cuza's party to form the National Christian Party) announced that its program included "the Rumanization of the staff of firms and the protection of national labor through preference for [our] ethnic element"—that is to say, the removal of Jews from private firms. Gheorghe BrGtianu, leading a dissident liberal party, demanded "nationalization of the cities, proportional representation in public and private posts, in schools and universities, and revocation of Jewish citizenship." In July 1934 the "Law for Employment of Rumanian Workers in [Private] Firms" was enacted, and in fact established a numerus clausus. The Ministry of Industry and Trade sent all firms special questionnaires which included a clause on "ethnic origin." In 1935 the board of Christian Lawyers' Association, founded that year by members of the bar from Ilfov (Bucharest) gave an impetus to anti-Semitic professional associations. The movement spread all over the country. Its program was the numerus nullus, i.e., revoking the licenses of Jewish lawyers who were already members of the bar and not accepting new registrations. At the universities students of the Iron Guard forcibly prevented their Jewish colleagues from attending lectures and the academic authorities supported the numerus clausus program, introducing entrance examinations; in 1935–36 this led to a perceptible decrease in the number of Jewish students, in certain faculties reaching the numerus nullus. In other professional corporations no Jews were elected to the board; they were prevented by force from participating in the elections. The great Rumanian banks began to reject requests for credits from Jewish banks as well as from Jewish industrial and commercial firms, and the Jewish enterprises were burdened by heavy taxes, imposed with the aim of ruining them. Jewish firms were not granted import quotas for raw materials and goods. Meanwhile Germany financed a series of publications and newspapers aimed at fastening an alliance between the two countries and removing Jews from all branches of the professions and the economy. Many a Jewish merchant and industrialist was compelled to sell his firm at a loss when it became unprofitable under these oppressive measures.


Jewish Political Life

Despite the attempts of the older assimilationist and established Jewish groups, the inclination of Rumanian Jewry—thanks largely to the trends among Jews of the newly annexed provinces and to the impact of Zionism—was toward a clear-cut Jewish stance in politics. In 1919 the Union of Rumanian Jews, led by W. Filderman, recommended that the Jews vote for those Rumanian parties which would be favorable to them. As none of the parties formulated an attitude toward the Jewish problem the Union decided that the Jews should withhold their votes. In the 1920 elections the Union joined the Zionists to form a list which conducted its election campaign under the symbol of the menorah. As the elections were rigged, not a single candidate succeeded in entering parliament. The Union managed to send Adolphe Stern to parliament in 1922 through joining with the Peasants' Party. From 1923 the Zionists pressed for a policy of a national minority status for the Jews. Their proposal was not accepted by the Union.

In 1926 the first National Jewish deputies and senators were elected from Bukovina, Transylvania, and Bessarabia. As a consequence of these successes the National Jewish Club, in which representatives of the Zionist parties also participated, was founded in Bucharest. Such clubs were established in all the cities of the Old Kingdom. In 1928 four National Jewish deputies were returned to parliament (two from Transylvania, one from Bukovina, and one from Bessarabia). They formed a Jewish parliamentary club. In 1930 the Jewish Party (Partidul Evreesc) was established in the Old Kingdom and on May 4, 1931, it held its general congress. Adolphe Stern joined this party. In the elections to parliament, a month later, the Jewish Party gained five seats, and in the 1932 elections it again obtained five. The situation of the Jewish parliamentarians was far from easy, because they were not only interrupted during their speeches but were often physically attacked by the deputies of the anti-Semitic parties. After 1933 there were no more Jewish members of parliament, except for J. Niemirover, who in his capacity of chief rabbi was officially a senator.

The undefined legal status of the Jewish communities in Rumania tempted local authorities to meddle more and more in their affairs. A rabbi from Bucharest, Hayyim Schor, proclaimed himself chief rabbi. He demanded recognition of a separate Orthodox community everywhere in Rumania, and was willing to be satisfied with the status of a private association for the Jewish community, thus abandoning the demand for its recognition as a public body. The Union and the Zionists opposed him. On May 19, 1921, the congress of Jews from the Old Kingdom met in Bucharest and elected J. Niemirover as chief rabbi. In 1922 Jewish representatives demanded that two communities be recognized: the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi (and for Transylvania an Orthodox community too, as was traditional there). Only in 1928 did parliament pass the Law of Religions applying the provisions of the constitution, which recognized Judaism as one of the eight historical religions and the community as a juridical person in public law. On the basis of this law all the property of the religious institutions was transferred to the ownership of the communities. In January 1929 the minister of religions limited the application of this law, instructing that communities become juridical persons only after the approval of their statutes by the ministry; he also permitted communities of "diverse rites," and not only the Ashkenazi or Sephardi, and in Transylvania the Orthodox type, thus accepting the program of Rabbi Schor. Mayors and police commissioners thought that this gave them a legal cover to dissolve the elected boards of the communities and to appoint others to their liking, although the Ministry of Religions issued a circular prohibiting interference by local authorities. Only in 1932 did the communities gain general recognition as juridical persons in public law.

The certificates of Jewish schools were not recognized and their pupils had to pass state examinations, paying a fee (which was a charge on community budgets as they covered this fee for the poor) until 1925, when the certificates of Jewish schools were recognized if the language of tuition was Rumanian. (Although Rumania had signed the Minorities Treaty in Paris, it had never implemented it.) All Jewish schools were maintained by the communities; in Bessarabia, Tarbut maintained Hebrew schools. The ministry of education contributed only a token subvention. The Jews of annexed Transylvania used the Hungarian language in the Zionist press, even under Rumanian rule, those of Bukovina German, while in Bessarabia the language of the Jewish press was Yiddish. Each province kept its traditions, autonomous structure, and cultural life, within the framework of the all-Rumanian Federation of Jewish Communities. Culturally, the deeply rooted Jewish life of Bessarabia, with its Hebrew teachers, writers, and journalists, had a great influence, especially in the Old Kingdom.

In 1924 there were 796,056 Jews in enlarged Rumania (5% of the total population): 230,000 in the Old Kingdom, 238,000 in Bessarabia, 128,056 in Bukovina, and 200,000 in Transylvania. In 1930 their number was 756,930 (4.2% of the total population): 263,192 in the Old Kingdom, 206,958 in Bessarabia, 92,988 in Bukovina, and 193,000 in Transylvania.


Social Structure

The Jewish population of Old Rumania was for the most part an urban one. According to the 1899 census, 79.73% of the Jews lived in cities, forming 32.10% of the whole urban population of the country. Only 20.27% lived in villages, forming 1.1% of the whole rural population. This phenomenon was a result of the ban on Jews dwelling in a rural area. In the Moldavia province, where the Jews were most heavily concentrated, they formed a majority in several towns. In Falticeni they were 57% of the total population; in Dorohoi, 53.6%; in Botosani, 51.8%; in Jassy, 50.8%. In several smaller towns of that region their proportion was greater: in Gertsa, 66.2%; in Mihaileni, 65.6%; in Harlau, 59.6%; in Panciu, 52.4%. The Rumanian population was 84.06% farmers, the Jews constituting the middle class. According to 1904 statistics, 21.1% of the total number of merchants were Jews, but in some cities of Moldavia they were a definite majority, such as in Jassy, 75.3%; Botosani, 75.2%; Dorohoi, 72.9%; Tecuci, 65.9%, etc. Jews represented 20.07% of all artisans, and in several branches they were a majority: 81.3% of engravers, 76% of tinsmiths; 75.9% of watchmakers; 74.6% of bookbinders; 64.9% of hatmakers; 64.3% of upholsterers, etc. Industry was not advanced in Rumania before World War I. There were 625 industrial firms altogether, 19.5% of them owned by Jews. Jews were 5.3% of the officials and workers in these industrial enterprises. In several branches of industry there were Jewish factory owners: 52.8% of the glass industry; 32.4% of the wood and furniture industry; 32.4% of the clothing industry; 26.5% of the textile industry. Of the liberal professions only medicine was permitted to Jews. They constituted 38% of the total number of doctors. The occupational distribution of the Jews was as follows; agriculture, 2.5%; industry and crafts, 42.5%; trade and banking, 37.9%; liberal professions, 3.2%; various occupations, 13.7%.

There are no detailed statistics of the period between the two world wars. The provinces of Bessarabia, Transylvania, and Bukovina were annexed to Old Rumania, increasing the Jewish population threefold. In every province their occupational structure was different as the result of historical development. In the two annexed provinces, Transylvania and Bukovina, the Jews had enjoyed civil rights from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and were also represented in the liberal professions. On the other hand, their situation in Bessarabia in czarist times was worse than in Old Rumania—a fact which also influenced their occupational structure. The few known figures refer to Greater Rumania, with all the annexed territories. The only census taken in Bessarabia was in 1930, and according to those figures the occupational distribution of the Jewish population was as follows: industry and crafts, 24.8%; trade and banking, 51.5%; liberal professions, 2.9%; miscellaneous, 8.2%. It should be noted that Jewish bankers (such as the bank of "Marmorosh-Blank") invested money in the developing industry of Greater Rumania. Some industrial enterprises, comprising several factories such as the sugar, metal, and textile works, etc., were owned by Jews. In the late 1930s, under the influence of the spread of the Nazi movement to Rumania, the whole occupational structure of the Jews collapsed because of persecution on the economic level, which preceded political persecution and murder.


Cultural Life

Since most Rumanian Jews were of Polish or Russian extraction, their religious and cultural traditions were similar to those of the Jews of Eastern Europe. Their rabbis and teachers, as well as their religious trends, came from there. Hasidism was particularly widespread in the Moldavia province, which borders on Galicia and Russia and where hasidic centers were established at the "courts" of the zaddikim of the Ruzhin dynasty in the towns of Stefanesti, Buhusi, Adjud, and Focsani. The spoken language of the Jewish population was Yiddish; Rumanian became more widely used among them only in the second half of the 19th century, at the time when the first Rumanian universities were established (Jassy in 1860 and Bucharest in 1864). In that period, too, the development of modern Rumanian literature began. In the middle of the century Julius Barasch, of Galician origin, brought Mendelssohnian haskalah to Rumanian Jewry. In 1857 he published the first newspaper in Rumanian and French—Israelitul RomDn—whose function was to fight for equal civil rights for Rumanian Jewry. In 1854 another two newspapers—Timpul (Di Tsayt; Bucharest) and Gazeta Roma (Jassy)—appeared in Rumanian and Yiddish, but all three papers ceased publication before the end of a year. Other such attempts met the same fate. Only in 1879 did the weekly Fraternitatea begin to appear, lasting until 1885, when it ceased publication upon the expulsion from Rumania of its chief editors, Isaac Auerbach and E. Schwarzfeld, for their stand against persecutions. This paper, which represented the assimilationist trend, was opposed to the incipient pre-Zionist movement which sponsored the establishment of the colonies of Zikhron Ya'akov and Rosh Pinnah in Erez Israel. Then two papers in Rumanian also appeared, supporting aliyah: ApGrGtorul, which was published in Bucharest from 1881 to 1884 with E. S. Gold as editor, and the weekly Stindardul, which was published in Focsani from 1882 to 1883. The Yiddish paper Ha-Yo'ez which appeared in Bucharest from 1874 to 1896 also supported aliyah. Eleazar Rokeah, an emissary from Erez Israel, published as special organs of the pre-Zionist movement the Hebrew paper Emek Yizre'el in Jassy (1882), and the Yiddish Di Hofnung in Piatra-Neamt (1882), and Der Emigrant in Galati (1882). Of the Jewish press in Rumania the weekly Egalitatea, edited by M. Schwarzfeld, survived for half a century. The weekly Curierul Israelit, edited by M. Schweig, began to appear in 1906 and continued up to 1948, becoming the mouthpiece of the Uniunea Evreilor RomDni ("Union of Rumanian Jews") after World War I. In the time of Herzl several Zionist papers appeared in Rumania but did not last long. In 1913 the monthly Hatikva in Rumanian was issued in Galati under the editorship of L. Gold who gathered round him the outstanding Jewish authors in Rumanian. Apart from original articles they also published translations of a high literary standard from modern Hebrew poetry and classical Yiddish literature. After World War I, from 1919 to 1923, there was published in Bucharest a daily newspaper in Rumanian with a Zionist national tendency, MDntuirea edited by A. L. Zissu with Abraham Feller as chief editor. This paper stood for the idea of a Jewish political party and sharply attacked the tendencies of assimilationist circles. The weekly Renasterea NoastrG (1923–42, 1944–48), edited by Samuel I. Stern, continued in this direction subsequently. The Zionist Federation published the weekly Ctiri din Lumea EvreeascG, edited by I. Ludo and later by Theoder Loewenstein. Between the two world wars the Zionist students' association published the monthly Hasmonaea. The number of Jewish journalists grew between the two wars, some of them even becoming chief editors of the great democratic papers. They included Constantin Graur, B. Branisteanu, Em. Fagure, G. Milian (Bucharest); A. Hefter (Jassy), and S. Schaferman-PGstoresu (BrGila). After they had acquired a knowledge of Rumanian, several Jewish scholars at the end of the 19th century became distinguished in the field of philology and folklore: Lazar SGineanu (SainMan), compiler of the first practical dictionary of Rumanian (1896); M. Gaster, who did research on early Rumanian folklore; Heinrich Tiktin, author of a scientific grammar of Rumanian in two volumes (1893–94). This tradition continued down to later times. I. A. Candrea also compiled a Rumanian dictionary (1931), as did J. Byk and A. L. Graur after World War II. A number of these scholars also devoted time to research on the history of Rumanian Jewry. The pioneer in this field was the historian J. Psantir, whose two Yiddish volumes contained Hebrew headings: Divrei ha-Yamim le-Arzot Rumanyah (Jassy, 1871) and Korot ha-Yehudim be-Rumanyah (Lemberg, 1877). A society for research into the history of Rumanian Jewry was established in 1886 and named for Julius Barasch. Among its active members were J. Psantir, M. Gaster, Lazar CGineanu, Elias Schwarzfeld, M. Schwarzfeld, and others. In the three publications of their bulletin they published source material, memoirs, and bibliographical notes, as well as some combined research and monographs of Jewish communities. Although the society ceased activities after four years the scholars continued their researches. Part of their works appeared in the 19 volumes of the annual Anuarul pentru IsraeliTi and in a weekly published by M. Schwarzfeld. Between the two world wars Meir A. Halevy published several monographs on the history of the Jews of Rumania. The Templul Coral ("Choir Synagogue") then erected in Bucharest a museum, library, and archives for the history of Rumanian Jewry. In some bulletins of these institutions and in the annual Sinai (1926–32), edited by Meir A. Halevy, there also appeared researches on the history of Rumanian Jewry.


Holocaust Period

German penetration into the Rumanian economy increased as the Nazis moved eastward with the Anschluss of Austria (1938), the annexation of Czechoslovakia (1939), and the occupation of western Poland at the outbreak of World War II. A considerable number of Rumanian politicians agreed to serve German interests in exchange for directorships in German-Rumanian enterprises, and German trade agreements with Rumania always demanded the removal of Jews in the branch involved. In this way, Jews were expelled from wood commerce and industry.

In the summer of 1940 Rumania succumbed to Germanpressure and transferred Bessarabia and part of Bukovina to the Soviet Union, northern Transylvania to Hungary, and southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria (the territory that remained being called Old Rumania). When the Rumanian army retreated from these areas, its soldiers murdered many Jews, particularly in northern Bukovina and Moldavia; they also threw Jewish travelers, both civilian and military, from moving trains. On June 30, 1940, 52 Jews were murdered in Dorohoi by a retreating Rumanian regiment. Hoping to ensure its borders after the concessions, Rumania, which had not been invaded by the German army, became a satellite of Nazi Germany. The first result of this move was the cancellation of Rumanian citizenship for Jews, a measure taken by the government, which included members of the Iron Guard, under German pressure in August 1940. On September 6, when King Carol abdicated, Ion Antonescu, who had been minister of defense in the Goga government, came to power. His government included ministers from the ranks of the Iron Guard, and Rumania was declared a Nationalist-Legionary State (the members of the Iron Guard styled themselves "legionnaires"). The "legionary police" was organized on Nazi lines with the help of the S.S. and the S.D. There followed a period of anti-Semitic terrorism that lasted for five months. It began with the confiscation of Jewish-owned shops, together with the posting of signs marked "Jewish shop" and picketing by the green-shirted "legionary police." The reign of terror reached its height when Jewish industrial and commercial enterprises were handed over to the members of the "Legion" under pressure from the Iron Guard. The owners of the enterprises were arrested and tortured by the "legionary police" until they agreed to sign certificates of transfer. Bands of "legionnaires" entered Jewish homes and "confiscated" any sums of money they found. This resulted in a mortal blow to the Rumanian economy and chaos that frightened even the German diplomats. Antonescu tried on several occasions to arrest the wave of terrorism, during which a number of Rumanian statesmen opposed to the Iron Guard were killed.

On Jan. 21, 1941, the Iron Guard revolted against Antonescu and attempted to seize power and carry out its anti-Semitic program in full. While part of the "Legion" was fighting the Rumanian army for control of government offices and strategic points in the city, the rest carried out a pogrom on Bucharest Jews, aided by local hooligans. Jewish homes were looted, shops burned, and many synagogues desecrated, including two that were razed to the ground (the Great Sephardi Synagogue and the old bet ha-midrash). Some of the leaders of the Bucharest community were imprisoned in the community council building, worshipers were ejected from synagogues, the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization was attacked and its director murdered, and wealthy Bucharest Jews were arrested, according to a previously prepared list. Those arrested were taken to centers of the Iron Guard movement: some were then taken into the forests near Bucharest and shot; others were murdered and their bodies hung on meat hooks in the municipal slaughterhouse, bearing the legend "kosher meat." The pogrom claimed 120 Jewish lives. There were no acts of violence in the provinces because the army was in firm control and fully supported Antonescu. This was also Hitler's reason for supporting Antonescu. Rumania held an important role in the war contemplated against the Soviet Union, not only as a supply and jumping-off base, but as an active partner in the invasion of the country.

A period of relative calm followed the Bucharest pogrom and permitted Rumanian Jews to gather strength after the shock of the violence. Antonescu, however, was thereafter under constant German pressure, for when their revolt failed, members of the Iron Guard found refuge in Germany, where they constituted a permanent threat to his position, as he now lacked his own party to serve as a counterbalance. In January 1941 Manfred von Killinger, a veteran Nazi known for his anti-Semitic activities, was appointed German ambassador to Rumania. In April he was joined by Gustav Richter, an adviser on Jewish affairs who was attached to Adolf Eichmann's department. Richter's special task was to bring Rumanian anti-Jewish legislation into line with its counterpart in Germany.


During the War

On June 22, 1941, when war broke out with the Soviet Union, the Rumanian and German armies were scattered along the banks of the Prut River in order to penetrate into Bukovina and Bessarabia. As this branch of the front became active only on July 3, the Rumanian and German soldiers occupied themselves with slaughtering the Jewish population of Jassy on June 29, 1941. When the soldiers finally went into action, they were joined by units of Einsatzgruppe D, under the command of Otto Ohlendorf. Their combined advance through Bessarabia, Bukovina, and the Dorohoi district was accompanied by massacres of the local Jewish population. At the beginning of August 1941 the Rumanians began to send deportees from Bukovina and Bessarabia over the Dniester River into a German-occupied area of the U.S.S.R. (later to be known as Transnistria). The Germans refused to accept the deportees, shooting some and returning the rest. Some of these Jews drowned in the river and others were shot by the Rumanian gendarmerie on the western bank; of the 25,000 persons who crossed the Dniester near Sampol, only 16,500 were returned by the Germans. Some of these survivors were killed by the Rumanians, and some died of weakness and starvation on the way to camps in Bukovina and Bessarabia. Half of the 320,000 Jews living in Bessarabia, Bukovina, and the Dorohoi district (which was in Old Rumania) were murdered during the first few months of Rumania's involvement in the war, i.e., up to Sept. 1, 1941.

After this period the Jews were concentrated in ghettos (if they lived in cities), in special camps (if they lived in the countryside, or townlets such as Secureni, Yedintsy, Vertyuzhani, etc.). German killing squads or Rumanian gendarmes, copying the Germans, habitually entered the ghettos and camps, removing Jews and murdering them. Jews living in villages and townlets in Old Rumania (Moldavia, Walachia, and southern Transylvania) were concentrated into the nearest large town. The Jews of northern Moldavia, which bordered on the battle area, were sent to the west of Rumania: men under 60 were sent to the Targu-Jiu camp and the women, children, and aged were sent to towns where the local Jewish population was ordered to care for the deportees (who owned nothing more than the clothing on their backs). The homes and property of these deportees were looted by the local population immediately after they were deported.

On Sept. 16, 1941, those in camps in Bessarabia began to be deported to the region between the Dniester and the Bug rivers called Transnistria, from which the Germans had withdrawn, handing control over to the Rumanians under the Tighina agreement (Aug. 30, 1941). The deportations included 118,847 Jews from Bessarabia, Bukovina, and the Dorohoi district. At the intervention of the Union of Jewish Communities in Rumania, an order was given to stop the deportations on October 14; they continued however until November 15, leaving all the Jews of Bessarabia and Bukovina (with the exception of 20,000 from Chernovtsy) and 2,316 of the 14,847 Jews from the Dorehoi district concentrated in Transnistria. In two months of deportations 22,000 Jews died: some because they could walk no further, some from disease, but the majority were murdered by the gendarmerie that accompanied them on their journey. All the money and valuables were confiscated by representatives of the Rumanian National Bank. The Jews then remaining in Old Rumania and in southern Transylvania were compelled into forced labor and were subjected to various special taxes. The prohibition against Jews working in certain professions and the "Rumanization of the economy" continued and caused the worsening of the economic situation of the Jewish population.

According to the statistical table on the potential victims of the "Final Solution" introduced at the Wannsee Conference, 342,000 Rumanian Jews were destined for this end. The German embassy in Bucharest conducted an intensive propaganda campaign through its journal, Bukarester Tageblatt, which announced "an overall European solution to the Jewish problem" and the deportation of Jews from Rumania. On July 22, 1942, Richter obtained Vice-Premier Mihai Antonescu's agreement to begin the deportation of Jews to Poland in September. However, as a result of the efforts of the clandestine Jewish leadership and the pressure exerted by diplomats from neutral countries, as well as by the papal nuncio, A. Cassulo, Ion Antonescu canceled the agreement. He could afford a measure of independence, since Hitler was then seeking the mobilization of additional divisions of the Rumanian army against the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Eichmann's Bucharest office, working through the local authorities, succeeded in contriving the deportation of 7,000 Jews from Chernovtsy and Dorohoi and groups from other parts of Rumania to Transnistria because they were "suspected of Communism" (they were of Bessarabian origin and had asked to return to the Soviet Union in 1940), had "broken forced-labor laws," etc.

At the beginning of December 1942 the Rumanian government informed the Jewish leadership of a change in its policy toward Jews. It would henceforth permit Jews deported to Transnistria to emigrate to Palestine. Defeat at Stalingrad (where the Rumanians had lost 18 divisions) was already anticipated. In 1942–43 the Rumanian government began tentatively to consider signing a separate peace treaty with the Allies. Although the plan for large-scale emigration failed because of German opposition and lack of facilities, both small and large boats left Rumania carrying "illegal" immigrants to Palestine, some of whom were refugees from Bukovina, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. Between 1939 and August 1944 (when Rumania withdrew from the war) 13 boats left Rumania, carrying 13,000 refugees, and even this limited activity was about to cease, as a result of German pressure exerted through diplomatic missions in Rumania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Two of the boats sank: the Struma (on Feb. 23, 1944 with 769 passengers) and the Mefkure (on Aug. 5, 1944 with 394 passengers).

Despite German efforts, the Rumanian government refused to deport its Jews to the "east." At the beginning of 1943, however, there was a return to the traditional economic pressures against the Jews in order to reduce the Jewish population. This was achieved by forbidding Jews to work in the civilian economy and through the most severe measure of all, forced labor (from which the wealthy managed to obtain an exemption by paying a considerable sum). In addition, various taxes were imposed on the Jewish population in the form of cash, clothing, shoes, or hospital equipment. These measures, particularly the taxes to be remitted in cash—of which the largest was a levy of 4 billion lei (about $27,000,000) imposed in March 1943—severely pressed Rumanian Jewry. The tax collection was made by the "Jewish center." W. Filderman, chairman of the Council of the Union of Jewish Communities, who opposed the tax and proved that it could never be paid, was deported to Transnistria for two months.

At the end of 1943, as the Red Army drew nearer to Rumania, the local Jewish leadership succeeded in obtaining the gradual return of those deported to Transnistria. The Germans tried several times to stop the return and even succeeded in bringing about the arrest of the leadership of the clandestine Zionist pioneering movements in January and February 1944; however, these leaders were released through the intervention of the International Red Cross and the Swiss ambassador in Bucharest, who contended that they were indispensable for organizing the emigration of those returning from Transnistria and refugees who had found temporary shelter in Rumania. In March 1944 contacts were made in Ankara between Ira Hirschmann, representative of the U.S. War Refugee Board, and the Rumanian ambassador, A. Cretzianu, at which Hirschmann demanded the return of all those deported to Transnistria and the cessation of the persecution of Jews. At the time, the Red Army was defeating the Germans in Transnistria, and there was a danger that the retreating Germans might slaughter the remaining Jews. Salvation came at the last moment, when Antonescu warned the Germans to avoid killing Jews while retreating. Concurrently, negotiations over Rumania's withdrawal from the war were being held in Cairo and Stockholm, and thus Antonescu was eager to show goodwill toward the Jews for the sake of his own future. In the spring Soviet forces also conquered part of Old Rumania (Moldavia), and they made an all-out attack on August 20. On August 23 King Michael arrested Antonescu and his chief ministers and declared a cease-fire. The Germans could no longer control Rumania, for they were dependent on the support of the Rumanian army, which had been withdrawn. Eichmann, who had been sent to western Rumania to organize the liquidation of Jews in the region, did not reach Rumania.

Fifty-seven percent of the Jewish population under Rumanian rule during the war (including the Jews of Bessarabia and northern Bukovina) survived the Holocaust. The following statistics give the death toll. Out of a prewar Jewish population of 607,790, 264,900 (43%) were murdered. Of this number, 166,597 perished during the first period of the war, 151,513 from Bessarabia and Bukovina and 15,064 from part of Old Rumania. The rest died during the deportations to Transnistria or in the camps and ghettos of this region: some were murdered; others died in epidemics, of famine, or of exposure. In areas from which Jews were not deported, 78.2% of the Jewish population were left without a livelihood as a result of the discrimina tory measures up to 1942, the date at which statistics were last calculated. The demographic effect was that the ratio of births to deaths fell to 34.1% in 1942 from the 1934 figures of 116.5%.


Jewish Resistance


As soon as Hitler assumed power in Germany (1933), Jewish leaders in Bucharest, mostly Zionists, decided not to remain passive. In November the congress of the Jewish Party in Rumania decided to join the anti-Nazi boycott movement, disregarding the protest raised by the Rumanian press and anti-Semitic groups, but the Union of the Rumanian Jews (U.E.R.) did not participate in the campaign. The necessity for a united political, as well as economic, struggle soon became obvious. On Jan. 29, 1936, the Central Council of Jews in Rumania, composed of representatives of both Jewish trends—the U.E.R. and the Jewish Party—was established for "the defense of all Jewish rights and liberties against the organizations and newspapers that openly proclaimed the introduction of the racial regime." At the end of the year the Council succeeded in averting a bill proposed in the parliament by the anti-Semitic circles suggesting that citizenship be revoked from the Jews. During the same period the Rumanian government attempted to suppress the state subvention for Jewish religious needs, as well as the exemption from taxes accorded to Jewish community institutions. The Council could not obtain the maintenance of the subvention, and it was finally reduced to one-sixth of its allotment.

When Goga's anti-Semitic government came to power, the Council began a struggle against it, gaining support and attention outside Rumania. Filderman, president of the Council, left at once for Paris, where he mobilized the world Jewish organizations with headquarters in France and England and informed local political circles and the League of Nations of events in Rumania. At the same time the Jews in Rumania began an expanded economic boycott, refraining from commercial transactions, withdrawing their deposits from the banks, and delaying tax payments. The outcome was "large-scale paralysis of the economic life," as the German minister of foreign affairs stated in his circular of March 9, 1938. Thus the dismissal of the Goga government after only 40 days was motivated not only by external pressure, but by the effects of the Jewish economic boycott.


Following the downfall of the Goga government, King Carol's royal dictatorship abolished all the political parties in Rumania, including the Jewish Party and the Union of Rumanian Jews. The single body of the Jews in Rumania was the Union of the Jewish Communities, whose board was composed of the leaders of both Jewish currents. The Union assumed the task of fighting against the increasing number of anti-Jewish measures promulgated by the Rumanian authorities under pressure from local anti-Semitic circles and the German government. In some cases its interventions were successful; for example, it achieved the nullification of the prohibition against collecting contributions to Zionist funds, and, as a result of its protests, the restrictions against the Jewish physicians and the Jewish industrial schools were abrogated. In the summer of 1940, after Rumania ceded Bukovina and Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, the Rumanian police tried to eject Jewish refugees from those two provinces. The Union's board succeeded in moving the Ministry of the Interior to annul the measure. When the interdiction of ritual slaughter was decreed, the board obtained an authorization for ritual slaughtering of poultry. The cancellation of the prohibition against Jews peddling in certain cities was also achieved. When the anti-Semitic newspapers incited against the leaders of the Union, the police began to search their homes.

Ion Antonescu's government, with the participation of the Iron Guard, closed several synagogues (those with less than 400 worshipers in cities and 200 in villages) and transferred the property to Christian churches. The disposition was canceled after three days, however, as a result of an audience between the Union's president, Filderman, and Antonescu; simultaneously the minister of religion, who ordered the measure, was forced to resign. These acts took place during the first period of the new regime, dominated by the Iron Guard, when trespasses were committed against the Jews daily. The Union's board constantly informed Antonescu and the diverse ministries of these acts, pointing out their illegality and arbitrariness. The argument that constantly recurred in the memoranda presented by the Union's board was that the confiscation of Jewish shops and industrial companies caused the disorganization of the country's economic life. Antonescu used the information provided by the board to support his stand against the trespasses. The Iron Guard responded with a terror campaign against the Jewish leaders; some were arrested and tortured by the "legionary police," others were murdered during the revolt against Antonescu.

The Zionist leadership negotiated with Antonescu about organizing the emigration of Rumanian Jews. The minister of finance proposed that the emigration be financed by Rumanian assets, which had been frozen in the United States, because Rumania had joined the Axis. The transaction had to be accomplished through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), whose representative in Rumania was also the president of the Union. In every city the Jewish community had to register those who wanted to emigrate and were able to pay the amount demanded by the government. The Union's board utilized this agreement as a leverage for achieving certain concessions, especially after Rumania joined Germany in the war against the Soviet Union (June 1941). For example, when the evacuation of Jews from villages and towns began, the Union secured the government's agreement not to send these Jews to concentration camps (as had previously been ordered), but rather to lodge them in the big cities, where they were to be cared for by the local Jewish communities. Another achievement (on Aug. 14, 1941) was the liberation of the rabbis, leaders of communities, and teachers employed in Jewish schools, who had been arrested after the outbreak of war with the U.S.S.R., from the Targu-Jiu concentration camp. The Union raised the argument that the plans concerning the release of the Rumanian properties in the United States were dependent upon those local leaders. On Aug. 2, 1941, the board achieved the cancellation of the order that Jews wear the yellow badge and other measures, including the creation of ghettos in the cities and mobilizing women for forced labor, in which Jewish men were already engaged. Richter insisted on the reintroduction of repressive measures, and on September 3 the order to wear the yellow badge was reendorsed. This time, in addition to intervention by the Union's leaders, Chief Rabbi Alexander Safran went into action. He appealed to the head of the Christian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Nicodem, and on September 8 Antonescu annulled the order. Nevertheless, the yellow badge was maintained in a number of Moldavian cities, as well as in Chernovtsy (Cernauti), the capital of Bukovina, where the German influence was strong.

During this period, when Rumania suffered great losses on the front and Germany called for an increase in Rumanian participation, the Union's board employed the argument that Rumania, being an ally of the Third Reich, and thus a sovereign state, did not have to accept anti-Jewish laws that were applied only to German satellite countries. Hungary and Italy, allies that did not apply such measures at that time, were presented as examples. It is known from von Killinger's reports that Antonescu raised these objections in his dealings with the Nazi government.

After Jews began to be deported from Bessarabia and Bukovina to Transnistria, the board delegated Chief Rabbi Safran to intervene with the queen mother, Patriarch Nicodem, and the archbishop of Bukovina and induce them to intercede with Antonescu to halt the deportations and permit aid to those who had already been transported over the Dniester. Until a decision could be achieved through their intervention, and against the opposition of von Killinger, the 17,000 Jews who remained in Chernovtsy were not deported. However, the steps taken, with permission to provide assistance to those who had already been deported to Transnistria were sabotaged by difficulties raised by lower authorities. The Union also endeavored to gain the support of the U.S. ambassador, who interceded with the Rumanian government. Nevertheless, when the ambassadors of Brazil, Switzerland, and Portugal proposed to the U.S. ambassador the initiation of an international protest against the Rumanian anti-Jewish excesses, the latter reported to Washington that he did not possess enough exact information. Later on, however, in another report (Nov. 4, 1941), he described in detail the massacres committed in Bessarabia and in Bukovina and the cruelties that were committed during the deportations to Transnistria. The description was based on the information received from the Union. (It was only at the end of 1941 that Rumania broke off relations with the United States, under German pressure.) The anti-Semitic press—financed and inspired by the German embassy—including the German-language Bukarester Tageblatt, then intensified the incitement againt the Jewish leaders and their constant interventions against anti-Jewish measures.


At the end of 1941 the Union of the Communities was dissolved under pressure from Richter, and the Centrala evreilor (Central Board of the Jews) was set up at his suggestion in January 1942. Its leaders were appointed by Radu Lecca, who was responsible for Jewish affairs in the Rumanian government, but they were actually subordinate to Richter. Nearly all of the new leaders were unknown to the Jewish public, with the exception of A. Willman, who shortly before his appointment had published a number of pamphlets proposing a kind of neo-territorialist plan to be accomplished with the aid of Nazi Germany. From the outset, the Jewish population expressed its distrust of the new organ. The former leaders of the Jewish institutions formed a clandestine Jewish Council with Chief Rabbi Alexander Safran as its president. The Council leaders handed memoranda personally to, or interceded individually with, Antonescu or his ministers, who went on to deal with them because the government did not trust the Central Board either.

In the spring of 1942 changes were made in the framework of the Central Board. Willman and some of his followers were removed and replaced by others appointed from among the leadership of the Zionist movement and the Union of the Rumanian Jews (U.E.R.). Thus the Central Board was prevented from taking any harmful initiatives against the Jewish population. In the summer the Zionist Organization was dissolved at the request of the Germans, and this was a sign that the Germans disagreed with the Rumanian policy, which aided Jewish emigration. On July 22 when Richter obtained Mihai Antonescu's assent to the deportation of the Jews to the extermination camps in Poland, the clandestine Jewish Council immediately learned of the details of the deportation program and used personal contacts to achieve the repeal of the agreement. Safran invited the archbishop of Transylvania, Nicholas Balan, to Bucharest, since the transports were to be initiated from there; the queen mother was also convinced by Safran to intercede, together with the archbishop, with Ion Antonescu. Others were also requested to intercede on behalf of the Jews, such as the papal nuncio, Andreas Cassulo; the Swiss ambassador, RenM de Weck; and even Antonescu's personal physician.

Danger was overcome for the present, but not for long, as Eichmann persevered in demanding the deportation of Rumanian Jews. In October 1942 the deportation order, under pressure from Eichmann, was issued again, this time to begin from Transylvania. The Council immediately went into action: the most important figure to intercede was Safran with the papal nuncio, who applied to the Rumanian minister of foreign affairs to cancel the deportation order. The nuncio's efforts were supported by the Swedish and Turkish ambassadors, and by the delegates of the International Red Cross. At the same time the Jewish Council achieved the annulment of the order to deport to Transnistria 12,000 Jews accused of having committed crimes or breaches of discipline.


After overcoming the danger of deportation to the extermination camps in Poland, the Jewish Council began to request the return of those who had survived the deportations to Transnistria. The dealings with the Rumanian government began in November 1942 over the question of a ransom to be paid by Zionist groups outside Rumania. Eichmann's unceasing interventions prevented a clear-cut decision until, on April 23, Antonescu—under German pressure—issued the order that not a single deportee should return. The Jewish leaders then initiated the struggle for a "step by step" resolution to the problem, asserting that a series of categories had been deported arbitrarily, without previous investigation. The Rumanian government ordered a detailed registration of categories. At the beginning of 1943 an official commission was appointed to classify the deportees. In July Antonescu authorized the return of certain cases (aged persons, widows, World War I invalids, former officers of the Rumanian army, etc.). Implementation of the order, however, encountered difficulties raised by the governor of Transnistria, who was under the influence of German advisers. Only at the beginning of December did the deportees begin to return, according to categories: yet it was a struggle against time, as meanwhile the front had reached Transnistria.

The Jewish Council took advantage of the opportunity offered by the conflicts between the Rumanians and the Germans, which became more and more stressed, especially after the Nazis discovered the peace feelers sent out by the Rumanians to the Allies. The Rumanian government now felt that alleviating the condition of the Jews and protecting them from the Germans would create more favorable conditions for Rumania upon the conclusion of the peace treaty. From the beginning of 1944 the clandestine Zionist Executive dealt separately with Antonescu on the question of emigration. Its efforts had an influence on the general situation, as the Rumanian authorities made the return of the deportees conditional upon their immediate emigration.


Whole strata of Rumanian Jewry were pauperized because of the anti-Jewish economic measures. The former committee of the JDC continued its activity clandestinely under the control of the Union of the Jewish Communities and afterward of the Jewish Council. In October 1943 it was officially recognized within the framework of the "Jewish Central Board" as the Autonomous Committee of Assistance. Assistance was thus provided to the Jews evacuated from towns and villages who could not be maintained by the local communities. The most important accomplishment, however, was the aid in the form of money, medicines, utensils for craftsmen, coal, oil heaters, window glass, clothing, etc. transmitted to Transnistria. In order to cover the budget, money and clothing were collected in the regions not affected by deportations. These means, however, were far from adequate. Only owing to the important amounts acquired from the JDC, the Jewish Agency, and other world Jewish organizations was the Autonomous Committee of Assistance able to continue its activity.

In addition to all the official difficulties raised by the Rumanian central authorities (the compulsory transfer of money through the National Bank at an unfavorable exchange rate, and the obligation of paying customs for the objects sent), the transports were frequently plundered on the way or confiscated by the local authorities in Transnistria. The assistance, however, was in itself an element of resistance. The mere fact that the deportees knew that they had not been abandoned, at least by their fellow Jews, contributed to the maintenance of their morale. The aid in its various forms saved thousands of lives. Through clandestine correspondence, carried by non-Jewish messengers, reports were received concerning the situation of the refugees. This means of providing information was insufficient, however, and the Autonomous Committee of Assistance therefore wanted to review the situation directly on the spot.

As early as January 1942 authorization was obtained from the Ministry of the Interior for a delegation of the committee to go to Transnistria; nevertheless, due to the opposition of the governor of Transnistria, the representatives could not get there until Dec. 31, 1942. The governor received them in audience at Odessa and tried to intimidate them by means of threat, telling them that their behavior would determine whether or not they would return to Rumania. He gave them permission to visit only three of the camps in which deported Jews were concentrated. The delegates of the committee responded by requesting a regional conference with representatives of all the camps. During the railway journey to Mogilev, the delegates visited the Zhmerinka camp and received information about the surrounding camps. Upon their arrival at Mogilev (Jan. 8–9, 1943), a regional conference took place with the participation of about 70 delegates. Before the conference opened, the prefect and the commander of the gendarmes warned the delegates not to complain about their situation, adding the threat that complaints might endanger the further receipt of aid. However, the delegates clandestinely submitted a written report concerning the real situation to the representatives of the committee. From Mogilev the delegation left for Balta, where it did not receive a license for a regional conference, but each delegate from the ghettos or camps of the area was authorized to report individually about the situation. Back in Bucharest, after this two-week tour in Transnistria, the delegates presented their report, which was also sent to Jewish organizations abroad.

In December 1943 representatives of the Autonomous Committee of Assistance again left for Transnistria to organize the return of the deportees, taking with them wagons of clothing. One group of representatives left for the north, to Mogilev and its surroundings; another for the south, to Tiraspol. The central administration of Transnistria did not display any goodwill, but the local authorities provided wagons for the transport. On Feb. 15, 1944, two delegations started out to aid the return of the orphans. On March 17, 1944, another two delegations set out for Transnistria, but they could not reach their destination as the area had already become a front area, the northern part occupied by the Red Army.

The delegates installed themselves in Tighina (Bessarabia), whence they made contact with Tiraspol on the eastern bank of the Dniester River and succeeded in saving almost all those concentrated there. The Germans still had the time to organize a last massacre, murdering 1,000 Jews who were in detention in the Tiraspol jail. When Transnistria and Bessarabia were reconquered by the Soviets, the deportees who followed the armies were the last to succeed in returning to Rumania, for afterward, at the end of June 1944, the Soviets closed the frontier. It was reopened only in May 1945 for a last group of 7,000 deportees, after prolonged dealings in Bucharest between the Jewish leaders and General Vinogradov, the head of the Soviet armistice commission.

[Theodor Lavi]


Contemporary Period Through the 1960's

When Rumania broke with Nazi Germany and entered the war on the side of the Allies (Aug. 23, 1944), Rumanian Jewry had been considerably decreased as a result of the Holocaust and it was about to decrease even further through emigration. The struggle for Jewish independence in Palestine influenced Rumanian Jews, and the goal of aliyah, which had been deep-seated in the community in the past, became a powerful force. The decisive factor in the life of Rumanian Jews after World War II, however, was the political regime in Rumania, which exercised its authority over the community life of Rumanian Jewry, determined the structure of its organization, and limited its aspirations. Government control was prevalent during the first period—from Aug. 23, 1944 until the abolition of the monarchy (Dec. 30, 1947)—and even more so in succeeding periods, through all the internal changes that altered the regime in Rumania.

For a few years after the abolition of the monarchy, Rumania closely followed the line dictated from Moscow. This situation continued until the end of the 1950s, when the first signs of an independent Rumanian policy began to appear. Until 1965 the pattern of this policy gradually solidified, and from then, with the personal changes after the death of President Gheorghiu-Dej, Rumania entered with a full independent policy. All the changes in government and policy also left their mark on Jewish community life. The situation of Rumanian Jewry always had a special character. Even in the days of complete dependence on Moscow, when the tools and institutions of national Jewish identity were destroyed and expression of Jewish aspirations was repressed, Rumanian Jewry was not compelled to be as alienated from its national and religious identity as were the Jews of the Soviet Union. At the end of the 1960s the Jewish community in Rumania found itself in an intermediate position. Its activities displayed indications of free community life as well as the limitations imposed by the government. Variations in the government's policy also reflected the connection between the status of Rumanian Jewry and the official attitude of Rumania toward Israel. This mutual influence was expressed in all the areas of Jewish life and especially through the central issue of the right to leave the country and settle in Israel.



The characterizing factor of the demography of Rumanian Jewry during this period was the constant decrease in the community's size. The only source on the size of the Rumanian Jewish community at the end of World War II is a registration (the results of which were published in 1947) that was carried out on the initiative of the World Jewish Congress. According to the registration, there were 428,312 Jews in Rumania at the time. This number was the balance after the losses caused by the Holocaust, the annexation of Bessarabia and North Bukovina by the U.S.S.R., and the migration to Palestine during the war. The professional composition of the community at that time (1945) was as follows: 49,000 artisans, 35,000 employees, 34,000 merchants and industrialists, and 9,500 in the free professions. Ten years later the Jewish population had been reduced to about a third. According to the census taken on Feb. 21, 1956, there were 144,236 Jews in Rumania, of whom 34,263 spoke Yiddish. But these figures are probably lower than the true numbers, as it is known that in the above-mentioned census members of minority groups were not allowed to identify freely with their national group and the government encouraged them to declare their membership in the Rumanian nation. The drastic reduction in the size of the Rumanian Jewish community was largely a result of mass emigration, especially during the years 1944–47. The means of emigration were dictated by the conditions of the war and its aftermath. At the end of the war thousands of Jews, terrified by the Holocaust, fled Rumania through its western border, which was still open, and reached the West by their own means. In addition to this spontaneous migration, 14 refugee boats left Rumanian ports carrying 24,000 "illegal" immigrants to Palestine. A portion of Rumanian Jewry, including thousands who left Rumania of their own volition immediately after the war, was also among those who boarded refugee boats to Palestine in other European ports. From the establishment of the State of Israel (1948) until the end of the 1960s, over 200,000 Rumanian Jews settled in the new state. In addition, it should be noted that not all the Jews who emigrated from Rumania went to Israel; about 80,000 others were scattered throughout other countries. At the end of the 1960s the Rumanian Jewish community numbered no more than 100,000.


The Liquidation of Jewish Organizations

On Aug. 23, 1944, when Rumania joined the Allies, the Zionist movement came up from underground to operate legally and openly through all its currents and institutions. The same was true of the Jewish Party, which was reorganized as the representative body of Rumanian Jewry and headed by the Zionist leader A. L. Zissu. In 1945 an extension of the Communist Party was established among the Jewish population under the name the Jewish Democratic Committee (Comitetul Democrat Evreesc). For about four years the Zionist movement maintained regular activities in the fields of organization, education, training farms, and Zionist funds, as well as through international ties. In 1948 there were 100,000 members in the movement and 4,000 in He-Halutz, with 95 branches and 12 training farms. The Zionist Organization in Rumania participated in the world Zionist Congress in Basle in 1946. A general representation of Rumanian Jewry (including delegates from the Jewish Democratic Committee) was present at the Montreux conference (1948) of the World Jewish Congress. These were the last regular contacts of Rumanian Jewry with Jewish organizations abroad; afterward the ties were severed for an extended period.

The more the Communist Party strengthened its power, the more Zionist activity in Rumania turned from "permitted" to "tolerated," until it was finally outlawed completely. The instrument of this process was the Jewish Democratic Committee, which never succeeded in striking roots among the Jewish population, in spite of the support it received from the authorities. The cue to abolish Zionist activities was given in the decision of the central committee of the Communist Party on June 10–11, 1948, in the midst of Israel's War of Independence. The decision stated that "the party must take a stand on every question concerning the Jews of Rumania and fight vigorously against reactionary nationalist Jewish currents." As early as the summer of 1948 the liquidation of Zionist training farms was begun, and the process was completed in the spring of 1949. In November 1948 the activities of the Zionist funds were forbidden. On Nov. 29, 1948, a violent attack on the branch of the Zionist Organization in Bucharest was organized by the Jewish Communists. On Dec. 12, 1948, the party decision was again publicized, including a clear denunciation of Zionism, "which, in all its manifestations, is a reactionary nationalist movement of the Jewish bourgeoisie, supported by American imperialism, that attempts to isolate the masses of Jewish workers from the people among whom they live." This statement was published in the wake of a bitter press campaign against Zionism during November and December 1948.

The persecution of the Zionist movement was also expressed by the imprisonment of shelihim from Erez Israel. On Dec. 23, 1948, a general consultation of Zionists was held and resulted in the decision to dissolve "voluntarily" the Zionist organizations. Following this decision, the Zionist parties began to halt their activities, with the exception of Mapam, the youth movements, and He-Halutz. The World Jewish Congress also ceased to operate in Rumania. Those organizations that did not close down at the time continued to operate formally until the spring of the following year. On March 3, 1949, however, the Ministry of Interior issued an order to liquidate all remnants of the Zionist movement, including youth movements and training farms. With this order the Jewish community in Rumania was given over completely to the dominance of the government alone—at first by means of the Jewish Democratic Committee, until it too was gradually dissolved. In April 1949 the youth movement of the Jewish Democratic Committee was disbanded just as the Communist Party Youth (UTM) was organized, and the committee itself was disbanded in March 1953, together with all other national minorities' organizations in Rumania. In 1949–50 the activity of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in Rumania was discontinued by order of the government. The hostile attitude toward the Zionist movement was also expressed in Rumania's attitude toward Israel, which gradually hardened and led to the frequent imprisonment of previously active Zionists. There were ups and downs, however, especially in the area of propaganda, until the situation in general began to improve at the beginning of 1967.


Community Life

With the liquidation of the Zionist Movement and the dissolution of the Jewish Democratic Committee, the religious communities (kehillot) were the only organized bodies left in Rumanian Jewry. The legal foundations for their activities were laid down even before other Jewish frameworks were destroyed. In 1945 the "Regulations on Nationalities" were passed and declared the formal equality of members of all national minority groups before the law. Regulations of the activities of the recognized religions, including Judaism, were set down in the Aug. 4, 1948 order of the presidium of the Grand National Assembly (which also served as the presidency of the state). The regulations of the Federation of Communities of the Mosaic Religion, which were approved by the Assembly's presidium on June 1, 1949, were based upon this order. The Federation's scope of activity was limited to the area of religious worship alone. In the first years of the Communist regime and its complete dependence upon Moscow, Jewish Communists infiltrated into the Federation, but afterward their participation in Jewish religious bodies decreased, although it did not cease altogether. The Federation of Communities was responsible for maintaining synagogues and cemeteries and supplying religious objects, unleavened bread for Passover, kosher food, and the like. It was not authorized to deal in matters of Jewish education, however, although it did have the right (according to a decision of the department of religions on Nov. 13, 1948) to set up seminaries for training rabbis, and for a few years it maintained a yeshivah in Arad (Transylvania). According to the registration of 1960, there were 153 communities throughout Rumania that maintained 841 synagogues and battei midrash (56 of which were no longer in use), 67 ritual baths, 86 slaughterhouses, and one factory for unleavened bread (in Cluj). From 1956 the Federation also published a tri-language biweekly (in Rumanian, Yiddish, and Hebrew) entitled Revista Cultului Mozaic Din R.P.R. ("Journal of (Rumanian) Religious Jewry"). From 1964 the chief rabbi officiated as the chairman of the Federation and was also a member of the National Assembly. Thus the Federation became the general Jewish representative in the country.



With the renewal of Jewish life after the war, Jewish education also began to operate again. In 1946 the total number of Jewish schools was 190 with 41,000 students. In 1948 five yeshivot, 50 talmud torah schools, 10 Bet Jacob schools, one elementary school of Tarbut, five dormitories for students, 14 dormitories for apprentices, the agricultural training institute (Cultura AgricolD), three vocational schools in Bucharest, and three vocational schools in provincial cities (Hu\i, Sibiu, Radauti) were supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. A substantial number of educational institutions were maintained by the various Jewish communities without outside support. The network of Jewish education was destroyed in the autumn of 1948, when all schools in Rumania were nationalized. At that time a small number of schools in which the language of instruction was Yiddish were established (in Bucharest and in Jassy) and remained open until the 1960/61 school year. After the nationalization Jewish education remained in the hands of melammedim, whose activities were tolerated by the authorities. In 1960 there were 54 talmud torah schools, in addition to the yeshivah that was established in Arad in 1956. By the end of the 1960s the number of educational institutions had very considerably decreased.



At the beginning of the period under discussion, the language of Jewish writers and poets, including those who wrote about Jewish subjects, was Rumanian. During the first years after World War II the Jewish press was fairly large. The most important newspaper was MDntuirea, which began to reappear after Rumania joined the Allies and continued to be published until the Zionist movement ceased to exist. In 1945 the press of the Jewish Democratic Committee began to appear, and its major newspaper was Unirea, in Bucharest, which lasted until 1953. As long as Zionist activity was permitted, the Zionist publishing house Bikkurim and the He-Halutz publishing house, as well as the Yavneh Company for the distribution of books on Jewish history and Hebrew literature continued to operate. In Jewish contributions to Rumanian literature, art, and music, the influence of the memories of the Jewish milieu was sometimes felt. The writers and poets A. Toma, Maria Banus, Veronica Porumbacu, Barbu Lazareanu, and others belonged to this group. Among the writers who wrote in Yiddish were Jacob Groper, Alfred Margul Sperber, and Ludovic Brukstein. The most outstanding Jewish artists were Josif Iser, M. H. Maxy, and Jules Perachim. Well-known Jewish musicians were Matei Socor, Alfred Mendelsohn, and Max Eisikovits. The only Jewish cultural institution was the Jewish theater in Bucharest. It was established as a state institution in 1948. The Jewish theater in Jassy, which was established at the same time, closed down in 1968. During the 20 years of its existence, the theater produced 107 plays including works by Abraham Goldfaden, Shalom Aleichem, MoliIre, Gogol, Yiddish playwrights, and others. In 1968 the Bucharest Jewish theater performed on tour in Israel.

Israel-Rumania Relations to the End of the 1960's

Israel-Rumania Relations. In September 1948 the first Israel representative to Rumania, the artist Reuven Rubin, arrived in Bucharest, but neither he nor his successors succeeded in substantially developing the relations between the two countries for a number of years. Until 1965 the relations were regular but cool, especially because of the attitude of the Soviet Union toward Israel, which was strictly followed by Rumanian foreign policy. Every so often the relations between the two countries were shaken by crises that were felt on the level of diplomatic representation (the extended absence of a minister at the head of the mission) or were expressed by the expulsion of Israel diplomats. Cultural ties were not developed during the period, and trade also remained static at a modest level (in the climax year, the mutual trade balance between Israel and Rumania reached $4.5 million). These relations improved considerably, however, as Rumania grew more independent of the U.S.S.R. in international affairs. From February 1966 a Rumanian minister again headed the Rumanian mission in Israel. In March 1967 a high-level Rumanian economic delegation visited Israel for the first time, and afterward an Israel economic delegation, headed by the finance minister, went to Bucharest; full trade agreements were signed. In 1968 the trade balance between the two countries reached $20,000,000, and subsequently trade increased. Cultural relations also expanded (Israel musicians, choirs, etc. visited Rumania and the countries exchanged art exhibitions), as did tourism from each country to the other. The Six-Day War (1967) served as a decisive test in the relations between Israel and Rumania. On June 10, 1967, a consultation of all East European nations, including Yugoslavia, was held in Moscow and resulted in a denunciation of Israel’s "aggression." The participating states also decided to sever diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. Rumania, however, refused to sign the denunciation and also refused to carry out the conference's decisions. She did not sever diplomatic relations with Israel and refrained from taking part in the anti-Israel Soviet propaganda campaign. Rumania repeatedly expressed her stand that the Arab-Israel dispute must be settled by political means, taking into consideration the just rights of both sides. In August 1969 Rumania and Israel elevated their diplomatic missions to the rank of embassies.

[Eliezer Palmor]


Contemporary Period 1970–1981

The official census published in June 1977 gave the Jewish population as only 25,600; despite the fact that according to the statistics given by the Federation of Jewish Communities, which based itself on a registry of those in need of the community's services, the number was approximately 45,000, and its files did not include those Jews who have no connection with the communities. If these Jews are included, it would bring the total Jewish population to approximately 70,000. The Jewish community of Rumania is an aging one; 25.51% of all Jews in Rumania belong to the age category 41–60 and 46.2% to the age category 60–80. The majority of the Jews of Rumania are professionals.

The institutions of the community, both local and central, have continued to function. The Federation of Jewish Communities, on which all the communities throughout Rumania are represented, is recognized by the authorities and headed by Chief Rabbi Dr. Moshe Rosen who was a member of the Rumanian Parliament. Ktav Ha'eth, a bi-weekly publication of the Federation, continued to appear in Rumanian, Hebrew, and Yiddish.

Rumania continued to be the only country within the Soviet sphere of influence whose Jewish community maintains contact with international Jewish organizations and with communities outside Rumania; close ties existed with the World Jewish Congress, the Joint Distribution Committee and others, as well as with Jewish communities throughout the world. Representatives of Rumanian Jewry participated in the conference of the European branch of the World Jewish Congress which took place in Madrid (Dec. 4–6, 1976), and a delegation of the Federation of Communities, headed by Rabbi Rosen, participated in the Synagogue Federation Conference held in Jerusalem in February 1978. The Jewish State Theater in Bucharest, which has no connection with the community, continued to produce plays in Yiddish despite the dwindling of the potential audience. Several books in Yiddish have also been published.

In an earthquake which struck Bucharest on May 4, 1977, the Choral and Malbim synagogues were damaged. During his official visit to Rumania on Aug. 1, 1977, Prime Minister Menahem Begin participated in the Sabbath services in the Choral Synagogue and addressed the large congregation.


Synagogues throughout the country (about 150) continued to function. In addition to the Chief Rabbi, there were two other rabbis, Rabbi Yitzhak Meir Marilus in Bucharest and Dr. Ernest Neumann in Timisoara. Kosher meat was provided by ritual slaughterers who visit the various communities weekly.

In the latter part of December 1977 the Museum for the History of the Jews in Rumania was opened in Bucharest. In August 1977 the centenary of the founding of the Jewish theater in Rumania was celebrated by a gala performance at which Tevye der Milchiger by Shalom Aleichem, The Dybbuk by An-ski, and Lessing's Nathan the Wise were presented.

In September 1981 Rumania was the site of the convention of the European Rabbinical Conference, marking the first time a major Jewish gathering has been held in an East European country since World War II. The chief rabbis of England, France, Italy, and Holland were among the participants.

The 25th anniversary of the publication of Revista Cultului Mozaic was celebrated in September 1981. The state publishing house has published a bibliographical work on the Jewish press in Rumania, Yiddishe Presse in Roomenie by Wolf Tambor.


Research in the history of the Jews of Rumania has been undertaken by a group of Jewish historians. Their activities centered among the Federation of Communities' biweekly and deal especially with the role of the Jews in Rumanian history. They also conduct research in municipal archives and the Jewish archives of the Federation.

Archaeological excavations conducted in Rumania have revealed Jewish inscriptions dating from the Roman occupation of Dacia (275–101 B.C.E.), and 16 inscriptions are in honor of Deus Aeternus, and one in honor of Adonai Aeternus.

More information has been revealed on the communities of Suceava, Sulita, Adjud, and Bivolari. The historian Itic Svart-Kara from Jassy published an article on the rabbis and scholars of Moldavis, and the pinkas of the hatmakers' guild from 1797 was published. A more positive approach to the suffering of the Jews under the pro-Hitler regime is evident. A volume by Maria Arsene appeared in 1972 dealing with the Struma, the "illegal" immigrant boat, which sank or was sunk in the Black Sea in 1942. In contrast to previous policy, which was similar to that of the Soviets, who did not identify the victims as Jews but as "innocent citizens", Rumanian historians also began to study the Holocaust.

In 1970 there was published a book on the Iron Guard by Mihai Fatu and Ion Spalatelu, who quote the anti-Jewish plans of some of the anti-Semitic parties, including the Iron Guard, but they emphasize that these plans were ostensibly only directed against the Jews, whereas in fact they were directed against "democracy" and the"workers". In a book by William Marin and Gheorge Vancea, which deals with the anti-Fascist movement and its struggle in the Barat region, the authors emphasize that the anti-Semitic regime and factions blamed the Jews for all of Rumania's problems. They also enumerate all those who fought racial persecution at the time of Antonescu.


Most of the cultural ties between the two countries are conducted outside the framework of the Cultural Cooperation Program signed by representatives of the two countries in May 1974. On June 5, 1977 a department of Rumanian history was inaugurated in Tel Aviv University.

Several stories by Ephraim Kishon have been translated into Rumanian and a collection of them was published in December 1977 under the title In Cautarea Pasilor Pierduti ("In Search of Lost Steps").

The number of Israeli students studying in Rumania, mostly medical students, is about 300.


Political relations between Israel and Rumania were strengthened with statesmen exchanging visits, and particularly visits by Israelis. Rumania has consistently campaigned for a political settlement of the Near East conflict, for the implementation of the November 1967 Security Council resolution, and for a solution that will guarantee the territorial integrity and independence of all states in the region and lead to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied after the Six-Day War. Rumania has also underscored the need to solve the problem of the Palestinian Arabs in conformity with their national interests. The fact that the Rumanian government has adopted a policy quite different from that of the U.S.S.R. and the other East European governments and has not branded Israel as an "aggressor" has permitted Rumania and Israel to maintain normal relations.

In August 1977 Prime Minister Begin paid an official visit to Rumania. He held wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Manea Manescu, with Foreign Minister Macovescu, and held two lengthy political talks with the President of Rumania, Nicolae Caeausescu. The Begin-Caeausescu meeting played an important role in the decision of the president of Egypt to visit Jerusalem in November 1977, and Rumania was the only East European country which expressed open support for the Israeli-Egyptian peace initiative. Two unscheduled meetings were held between the Rumanian President and Moshe Dayan, Israeli foreign minister, in April 1978. Economic and trade agreements and an agreement for technical and agricultural cooperation have been signed by both countries.

The latter agreement, which was renewed in February 1977 during the visit to Israel by Rumania's Vice-Minister of Agriculture Nicolae Glavan, is designed particularly to train experts in various agriculture-related fields or to supplement their knowledge.

In 1980 Israeli exports to Rumania amounted to $35 million, while Israel imported from Rumania goods worth $48.5 million.




In the decade 1983–1992 the central development in Romanian life and especially in the life of the ever-dwindling Jewish community was the overthrow of the Communist regime and the attempts at introducing democracy into the country along Western lines. The change of rule did not bring in its wake any real changes in the life of the few Jews left in the country.

Over the past decade Jewish life throughout Romania continued to revolve around the synagogues and the kasher restaurants, operated by the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities and funded by the Joint Distribution Committee. The dominating figure in Jewish life has continued to be, Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen, now in his eighties.


Since the establishment of the State of Israel some 300,000 Romanian Jews have emigrated there. The more the number of Jews in Romania shrinks, the more difficult it is to obtain reliable current Jewish population figures. The Federation of Communities, whose numbers are used by the Joint, estimate that there is a total of 15,000 Jews, 8,000 of whom are in Bucharest, the capital. Timisoara (in Transylvania) and Jassy each has a community of some 900 people; all the others are scattered among a Romanian populace of 22 million people. The official 1992 government yearbook, citing statistical data from a kind of census, states that there are 9,000 Jews. It may be that not all Jews were counted or admitted to being Jewish, particularly those in mixed marriages.

After the death in 1986 of Rabbi I. M. Marilus, the dayyan of Bucharest, only two rabbis remained in Romania: Chief Rabbi Dr. Rosen, who is also the president of the Federation of Communities, and Dr. Ernest Neuman of Timisoara. The aging of the leadership as well as the emigration of a few of the leaders to Israel has thinned out their ranks, and Rabbi Rosen had to fill some positions with people who in the past were active in the communist regime and even in the Ministry of Religion, whose function was to oppress religions rather than encourage them.


In 1992, as part of his effort to reinforce religious leadership, Rabbi Rosen recruited Rabbi Dr. Asher (Georg) Ehrenfeld, a former Israeli army chaplain, to serve as the chief rabbi's deputy and assistant in Bucharest. Ehrenfeld spent about a year in Romania substituting for Rabbi Rosen during his long absences from the country.

The remnants of the Romanian Jewish community welcomed the overthrow of Ceasescu and the community journal published a special issue expressing joy at the change. In the new spirit of freedom Rabbi Rosen was the object of personal attacks by anti-Semitic groups, which accused him of close cooperation with the communist regime. Two anti-Semitic newspapers waged this campaign, which the chief rabbi saw as an attack on the entire community. Romania Mare ("Great Romania") and Europa, are weeklies publishing virulent anti-Semitic material, aiming their barbs personally at Rabbi Rosen. In 1992 Paul Everac, director of public television, published a book which also contained anti-Semitic material. He claimed, among other things, that the Jews of Romania control everything and that they number more than 30,000 (over double the real figure). Complaints lodged by Rabbi Rosen were rejected on the grounds that they were not of public interest. Rabbi Rosen managed to secure the dismissal of the anti-Semitic attorney general, Cherecheanu.

Some observers have felt that the chief rabbi has exaggerated his cries against anti-Semitism; there have been no physical attacks on Jews, aside from an attempted break-in and robbery at the Ploesti synagogue in June 1992 in which windows were broken and a parokhet torn (police in the district claimed that churches in the area had been similarly broken into), and incitement against Jews has not gone beyond the bounds accepted under Ceasescu. They claim that the outcry by Rabbi Rosen has itself fanned the flame of anti-Semitism. Some saw this as the reason for Rabbi Ehrenfeld's leaving his post at the end of a year, while others were convinced that the authorities hinted that he was non grata because of his originating in Oradea; he speaks fluent Hungarian and previously served as the rabbi of Debrecen, Hungary. Considering the ethnic tension between Hungary and Romania, this is a likely reason.

There is no Zionism in Romania in the commonly accepted meaning. In the early 1990 attempts were made to organize a branch of the Maccabi sport organization and after the overthrow of Ceasescu, a Romania-Israel Friendship League was established, led by the writer Victor Berlianu. The Jewish Agency emissary in Romania, Tova Ben-Nun, deals with arrangements for aliyah; there are no Zionist youth organizations and Romania is the only country in Eastern Europe—at least in the past few years—which sends no representative to participate in the International Bible Contest for Jewish Youth, held on Independence Day in Jerusalem.


In order to quash the harsh complaints about active anti-Semitism, President Iliescu has invested effort, internally and externally, to placate Chief Rabbi Rosen. In 1993 he took the rabbi with him to the opening of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and before that participated in a memorial service for Holocaust victims held in the Bucharest Choral Synagogue, where Iliescu spoke and condemned anti-Semitism.

This seemed to put a stop to the decline in the status of the chief rabbi, who for many over the past 40 years—and to a certain extent correctly—symbolized Romanian Jewry. However, the rabbi's repeated efforts to exploit his international connections in order to insure for Romania a most-favored-nation standing from the U.S. for foreign trade have led nowhere.


Upon the emigration to Israel of Rabbi Wasserman of Dorhoi, the home for the aged and the kasher restaurant there were closed. Otherwise, all the institutions, restaurants, and homes for the aged are still in operation—10 restaurants and 4 homes (2 in Bucharest, and 2 smaller ones in Arad and Timisoara). Needy Jews receive packages of food and clothing. All this activity is financed by the JDC, fighting a rearguard action to maintain the few remaining Romanian Jews. The situation of the elderly has worsened considerably as their pension's value has eroded to nothing because of inflation, and without the Joint's help they would be starving. The Joint did curtail its budget for Romania with the decline in Jewish population but still finances the ritual slaughterers (three remain), and is prepared to pay the salary for a rabbi if Rabbi Rosen finds a replacement for Rabbi Ehrenfeld. The biweekly paper Revista, edited by Chaim Riemer, still appears in four languages. A selection of sermons by Rabbi Rosen has appeared and work is progressing on a book of testimonies which will document the Holocaust of Romanian Jewry.

In an attempt to bring a fresh spirit to the leadership of the communities, Osias Lazar was appointed head of the Bucharest community, while elderly Theodore (Tuvia) Blumenfeld continues to serve as the general secretary of the Federation of Communities. The federation is actually directed by Rabbi Rosen's adviser and confidant, Julian Sorin. Sorin was previously a senior official in the communist Ministry of Religions.

Since Ceasescu's overthrow, a few communities in the provinces—and especially in Transylvania—have tried "to declare independence"; to establish links with other countries and mainly with emigrMs from those communities now living in Israel, and even to sell property, without the Federation's approval, an act that was unthinkable during the centralized communist regime. This has created tension between the communities and the chief rabbi, with repercussions even reaching Israel.

Jewish education is almost non-existent. A third of the Jews, whose very number is indeterminate, are involved in mixed marriages, and the majority of the community consists of elderly people whose children and grandchildren live in Israel. Choirs and talmudei Torah outside of Bucharest are dwindling along with the Jewish population. Bucharest has been able to maintain its successful choir and a Talmud Torah which dozens of children attend on Sundays.

Romania lost its special status regarding relations with Israel, since it is no longer the only Eastern bloc country to have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Relations continued to be normal and friendly, with efforts at increasing bilateral trade for which Romania does not have much to offer. Israeli tourism to Romania dropped off.

[Naftali Kraus]


The Mid-1990's

The death of Rabbi Moses Rosen in May 1994 significantly affected the remaining Jews of Romania. The passing at age 83 of the man who for over 40 years had served as chief rabbi and head of the federation of Romanian Jewish communities signified the end of an era which included the collapse of the Communist regime in the country.


The feeling of stagnation which followed the death of the Rabbi Rosen prompted the representatives in Romania of the AJDC, which essentially administers to Jewish life there, to find a new chief rabbi quickly. Among the five candidates, all from Israel, they chose in May 1995 the Romanian-born professor Yehezkel Marek, a lecturer in literature at Bar-Ilan University who had never served in the rabbinate, by a vote of 52 votes by members of the Jewish Federation to 4 votes given to others. Rabbi Dr. Marek, whose rabbinic education was gained at the Harry Fischel Institute in Jerusalem, energetically assumed the role of chief rabbi and as the High Holidays approached in his first year in office visited the Jewish communities of Moldova and Transylvania, lecturing daily in two different communities and calling for closer connections with the synagogue and closing his speech with the blowing of the shofar. Rabbi Marek also turned to the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs asking for individuals to assist with Jewish education—which is non-existent—and also train adults to function as gabbaim, to conduct prayer services, chant the weekly Torah portion, and so on.


Rabbi Rosen’s death also put an end to the concentrated centrality of the Federation of communities and allowed for greater freedom to the individual communities. The Federation was no longer headed by the rabbi but by Prof. Nicolae Cajal; Theodor Blumenfeld was the secretary general, and Julian Sorin, the vice secretary general and prime mover who together with the Joint representative, Dr. Tsvi Feiner, are trying to fill the gap left by the rabbi’s demise. The head of the Bucharest community, the largest in Romania, was Osias Lazar, and the Israel Alex Mivan was in charge of economic affairs (estates) for the Federation.

One of the most difficult issues is the number of Jews remaining in Romania. In 1995 it became known in Israel that the Jewish Agency had been asked—and refused—to bring 3,000 elderly Romanian Jews, those living in Jewish old age homes, to Israel. At the same time it was noted that besides those older people, there were still some 4,000 Jews in the country. A census taken after the fall of Ceasescu indicated that 9,000 remained, while the Federation and Joint speak of 14,000. It seems that 7,000–9,000 Jews live in Bucharest and that the countrywide total is about 12,000, most of them members of mixed marriages. A few dozen requests for conversion are received every year, but Rabbi Marek's reply has been that he“does not do conversions as yet.” Even though the total number of Jews is small, emigration to Israel continues.


Despite the declining number of Jews the communities run smoothly and without assistance from the Federation, whose central place has been taken under the prevailing circumstances by the Joint. In addition to the Bucharest community, there are organized communities in the Transylvania region in— Cluj, Oradea, Arad, Timisoara—and in eastern Romania in Piatre-Neamt, Botosani, Jassy, Braila, Galati, Constanta, Ploesti, Brasov, Sighet, Satu-Mare, and a number of small communities. Ten kasher canteens are still operated by the communities and kasher meat is provided by three ritual slaughterers.

The community biweekly was recently revamped and changed its names to Jewish Existence. Yiddish is no longer used, and the papers now appears in Romanian, English, and one page in Hebrew, for a total of 12 pages presenting information on the Jewish world with emphasis on Jewish culture and many quotations from Israel newspapers translated into Romanian. The editor is Doral Dorian, while the veteran editor, Hayyim Riemer, who emigrated to Israel some years ago and then returned to Romania as an emissary of the Joint, was appointed “Honorary Director” and writes the Hebrew page.

In recent years anti-Semitism in Romania has been on a back burner, mainly in intellectual circles and is not accompanied by violent acts. Its most prominent spokesman is Todor Wadim, editor of the daily newspaper Romania Mare. The newspaper and the political party of the same name incite against the Jews, against Israel, and also against the democratic forces in post-Ceasescu Romania. Horia Iliescu tries to block any rising anti-Semitism, especially when considering America’s decision regarding the granting of economic concessions as a most favored nation. The Jewish community’s attitude , as expressed by Cajal, differs from that held in the past by Rabbi Rosen. Cajal does not declare a general, vocal war on anti-Semitism, but focuses on providing information to convince the Romanians of the great contribution the Jews made to the Romanian people and to the country. It may be that by the time the efficacy of this approach will be proven, there will be no Jews left in Romania.


Israel-Romania relations over the past few years have proceeded on a fairly even keel. Many Romanian laborers work in Israel, while Israeli students, particularly of medicine, study in Romania. Some 400 Romanians emigrate annually to Israel, the majority of them partners in mixed marriage.