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Ludovic Bruckstein

Ludovic Bruckstein (Joseph-Leib Arye Bruckstein) (1920-1988), playwright and novelist, born in Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia (now in Ukraine). Bruckstein was the great-grandson of Chaim-Josef Bruckstein, one of the first Hassidim, a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, and author of a book called “Tosafot Haim”. When he was four years of age, his family moved to Sighet, in Romania. Sighet, as part of Northern Transylvania region, was ruled by Hungary between 1940 to 1944. In May 1944, his entire family was deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp. Ludovic was then transferred to Bergen-Belzen Nazi concentration camp, and then to forced-labor camps in Hildesheim, Hanover, Gross-Rosen, Wolfsberg, and Wüstegiersdorf. He was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945. Of his family, only Ludovic and his younger brother Israel survived the Holocaust.

Before WW2 he graduated from the Commercial High School in Sighet. After the war he studied in Cluj and in Bucharest. He returned to Sighet and served as teacher and ten as principal of the local elementary school of art.

He started his literary career in 1945 writing in Romanian, Hungarian, and Yiddish. His stories were published in Viaţa Românească literary magazine. His plays, in Romanian and Yiddish, were inspired by the trauma of the Holocaust or by Hasidic legends. Several of these plays were staged by the Jewish State Theater in Bucharest (TES): Familia Grinvald (“The Grinvald Family”, 1953), Generaţia din pustiu (“The Desert Generation”, 1956), and Un proces neterminat (“An Unfinished Trial”, 1962). From 1950 till 1967 he wrote about twenty plays performed in many theaters in Romania, Soviet Union, and Poland.

In 1972 he immigrated to Israel. He continued writing in Romanian, mainly short stories, but some of his work was also published in Hebrew. Bruckstein was one of the founders of the Association of Israeli Writers in the Romanian Language. He was a member of the Yiddish and Hebrew Writers’ Union too.

His works include Schimbul de noapte (“Night shift”, 1948) - a play in Yiddish about the Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz, Întoarcerea lui Cristofor Columb ("The Return of Christopher Columbus", 1957), Poate chiar fericire ("Maybe Even Happiness", 1985), Destinul lui Iaacov Maghid ("The Fate of Yaakov Magid", 1975), The Murmur of Water (1987). One of his last two short stories he wrote during his last months of life were published as Trap and deals with the fate of a young Jew who survives the deportations of the Jews of Sighet to Nazi death camps by hiding in the woods only to be arrested by the Soviets and sent to Siberia.

Starting from 2005, Bruckstein’s entire prose work was translated into Hebrew by the writer Yotam Reuveni.

Date of birth:
1920
Date of death:
1988
ID Number:
20676444
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Mukacheve

Hungarian: Munkacs; Czech: Mukacevo; Yiddish: Munkatch

A city in western Ukraine.

Mukacheve is located by the Latorica River, in the Zakarpattia Oblast (province). Until World War I (1914-1918) it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Between the two World Wars Mukacheve was part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After World War II (1939-1945) Mukacheve became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; since 1991 it has been part of independent Ukraine.

In 2014 a memorial consisting of the remains of broken tombstones, as well as a menorah, was erected where Mukacheve’s Jewish cemetery was once located. Until then the site had been used first as a parking lot, and then as a vacant lot.

HISTORY

Documents indicate that the Jewish community of Mukacheve was founded during the second half of the 17th century, though there is also evidence indicating that individual Jews were living in the surrounding area beforehand. Jewish sources refer to "Minkatchov, a town situated on the banks of the Latartza River and of springs." After the community’s founding, the Jewish population rapidly increased, and Mukacheve became one of the largest communities in Hungary. Interestingly, the Jewish community of Mukacheve eventually became well-known for commitments to two opposing ideologies. On the one hand, Mukacheve became known for its extreme conservatism and commitment to the Hasidic movement, while also becoming known for its Zionism and advocacy of modern Jewish education.

The Jewish population grew, and was continuously augmented by new arrivals from Galicia. In 1741 there were 80 Jewish families living in Mukacheve; the Jewish population doubled by 1815. In 1830 there were 202 Jews living in Mukacheve, and in 1842 there were 301.

In the beginning, Mukacheve’s Jews worked in commerce and acted as brokers in the trade between Galicia and Hungary. Other Jews worked as farmers and craftsmen. As the community grew, its members became more involved in local and national politics; during the Hungarian revolt against the Austrians (1848-1849) 247 Jews from Mukacheve joined the local guard. Additionally, the Jews of Mukacheve worked on developing community institutions; a large yeshiva was established in 1851, and a Hebrew press was founded in 1871. Two additional synagogues were built in 1895 and 1903.

Prominent rabbis who served the community included Tzevi Shapira, who succeeded his father in 1893; Solomon Shapira, Rabbi Tzevi’s grandson; and Chaim Eleazar Shapira, who began his tenure in 1913 and became known as the leading opponent of Zionism in the Hasidic world. After Rabbi Chaim’s death in 1937 he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Baruch Rabinowitz, who would ultimately serve as a rabbi in the Israeli city of Holon.

In 1891 the community numbered 5,049 (47.9% of the total population). In 1910 Mukacheve’s Jewish population was 7,675 (44% of the total). The Jews of Mukacheve numbered 10,012 in 1921 (48% of the total); and 11,241 (43% of the total) in 1930; during the latter census, 88% of the Jews in Mukacheve registered their nationality as Jewish.

INTERWAR PERIOD

Between the two World Wars Jews participated actively in the administration and political life of Mukacheve. In spite of Mukacheve’s heavy Hasidic presence and influence, the Zionist party of Czechoslovakia found many local supporters. Local students, as well as those from the surrounding area, flocked to the first Hebrew elementary school, which was founded in 1920 by the Organization of Hebrew Schools in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. A Hebrew high school was established in 1925 and, beginning in 1929, was led by Chaim Kugel, who became a member of the Czechoslovakian parliament in 1935; Kugel was later succeeded by Eliahu Rubin.

Hebrew was not the only prominent language in Mukacheve during the interwar period. Four Yiddish newspapers were published in Mukacheve during this time, attesting to the prominence and importance of the Yiddish language.

On the eve of World War II there were about 30 synagogues in Mukacheve, many of which were Hasidic.

Mukacheve reverted to Hungarian rule in 1938, ushering in a period of discrimination and violence against the region’s Jews that would peak during the Holocaust.

THE HOLOCAUST

Beginning in 1940, many of Mukacheve’s young Jewish men were drafted into work battalions and sent to the Russian front. Then, in July and August, 1941, Jewish families who did not have Hungarian citizenship were expelled to Galicia.

The Germans occupied Hungary in March of 1944. Shortly thereafter, the Jews of Mukacheve were forced into a ghetto that spanned a few streets. Sanitary conditions were extremely poor, and food was in short supply. Those who were able to work were conscripted for forced labor. Deportations to Auschwitz began during the second half of May, 1944. By the end of the month there were no Jews left in Mukacheve.

POSTWAR

After the war approximately 2,500 Jews returned to the city. However, after the Soviet annexation many left, mostly for Czechoslovakia and the newly-created State of Israel.

Jewish life in Mukacheve proved to be difficult under Soviet rule. The synagogues were confiscated; the last remaining synagogue building was converted into a warehouse in 1959. Some Jews were imprisoned for practicing kosher slaughter.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 Jews were living in Mukacheve in the late 1960s.By the 1990s, however, almost all of the city’s remaining Jews emigrated to Israel and the west.

Known as Sighet until 1964 (in spite of the name change, the city will be referred to as “Sighet” throughout this article, since it is the name that is more familiar to Jews)

Hungarian: Máramarossziget

Yiddish: סיגעט‎, Siget

A city in Romania

Before World War I (1914-1918), and between 1940 and 1944, Sighet was part of Hungary.

 

21ST CENTURY

In 2002 Elie Wiesel made an official visit to Sighet, where he opened a Jewish museum. Wiesel spoke about the Jewish community that once existed in the city, as well as the need for the Romanians to acknowledge their own complicity in the murder of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust.

A commemoration was held in May 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary since the deportation of the Jews of Sighet. Events included Shabbat services in the synagogue; a memorial service at the local Holocaust monument, marking the location where the deportations took place; as well as a klezmer concert. Tours of the Jewish cemetery were also offered.

Wiesel’s childhood home was vandalized and defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in August of 2018.

 

HISTORY

Jews had settled in Sighet by the 17th century. They began to be taxed in 1728. In 1746 there were ten Jewish families (39 people) living in Sighet.

Most of Sighet’s Jews were traditional, and many were heavily influenced by the Chassidic movement. There were also those who became adherents of the Frankists, followers of the false messiah Jacob Frank.  

An organized community existed during the second half of the 18th century. During this period, Tzvi b. Moses Abraham (d. 1771) from Galicia, served as the community’s rabbi, and proved to be a determined opponent of the Frankist movement. Other rabbis to serve Sighet’s Jewish community included Judah HaKohen Heller, who served until his death in 1819; and the Chassidic rabbi Chananiah Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum (1883-1904).

In 1746 Sighet was home to 39 Jews (10 families). By the late 1780s that number had grown to 142. In 1831 the local Jewish population numbered 431. The Jewish population increased rapidly during the second half of the 19th century, and by 1891 the Jewish population reached 4,960 (about 30% of the total population).

The Sighet community joined the organization of Hungarian Orthodox communities in 1883, but this led to considerable dispute within the community, and the more liberal Jews founded a Sephardic community. Beginning in 1906 Dr. Samuel Danzig (b. 1878) served as that new community’s rabbi; he ultimately perished in the Holocaust. The Orthodox community’s last rabbi was Jekuthiel Judah Teitelbaum, who also died in the Holocaust.

Community institutions included yeshivas, Jewish schools, Zionist organizations, and Hebrew printing presses and libraries, including the Israel Weiss library. There were a number of newspapers that were published in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian. The majority of Jews in the district were quite impoverished.

In 1910 Sighet’s Jewish population was 7,981 (34% of the total population). By 1930 it had grown to 10,609 (about 38% of the total population). The Jewish population was 10,144 in 1941 (39% of the total population), the highest proportion of Jews in any Hungarian town.

Notable members of Sighet’s Jewish community included the Yiddish author Herzl Apsan (1886-1944); the humorist, editor, and author, Hirsch Leib Gottleib (1829-1930); the rabbi and historian Judah Jekuthiel Gruenwald (1889-1955); the important Yiddish writer Joseph Holder (1893-1944); the violinist Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973); the Yiddish author J. Ring; and the pianist Geza Frid. However, perhaps the best-known native of Sighet is the author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), who wrote about Jewish life in Sighet, as well as his experiences during the Holocaust, in his famous book, Night.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

After the annexation of northern Transylvania by Hungary in 1940, the authorities began to curtail the economic activity of the Jews in Sighet.

Men of military age were conscripted for forced labor in 1942. Later, in the summer of 1944, a ghetto was set up by the Hungarian and Nazi authorities. From there, about 12,000 Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps.

 

POSTWAR

In 1947 a Jewish community of about 2,300 was formed by returning survivors and Jews from other areas who came to Sighet. However, the vast majority eventually immigrated, and by 1970 there were only about 250 Jews remaining in the city.

In 1959 the organization of Sighet Jews living in Israel began publication of Maramarossziget, a periodical in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian about the history of the Jews in Sighet and the district of Maramures.

 

Cluj-Napoca

Commonly known as Cluj  - renamed Cluj-Napoca from Cluj in 1974
Yiddish: Kloyzenburg (קלויזענבורג)
Hungarian: Kolozsvar
German: Klausenburg

A city in northwest Romania. Cluj is the capital of Cluj County, and is traditionally considered to be the capital of Transylvania

Between 1790 and 1848, and 1861 and 1867, Cluj was the capital of Transylvania. The location of Cluj is roughly equidistant from Bucharest (201 miles/324km), Budapest (218 miles/351km), and Belgrade (200 miles/322km). Between 1867 and 1920, and between 1940 and 1945, Cluj was part of Hungary.

The Neolog synagogue is the only functioning synagogue left in Cluj, and serves the local Jewish community. It is dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.

A census conducted in 2002 indicated that there were 223 Jews living in Cluj.

HISTORY

A document from 1481 is the first evidence of a Jewish presence in Cluj. During the 16th and 17th centuries Jews attended the city's fairs, in spite of opposition from the local authorities. However, it was only in the late 18th century that Jews were permitted to settle in Cluj; during the 17th and 18th centuries any Jews who wanted to live in Transylvania were restricted to the town of Alba Iulia.

The census of 1780 records eight Jewish families as living in Cluj. Locals were not happy about having Jews in their city. In 1784 the municipal council prohibited the inhabitants from selling real estate to Jews. Lobel Deutsch, the first Jew who had been allowed to live in Cluj, had his shop closed by the authorities in 1790; when he protested his 11-year old daughter was kidnapped and forcibly baptized.

In spite of the struggles, a small number of Jews remained in Cluj and made their homes there. A prayer room was opened in 1807, and a small synagogue was built in 1818, at which point the community consisted of 40 people. A chevra kaddisha was founded in 1837.

In 1839 fifteen Jewish families were permitted to live in Cluj, but they were forbidden from hosting any other Jews from other areas. Nonetheless, before the Revolution of 1848 there were 58 Jewish families living n Cluj; the authorities had plans to expel 16 of them. With the outbreak and subsequent failure of the revolution, the Imperial Constitution of 1849 removed the residence restrictions imposed on the Jews of Transylvania, and granted them the right to purchase real estate.

As a result of the removal of various restrictions, the Jewish community of Cluj began to grow rapidly; by 1850 there were 479 Jews living in Cluj, and the population would continue to grow. The city's first synagogue was established in 1851; a year later Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein arrived to serve the community. Rabbi Lichtenstein did not serve for long; his opposition to modernism, as well as his conflicts with Transylvania's chief rabbi, Abraham Friedman, eventually led to his firing, and he left the city in 1854. He was succeeded in 1861 by Rabbi Feisch Fischman. Rabbi Abraham Glasner served the community from 1863 until 1877; he was opposed by proponents of the Hasidic movement, which was then gaining ground in the city. Glasner's son, Moshe Glasner, succeeded him in 1878; Mosher Glasner, in turn, was succeeded by his son, Akiva Glasner, who served from 1919 until the community's destruction in1944.

The religious schism that took place during and after the General Jewish Congress of Hungary (1868-1869) also affected the Jews of Cluj. An Orthodox community was maintained; those who did not want to identify as Orthodox were organized into the Status Quo community (a community that was neither Orthodox nor Neolog) in 1881; the Status Quo community subsequently became Neolog in 1884. The Neolog community established a synagogue in 1886, which was renovated in 1912. Alexander Kohut served as the Neolog community's first rabbi (1884-1885); he was succeeded by Rabbi Matyas Eisler (1891-1930), and Rabbi Moses Weinberger (1934-1944). The Hasidim established a separate communal organization in 1921 and was led by Rabbi Zalman Leib Halberstam.The Orthodox and Neolog communities each opened their own educational institutions. The Orthodox elementary school opened in 1875, while the Neolog community opened their school in 1908.

In 1866 there were 776 Jews living in Cluj; after the emancipation of 1869-1870 the city's Jewish population shot up to 3,008. By 1910 the population had more than doubled, with 7,046 Jews living in the city (11.6% of the total population).

Zionism became active in Cluj after World War I, and Cluj became a Zionist center within Transylvania. Uj Kelet, a lively and prominent Zionist weekly (it later became a daily newspaper), began to be published at the end of 1918. It had a large readership and became a major influence among the Jews of Transylvania and Romania. Uj Kelet was also the organ of the (principally Zionist) Jewish Party (Partidul Evreiesc); some of the party's local activists were elected to the Romanian Parliament. Cluj's local Jewish press was not limited to Zionism, however. During the interwar period approximately 20 newspapers were published in Cluj, on a variety of topics and in languages ranging from Yiddish to Hebrew to Hungarian.

A Tarbut high school was founded in Cluj in 1920; its director, Mark Antal, was a former director general of Hungary's Ministry of Education and Culture. The language of instruction was Hungarian, Romanian, and Hebrew. The Tarbut school operated until 1927, when it was closed by the Romanian authorities. Later, after Cluj was annexed by Hungary and Jewish children were prohibited from attending general schools, a Jewish high school was opened in October 1940 and functioned until the community's internment in the ghetto.

In 1930 there were 13,504 Jews living in Cluj (12.7% of the total population).

THE HOLOCAUST

After the 1940 Hungarian annexation, anti- Jewish measures and economic restrictions were imposed on Jews throughout the region. In 1942 most of the military-age men in Cluj were conscripted for forced labor and transported to the Nazi-occupied area of the Soviet Union, where many perished.

When the Germans occupied Hungary in the summer of 1944 the local Jews, 16,763 Jews from Cluj, Szamosujvar (Gherla) and the surrounding area were confined to a ghetto. They were deported to Auschwitz between May 25 and June 9, 1944, where most were killed.

POSTWAR

A number of survivors from Cluj returned to the city, and were joined by survivors who came from other areas; in 1947 Cluj was home to 6,500 Jews. Prayers were held in three synagogues, and the community maintained a kosher butcher and canteen. A Jewish elementary school and a high school were reopened, and a vocational school was established to aid survivors in finding work. These institutions were closed in 1948, however, when the communist authorities imposed their own system of education on the populace. Eventually many of the community's Jews emigrated to Israel or other areas. By 1970 there were 1,100 Jews (340 families) remaining in Cluj. At the end of the 20th century the Jewish population had dropped by more than half, and the community had about 500 members.

Bucharest

Romanian: Bucuresti

Capital of Romania

The historic Jewish district of Bucharest used to be centered around the Choral Temple, and spread from Piata Unirii east towards Dristor. However, most of the Jewish buildings that stood there were destroyed during the 1980s in order to make way for the Bulevardul Unirii. As of 2015, there remain a handful of points of Jewish interest in Bucharest, serving the community of approximately 3,500. The Choral Temple, the Yeshua Tova Synagogue, and the Great Polish Synagogue, continue to hold services; the latter also hosts the city's Holocaust Museum. The Beit Hamidrash Synagogue, which dates back to the late 18th century, is abandoned and decaying, though the structure itself is still (barely) standing. Another abandoned synagogue whose building still stands is the Hevra Amuna (Temple of Faith).

The Jewish History Museum (Muzeul de Istorie a Evreilor din Romania) is located in what was once a synagogue called the Holy Union Temple. The synagogue building itself was constructed in 1836; it began serving as a Jewish history museum in 1978. Mozes Rosen, the chief rabbi of Romania from 1964 until his death in 1994, founded the museum and provided a number of items for its collection.

The State Jewish Theater, which is located in Bucharest, is the oldest uninterrupted Yiddish-language theater in the world. The theater features plays by Jewish playwrights, plays about Jewish topics, and Yiddish plays that run simultaneous Romanian translations through headphones. The theater is located next to the Lauder-Reut Jewish school, which has over 400 students enrolled in its kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools.

HISTORY

The Jewish community of Bucharest was formed both by Sephardic Jews who arrived from the south, chiefly from the Otooman Empire, and later by Ashkenazi Jews arriving from the north. A responsum by the rabbi of Solonika during the 16th century that mentions a Sephardic community is the first documented evidence confirming the presence of Jews in Budapest. The Jewish community began to grow and prosper; some were even the creditors of the ruling princes. This economic success, however, eventually came at a steep price (pun intended); when Prince Michael the Brave revolved against the Turks in November 1593, he ordered that his creditors be killed, among whom were a number of Jews.

Ahskenazi Jews began arriving and establishing their own community towards the middle of the 17th century, drawn there after fleeing the Khmielnitski Massacres taking place in Ukraine. Their numbers grew, and eventually the Ashkenazi community became larger than the Sephardic community. For tax purposes, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities were organized into a single community by the state, and were forced to pay a fixed tax to the treasury. Meanwhile, the general population, afraid of economic competition, was intensely hostile towards the Jews. In 1793 residents of the suburb Razvan petitioned Prince Alexander Moruzi to expel the Jews who had recently settled in the area and to demolish the synagogue that they had built. Though the prince ordered that the synagogue be closed, he did not remove the Jews from Razvan and, in fact, issued a decree confirming his protection of them. In 1801 there were anti-Jewish riots following blood libel accusations, and 128 Jews were killed or wounded.

In 1819 Prince Alexandru Sutu officially acknowledged both the Sephardic ("Spanish") and Ashkenazi ("Polish") communities, allowing them to operate as separate entities. This continued until 1949 when the Communist regime once again forced the two communities to join together. By 1832 there were 10 Ashkenazi and one Sephardi synagogues in Bucharest. The Great Synagogue, which was Ashkenazi, was dedicated on Rosh Hashanah, 1847.

In spite of the impressive Great Synagogue, the Ashkenazi community of Bucharest had to deal with a number of fissures and tensions during the 19th century. There were tensions between those were born in Romania, and those who immigrated to Bucharest, who were not under the same system of taxation as the native Romanians. This led the immigrants within the Jewish community, who were considered "foreign subjects" to refuse to pay the tax levied on kosher meat. This was a problem, as this tax constituted the sole income of the community council. The authorities, who were drawn into the conflict, at first upheld the traditional rights of the Jewish communal organization. However, following repeated complaints from both sides, as well as constitutional changes that took place in Romania in 1832, the community was given a new constitution that greatly curtailed its autonomy. Instead of operating autonomously, it fell under the direct authority and close supervision of the municipality. Eventually, in 1851, the Prussian and Austrian subjects (about 300 families) were officially permitted to found a separate community.

The increasing influence of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), also led to tensions within the Ashkenazi community. It is important to note that this conflict also reflected the economics of the community; those in favor of the Haskalah and who wanted the community to undertake more progressive reforms tended to be from the upper classes, while those who were more traditional tended to be further down the socioeconomic ladder. At that time, the Bucharest Ashkenazi community was torn by strife between the Orthodox and progressive factions. The controversy began to center around a school with a modern curriculum that opened in 1852, as well as the proposal in 1857, led by Ya'akov Lobel, to build a Choral Temple, that would incorporate modern ideas and principles into its services. The appointment of Rabbi Meir Leib Malbim in 1858 as the chief rabbi did not help quell the disputes. Malbim was a fierce and uncompromising opponent of the Reform movement, and he quickly made enemies among Bucharest's Jewish elite. The conflicts between Malbim and those who were in favor of the Reform Movement came to a head in 1862, when Malbim was arrested. He was freed only after Sir Moses Montefiore intervened, and on the condition that he leave Romania. The Choral Synagogue was completed in 1867, and became the center for the modernists of the community.

Among the most prominent spiritual and religious leaders of the community before World War I were Antoine Levy and Moritz (Meir) Beck, who were rabbis of the Choir Temple Congregation from 1867 to 1869 and 1873 to 1923, respectively. Other outstanding figures within the Choir Temple community were Iuliu Barasch and Yitzchak Leib Weinberg. Yitzchak Esiik Taubes was the rabbi of the Orthodox Congregation from 1894 until 1921. The most prominent lay leader was Adolf Stern. Moscu Asher led the Sephardic community, and Rabbi Hayim Bejarano was a noted scholar and poet. Later, the lawyer and politician Wilhelm Filderman would become the president of the Union of Romanian Jews, and Rabbi Jacob Isaac Niemirower would be the country's first chief rabbi. Filderman, in fact, would in 1941 work successfully to annul the decree forcing Jews to wear an identifying badge.

Between the two World Wars the Bucharest community grew in both numbers and importance. The Jewish population of the city, which had become the capital of Greater Romania and attracted immigrants from all parts of the country, increased from 44,000 in 1912 to 74,480 (12% of the total population) in 1930 and 95,072 in 1940. Most Jews worked as artisans, merchants, clerks, and bankers. Others were active in professions such as medicine and law. Several ironworks and foundries were established by the end of the 19th century. Major Jewish business leaders at that time included Leon Abramovici, Sigmund Prager, and Adolph Solomon.

There were a number of Jewish schools in Bucharest, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. Among the most influential was the abovementioned school established in 1852 by Yisrael Pick and Naftali Popper. These founders sought to imbue their school with the Haskalah principles that they believed in, and the school became extremely influential on Jewish education in Romania. There were also vocational institutions serving Jewish workers, including the Ciocanul (Hammer) school which trained Jewish craft workers.

Communal institutions included over 40 synagogues, two cemeteries, 19 schools, a library and museum, two hospitals, a clinic, two homes for the elderly, and two orphanages. There was also a B'nai B'rith, as long as a number of social and cultural organizations serving the community. A number of newspapers also served the community; the first Jewish newspaper, "Israelitul roman," was founded in 1855 and written in Romanian and French. Other publications included "Fraternitatea," "Revista Israelita," "Egalitatea," and "Curierul Israelit." Yiddish and Hebrew language publications included "Et LeDaber," "HaYoetz," and the Zionist newspapers "Mantuirea" and "Hasmonaea." A Yiddish theater was established in the late 1870s, and reached its peak during the interwar period. This theater would later be banned under Ion Antonescu.

Anti-Semitism continued to be a problem for the Jews of Bucharest. In 1866 the visit of Adolph Cremieux, a French lawyer who advocated for the political emancipation of the Jews, resulted in Jewish synagogues and shops being vandalized. The rise of prominence of nationalist leader Alexandru C. Cuza spurred the development of a number of anti-Semitic organizations, many of which were centered at Bucharest University.

In September 1940, with the rise of the Antonescu-Iron Guard coalition, Bucharest became one of the new regime's main centers of the anti-Jewish activities. This culminated in a pogrom during the rebellion of the Legionary Movement; 120 Jews were killed, thousands were arrested and tortured, synagogues were desecrated, and Jewish homes, shops, and community buildings were looted and destroyed.

Until the end of the Antonescu regime in August 1944, the Jews of Bucharest were subjected anti-Semitic legislation and persecution. Jews were legally downgraded to second-class citizens. They could no longer access state-funded education or health care, and their property was confiscated. These restrictions had major economic effects on the community: in 1942 only 27.2% of the city's Jewish population of about 100,000 were registered as employed, compared with 54.3% of the non-Jewish population. In September 1942 several hundred Jews were deported to Transnistria, where many eventually perished. Thousands of other Jews, particularly the young, were required to work as forced laborers.

The lack of access to education, combined with the growing poverty of the Jewish community, spurred the need for the community to greatly expand their own educational and social welfare activities. In 1943 the Jewish community ran 27 schools and 21 soup kitchens. Bucharest became the center of relief activities for Romanian Jews.

The Jews of Bucharest were saved after Antonescu was deposed on August 23, 1944 and German forces were not able to entering the city. Though Adolf Eichmann had begun making preparations to deport Romania's Jews, the fierce opposition on the part of the Romanian army, coupled with the entry of the Soviet Army on August 30, 1944, prevented any of these plans from being carried out.

After World War II, large numbers of Jewish refugees and concentration camp survivors began arriving in the city; by 1947 the Jewish population had grown to 150,000. The Communist regime, which came to power in 1947, gradually closed all Jewish national, cultural, and social institutions in Bucharest. The welfare institutions were nationalized and the schools were absorbed into the general educational network. A state Yiddish school was opened in 1949, but closed a few years later. A State Yiddish Theater was founded in 1948 and a Yiddish drama school was established in 1957. Two Jewish newspapers, the Romanian "Unirea," followed later by "Viata Novua" and the Yiddish "Ikuf Bleter" were published. Of the 44,202 Jews (3.6% of the total population) registered in the city in the 1956 census, 4,425 of them declared Yiddish to be their mother tongue. In spite of the difficulties in living under a Communist regime, Rabbi Mozes Rosen was able to successfully navigate the opaque policies of the Romanian government, allowing Bucharest to continue to serve as the center of Jewish communal and cultural life.

The rise of Nicolae Ceausescu, who was the dictator of Romania between 1965 and 1989, prompted mass emigrations to Israel. In 1969 it was estimated that there were 50,000 Jews living in Bucharest; by the turn of the 21st century there were only about 4,000.
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Ludovic Bruckstein

Ludovic Bruckstein (Joseph-Leib Arye Bruckstein) (1920-1988), playwright and novelist, born in Mukachevo, Czechoslovakia (now in Ukraine). Bruckstein was the great-grandson of Chaim-Josef Bruckstein, one of the first Hassidim, a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, and author of a book called “Tosafot Haim”. When he was four years of age, his family moved to Sighet, in Romania. Sighet, as part of Northern Transylvania region, was ruled by Hungary between 1940 to 1944. In May 1944, his entire family was deported to Auschwitz Nazi death camp. Ludovic was then transferred to Bergen-Belzen Nazi concentration camp, and then to forced-labor camps in Hildesheim, Hanover, Gross-Rosen, Wolfsberg, and Wüstegiersdorf. He was liberated by the Soviet army in May 1945. Of his family, only Ludovic and his younger brother Israel survived the Holocaust.

Before WW2 he graduated from the Commercial High School in Sighet. After the war he studied in Cluj and in Bucharest. He returned to Sighet and served as teacher and ten as principal of the local elementary school of art.

He started his literary career in 1945 writing in Romanian, Hungarian, and Yiddish. His stories were published in Viaţa Românească literary magazine. His plays, in Romanian and Yiddish, were inspired by the trauma of the Holocaust or by Hasidic legends. Several of these plays were staged by the Jewish State Theater in Bucharest (TES): Familia Grinvald (“The Grinvald Family”, 1953), Generaţia din pustiu (“The Desert Generation”, 1956), and Un proces neterminat (“An Unfinished Trial”, 1962). From 1950 till 1967 he wrote about twenty plays performed in many theaters in Romania, Soviet Union, and Poland.

In 1972 he immigrated to Israel. He continued writing in Romanian, mainly short stories, but some of his work was also published in Hebrew. Bruckstein was one of the founders of the Association of Israeli Writers in the Romanian Language. He was a member of the Yiddish and Hebrew Writers’ Union too.

His works include Schimbul de noapte (“Night shift”, 1948) - a play in Yiddish about the Sonderkommando uprising in Auschwitz, Întoarcerea lui Cristofor Columb ("The Return of Christopher Columbus", 1957), Poate chiar fericire ("Maybe Even Happiness", 1985), Destinul lui Iaacov Maghid ("The Fate of Yaakov Magid", 1975), The Murmur of Water (1987). One of his last two short stories he wrote during his last months of life were published as Trap and deals with the fate of a young Jew who survives the deportations of the Jews of Sighet to Nazi death camps by hiding in the woods only to be arrested by the Soviets and sent to Siberia.

Starting from 2005, Bruckstein’s entire prose work was translated into Hebrew by the writer Yotam Reuveni.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Bucharest
Cluj Napoca
Sighetu Marmației
Mukacheve
Bucharest

Romanian: Bucuresti

Capital of Romania

The historic Jewish district of Bucharest used to be centered around the Choral Temple, and spread from Piata Unirii east towards Dristor. However, most of the Jewish buildings that stood there were destroyed during the 1980s in order to make way for the Bulevardul Unirii. As of 2015, there remain a handful of points of Jewish interest in Bucharest, serving the community of approximately 3,500. The Choral Temple, the Yeshua Tova Synagogue, and the Great Polish Synagogue, continue to hold services; the latter also hosts the city's Holocaust Museum. The Beit Hamidrash Synagogue, which dates back to the late 18th century, is abandoned and decaying, though the structure itself is still (barely) standing. Another abandoned synagogue whose building still stands is the Hevra Amuna (Temple of Faith).

The Jewish History Museum (Muzeul de Istorie a Evreilor din Romania) is located in what was once a synagogue called the Holy Union Temple. The synagogue building itself was constructed in 1836; it began serving as a Jewish history museum in 1978. Mozes Rosen, the chief rabbi of Romania from 1964 until his death in 1994, founded the museum and provided a number of items for its collection.

The State Jewish Theater, which is located in Bucharest, is the oldest uninterrupted Yiddish-language theater in the world. The theater features plays by Jewish playwrights, plays about Jewish topics, and Yiddish plays that run simultaneous Romanian translations through headphones. The theater is located next to the Lauder-Reut Jewish school, which has over 400 students enrolled in its kindergarten, elementary, and middle schools.

HISTORY

The Jewish community of Bucharest was formed both by Sephardic Jews who arrived from the south, chiefly from the Otooman Empire, and later by Ashkenazi Jews arriving from the north. A responsum by the rabbi of Solonika during the 16th century that mentions a Sephardic community is the first documented evidence confirming the presence of Jews in Budapest. The Jewish community began to grow and prosper; some were even the creditors of the ruling princes. This economic success, however, eventually came at a steep price (pun intended); when Prince Michael the Brave revolved against the Turks in November 1593, he ordered that his creditors be killed, among whom were a number of Jews.

Ahskenazi Jews began arriving and establishing their own community towards the middle of the 17th century, drawn there after fleeing the Khmielnitski Massacres taking place in Ukraine. Their numbers grew, and eventually the Ashkenazi community became larger than the Sephardic community. For tax purposes, the Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities were organized into a single community by the state, and were forced to pay a fixed tax to the treasury. Meanwhile, the general population, afraid of economic competition, was intensely hostile towards the Jews. In 1793 residents of the suburb Razvan petitioned Prince Alexander Moruzi to expel the Jews who had recently settled in the area and to demolish the synagogue that they had built. Though the prince ordered that the synagogue be closed, he did not remove the Jews from Razvan and, in fact, issued a decree confirming his protection of them. In 1801 there were anti-Jewish riots following blood libel accusations, and 128 Jews were killed or wounded.

In 1819 Prince Alexandru Sutu officially acknowledged both the Sephardic ("Spanish") and Ashkenazi ("Polish") communities, allowing them to operate as separate entities. This continued until 1949 when the Communist regime once again forced the two communities to join together. By 1832 there were 10 Ashkenazi and one Sephardi synagogues in Bucharest. The Great Synagogue, which was Ashkenazi, was dedicated on Rosh Hashanah, 1847.

In spite of the impressive Great Synagogue, the Ashkenazi community of Bucharest had to deal with a number of fissures and tensions during the 19th century. There were tensions between those were born in Romania, and those who immigrated to Bucharest, who were not under the same system of taxation as the native Romanians. This led the immigrants within the Jewish community, who were considered "foreign subjects" to refuse to pay the tax levied on kosher meat. This was a problem, as this tax constituted the sole income of the community council. The authorities, who were drawn into the conflict, at first upheld the traditional rights of the Jewish communal organization. However, following repeated complaints from both sides, as well as constitutional changes that took place in Romania in 1832, the community was given a new constitution that greatly curtailed its autonomy. Instead of operating autonomously, it fell under the direct authority and close supervision of the municipality. Eventually, in 1851, the Prussian and Austrian subjects (about 300 families) were officially permitted to found a separate community.

The increasing influence of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), also led to tensions within the Ashkenazi community. It is important to note that this conflict also reflected the economics of the community; those in favor of the Haskalah and who wanted the community to undertake more progressive reforms tended to be from the upper classes, while those who were more traditional tended to be further down the socioeconomic ladder. At that time, the Bucharest Ashkenazi community was torn by strife between the Orthodox and progressive factions. The controversy began to center around a school with a modern curriculum that opened in 1852, as well as the proposal in 1857, led by Ya'akov Lobel, to build a Choral Temple, that would incorporate modern ideas and principles into its services. The appointment of Rabbi Meir Leib Malbim in 1858 as the chief rabbi did not help quell the disputes. Malbim was a fierce and uncompromising opponent of the Reform movement, and he quickly made enemies among Bucharest's Jewish elite. The conflicts between Malbim and those who were in favor of the Reform Movement came to a head in 1862, when Malbim was arrested. He was freed only after Sir Moses Montefiore intervened, and on the condition that he leave Romania. The Choral Synagogue was completed in 1867, and became the center for the modernists of the community.

Among the most prominent spiritual and religious leaders of the community before World War I were Antoine Levy and Moritz (Meir) Beck, who were rabbis of the Choir Temple Congregation from 1867 to 1869 and 1873 to 1923, respectively. Other outstanding figures within the Choir Temple community were Iuliu Barasch and Yitzchak Leib Weinberg. Yitzchak Esiik Taubes was the rabbi of the Orthodox Congregation from 1894 until 1921. The most prominent lay leader was Adolf Stern. Moscu Asher led the Sephardic community, and Rabbi Hayim Bejarano was a noted scholar and poet. Later, the lawyer and politician Wilhelm Filderman would become the president of the Union of Romanian Jews, and Rabbi Jacob Isaac Niemirower would be the country's first chief rabbi. Filderman, in fact, would in 1941 work successfully to annul the decree forcing Jews to wear an identifying badge.

Between the two World Wars the Bucharest community grew in both numbers and importance. The Jewish population of the city, which had become the capital of Greater Romania and attracted immigrants from all parts of the country, increased from 44,000 in 1912 to 74,480 (12% of the total population) in 1930 and 95,072 in 1940. Most Jews worked as artisans, merchants, clerks, and bankers. Others were active in professions such as medicine and law. Several ironworks and foundries were established by the end of the 19th century. Major Jewish business leaders at that time included Leon Abramovici, Sigmund Prager, and Adolph Solomon.

There were a number of Jewish schools in Bucharest, particularly at the turn of the 20th century. Among the most influential was the abovementioned school established in 1852 by Yisrael Pick and Naftali Popper. These founders sought to imbue their school with the Haskalah principles that they believed in, and the school became extremely influential on Jewish education in Romania. There were also vocational institutions serving Jewish workers, including the Ciocanul (Hammer) school which trained Jewish craft workers.

Communal institutions included over 40 synagogues, two cemeteries, 19 schools, a library and museum, two hospitals, a clinic, two homes for the elderly, and two orphanages. There was also a B'nai B'rith, as long as a number of social and cultural organizations serving the community. A number of newspapers also served the community; the first Jewish newspaper, "Israelitul roman," was founded in 1855 and written in Romanian and French. Other publications included "Fraternitatea," "Revista Israelita," "Egalitatea," and "Curierul Israelit." Yiddish and Hebrew language publications included "Et LeDaber," "HaYoetz," and the Zionist newspapers "Mantuirea" and "Hasmonaea." A Yiddish theater was established in the late 1870s, and reached its peak during the interwar period. This theater would later be banned under Ion Antonescu.

Anti-Semitism continued to be a problem for the Jews of Bucharest. In 1866 the visit of Adolph Cremieux, a French lawyer who advocated for the political emancipation of the Jews, resulted in Jewish synagogues and shops being vandalized. The rise of prominence of nationalist leader Alexandru C. Cuza spurred the development of a number of anti-Semitic organizations, many of which were centered at Bucharest University.

In September 1940, with the rise of the Antonescu-Iron Guard coalition, Bucharest became one of the new regime's main centers of the anti-Jewish activities. This culminated in a pogrom during the rebellion of the Legionary Movement; 120 Jews were killed, thousands were arrested and tortured, synagogues were desecrated, and Jewish homes, shops, and community buildings were looted and destroyed.

Until the end of the Antonescu regime in August 1944, the Jews of Bucharest were subjected anti-Semitic legislation and persecution. Jews were legally downgraded to second-class citizens. They could no longer access state-funded education or health care, and their property was confiscated. These restrictions had major economic effects on the community: in 1942 only 27.2% of the city's Jewish population of about 100,000 were registered as employed, compared with 54.3% of the non-Jewish population. In September 1942 several hundred Jews were deported to Transnistria, where many eventually perished. Thousands of other Jews, particularly the young, were required to work as forced laborers.

The lack of access to education, combined with the growing poverty of the Jewish community, spurred the need for the community to greatly expand their own educational and social welfare activities. In 1943 the Jewish community ran 27 schools and 21 soup kitchens. Bucharest became the center of relief activities for Romanian Jews.

The Jews of Bucharest were saved after Antonescu was deposed on August 23, 1944 and German forces were not able to entering the city. Though Adolf Eichmann had begun making preparations to deport Romania's Jews, the fierce opposition on the part of the Romanian army, coupled with the entry of the Soviet Army on August 30, 1944, prevented any of these plans from being carried out.

After World War II, large numbers of Jewish refugees and concentration camp survivors began arriving in the city; by 1947 the Jewish population had grown to 150,000. The Communist regime, which came to power in 1947, gradually closed all Jewish national, cultural, and social institutions in Bucharest. The welfare institutions were nationalized and the schools were absorbed into the general educational network. A state Yiddish school was opened in 1949, but closed a few years later. A State Yiddish Theater was founded in 1948 and a Yiddish drama school was established in 1957. Two Jewish newspapers, the Romanian "Unirea," followed later by "Viata Novua" and the Yiddish "Ikuf Bleter" were published. Of the 44,202 Jews (3.6% of the total population) registered in the city in the 1956 census, 4,425 of them declared Yiddish to be their mother tongue. In spite of the difficulties in living under a Communist regime, Rabbi Mozes Rosen was able to successfully navigate the opaque policies of the Romanian government, allowing Bucharest to continue to serve as the center of Jewish communal and cultural life.

The rise of Nicolae Ceausescu, who was the dictator of Romania between 1965 and 1989, prompted mass emigrations to Israel. In 1969 it was estimated that there were 50,000 Jews living in Bucharest; by the turn of the 21st century there were only about 4,000.

Cluj-Napoca

Commonly known as Cluj  - renamed Cluj-Napoca from Cluj in 1974
Yiddish: Kloyzenburg (קלויזענבורג)
Hungarian: Kolozsvar
German: Klausenburg

A city in northwest Romania. Cluj is the capital of Cluj County, and is traditionally considered to be the capital of Transylvania

Between 1790 and 1848, and 1861 and 1867, Cluj was the capital of Transylvania. The location of Cluj is roughly equidistant from Bucharest (201 miles/324km), Budapest (218 miles/351km), and Belgrade (200 miles/322km). Between 1867 and 1920, and between 1940 and 1945, Cluj was part of Hungary.

The Neolog synagogue is the only functioning synagogue left in Cluj, and serves the local Jewish community. It is dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.

A census conducted in 2002 indicated that there were 223 Jews living in Cluj.

HISTORY

A document from 1481 is the first evidence of a Jewish presence in Cluj. During the 16th and 17th centuries Jews attended the city's fairs, in spite of opposition from the local authorities. However, it was only in the late 18th century that Jews were permitted to settle in Cluj; during the 17th and 18th centuries any Jews who wanted to live in Transylvania were restricted to the town of Alba Iulia.

The census of 1780 records eight Jewish families as living in Cluj. Locals were not happy about having Jews in their city. In 1784 the municipal council prohibited the inhabitants from selling real estate to Jews. Lobel Deutsch, the first Jew who had been allowed to live in Cluj, had his shop closed by the authorities in 1790; when he protested his 11-year old daughter was kidnapped and forcibly baptized.

In spite of the struggles, a small number of Jews remained in Cluj and made their homes there. A prayer room was opened in 1807, and a small synagogue was built in 1818, at which point the community consisted of 40 people. A chevra kaddisha was founded in 1837.

In 1839 fifteen Jewish families were permitted to live in Cluj, but they were forbidden from hosting any other Jews from other areas. Nonetheless, before the Revolution of 1848 there were 58 Jewish families living n Cluj; the authorities had plans to expel 16 of them. With the outbreak and subsequent failure of the revolution, the Imperial Constitution of 1849 removed the residence restrictions imposed on the Jews of Transylvania, and granted them the right to purchase real estate.

As a result of the removal of various restrictions, the Jewish community of Cluj began to grow rapidly; by 1850 there were 479 Jews living in Cluj, and the population would continue to grow. The city's first synagogue was established in 1851; a year later Rabbi Hillel Lichtenstein arrived to serve the community. Rabbi Lichtenstein did not serve for long; his opposition to modernism, as well as his conflicts with Transylvania's chief rabbi, Abraham Friedman, eventually led to his firing, and he left the city in 1854. He was succeeded in 1861 by Rabbi Feisch Fischman. Rabbi Abraham Glasner served the community from 1863 until 1877; he was opposed by proponents of the Hasidic movement, which was then gaining ground in the city. Glasner's son, Moshe Glasner, succeeded him in 1878; Mosher Glasner, in turn, was succeeded by his son, Akiva Glasner, who served from 1919 until the community's destruction in1944.

The religious schism that took place during and after the General Jewish Congress of Hungary (1868-1869) also affected the Jews of Cluj. An Orthodox community was maintained; those who did not want to identify as Orthodox were organized into the Status Quo community (a community that was neither Orthodox nor Neolog) in 1881; the Status Quo community subsequently became Neolog in 1884. The Neolog community established a synagogue in 1886, which was renovated in 1912. Alexander Kohut served as the Neolog community's first rabbi (1884-1885); he was succeeded by Rabbi Matyas Eisler (1891-1930), and Rabbi Moses Weinberger (1934-1944). The Hasidim established a separate communal organization in 1921 and was led by Rabbi Zalman Leib Halberstam.The Orthodox and Neolog communities each opened their own educational institutions. The Orthodox elementary school opened in 1875, while the Neolog community opened their school in 1908.

In 1866 there were 776 Jews living in Cluj; after the emancipation of 1869-1870 the city's Jewish population shot up to 3,008. By 1910 the population had more than doubled, with 7,046 Jews living in the city (11.6% of the total population).

Zionism became active in Cluj after World War I, and Cluj became a Zionist center within Transylvania. Uj Kelet, a lively and prominent Zionist weekly (it later became a daily newspaper), began to be published at the end of 1918. It had a large readership and became a major influence among the Jews of Transylvania and Romania. Uj Kelet was also the organ of the (principally Zionist) Jewish Party (Partidul Evreiesc); some of the party's local activists were elected to the Romanian Parliament. Cluj's local Jewish press was not limited to Zionism, however. During the interwar period approximately 20 newspapers were published in Cluj, on a variety of topics and in languages ranging from Yiddish to Hebrew to Hungarian.

A Tarbut high school was founded in Cluj in 1920; its director, Mark Antal, was a former director general of Hungary's Ministry of Education and Culture. The language of instruction was Hungarian, Romanian, and Hebrew. The Tarbut school operated until 1927, when it was closed by the Romanian authorities. Later, after Cluj was annexed by Hungary and Jewish children were prohibited from attending general schools, a Jewish high school was opened in October 1940 and functioned until the community's internment in the ghetto.

In 1930 there were 13,504 Jews living in Cluj (12.7% of the total population).

THE HOLOCAUST

After the 1940 Hungarian annexation, anti- Jewish measures and economic restrictions were imposed on Jews throughout the region. In 1942 most of the military-age men in Cluj were conscripted for forced labor and transported to the Nazi-occupied area of the Soviet Union, where many perished.

When the Germans occupied Hungary in the summer of 1944 the local Jews, 16,763 Jews from Cluj, Szamosujvar (Gherla) and the surrounding area were confined to a ghetto. They were deported to Auschwitz between May 25 and June 9, 1944, where most were killed.

POSTWAR

A number of survivors from Cluj returned to the city, and were joined by survivors who came from other areas; in 1947 Cluj was home to 6,500 Jews. Prayers were held in three synagogues, and the community maintained a kosher butcher and canteen. A Jewish elementary school and a high school were reopened, and a vocational school was established to aid survivors in finding work. These institutions were closed in 1948, however, when the communist authorities imposed their own system of education on the populace. Eventually many of the community's Jews emigrated to Israel or other areas. By 1970 there were 1,100 Jews (340 families) remaining in Cluj. At the end of the 20th century the Jewish population had dropped by more than half, and the community had about 500 members.

Known as Sighet until 1964 (in spite of the name change, the city will be referred to as “Sighet” throughout this article, since it is the name that is more familiar to Jews)

Hungarian: Máramarossziget

Yiddish: סיגעט‎, Siget

A city in Romania

Before World War I (1914-1918), and between 1940 and 1944, Sighet was part of Hungary.

 

21ST CENTURY

In 2002 Elie Wiesel made an official visit to Sighet, where he opened a Jewish museum. Wiesel spoke about the Jewish community that once existed in the city, as well as the need for the Romanians to acknowledge their own complicity in the murder of the country’s Jews during the Holocaust.

A commemoration was held in May 2014 to mark the 70th anniversary since the deportation of the Jews of Sighet. Events included Shabbat services in the synagogue; a memorial service at the local Holocaust monument, marking the location where the deportations took place; as well as a klezmer concert. Tours of the Jewish cemetery were also offered.

Wiesel’s childhood home was vandalized and defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti in August of 2018.

 

HISTORY

Jews had settled in Sighet by the 17th century. They began to be taxed in 1728. In 1746 there were ten Jewish families (39 people) living in Sighet.

Most of Sighet’s Jews were traditional, and many were heavily influenced by the Chassidic movement. There were also those who became adherents of the Frankists, followers of the false messiah Jacob Frank.  

An organized community existed during the second half of the 18th century. During this period, Tzvi b. Moses Abraham (d. 1771) from Galicia, served as the community’s rabbi, and proved to be a determined opponent of the Frankist movement. Other rabbis to serve Sighet’s Jewish community included Judah HaKohen Heller, who served until his death in 1819; and the Chassidic rabbi Chananiah Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum (1883-1904).

In 1746 Sighet was home to 39 Jews (10 families). By the late 1780s that number had grown to 142. In 1831 the local Jewish population numbered 431. The Jewish population increased rapidly during the second half of the 19th century, and by 1891 the Jewish population reached 4,960 (about 30% of the total population).

The Sighet community joined the organization of Hungarian Orthodox communities in 1883, but this led to considerable dispute within the community, and the more liberal Jews founded a Sephardic community. Beginning in 1906 Dr. Samuel Danzig (b. 1878) served as that new community’s rabbi; he ultimately perished in the Holocaust. The Orthodox community’s last rabbi was Jekuthiel Judah Teitelbaum, who also died in the Holocaust.

Community institutions included yeshivas, Jewish schools, Zionist organizations, and Hebrew printing presses and libraries, including the Israel Weiss library. There were a number of newspapers that were published in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian. The majority of Jews in the district were quite impoverished.

In 1910 Sighet’s Jewish population was 7,981 (34% of the total population). By 1930 it had grown to 10,609 (about 38% of the total population). The Jewish population was 10,144 in 1941 (39% of the total population), the highest proportion of Jews in any Hungarian town.

Notable members of Sighet’s Jewish community included the Yiddish author Herzl Apsan (1886-1944); the humorist, editor, and author, Hirsch Leib Gottleib (1829-1930); the rabbi and historian Judah Jekuthiel Gruenwald (1889-1955); the important Yiddish writer Joseph Holder (1893-1944); the violinist Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973); the Yiddish author J. Ring; and the pianist Geza Frid. However, perhaps the best-known native of Sighet is the author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel (1928-2016), who wrote about Jewish life in Sighet, as well as his experiences during the Holocaust, in his famous book, Night.

 

THE HOLOCAUST

After the annexation of northern Transylvania by Hungary in 1940, the authorities began to curtail the economic activity of the Jews in Sighet.

Men of military age were conscripted for forced labor in 1942. Later, in the summer of 1944, a ghetto was set up by the Hungarian and Nazi authorities. From there, about 12,000 Jews were deported to concentration and extermination camps.

 

POSTWAR

In 1947 a Jewish community of about 2,300 was formed by returning survivors and Jews from other areas who came to Sighet. However, the vast majority eventually immigrated, and by 1970 there were only about 250 Jews remaining in the city.

In 1959 the organization of Sighet Jews living in Israel began publication of Maramarossziget, a periodical in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Hungarian about the history of the Jews in Sighet and the district of Maramures.

 

Mukacheve

Hungarian: Munkacs; Czech: Mukacevo; Yiddish: Munkatch

A city in western Ukraine.

Mukacheve is located by the Latorica River, in the Zakarpattia Oblast (province). Until World War I (1914-1918) it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Between the two World Wars Mukacheve was part of the Republic of Czechoslovakia. After World War II (1939-1945) Mukacheve became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic; since 1991 it has been part of independent Ukraine.

In 2014 a memorial consisting of the remains of broken tombstones, as well as a menorah, was erected where Mukacheve’s Jewish cemetery was once located. Until then the site had been used first as a parking lot, and then as a vacant lot.

HISTORY

Documents indicate that the Jewish community of Mukacheve was founded during the second half of the 17th century, though there is also evidence indicating that individual Jews were living in the surrounding area beforehand. Jewish sources refer to "Minkatchov, a town situated on the banks of the Latartza River and of springs." After the community’s founding, the Jewish population rapidly increased, and Mukacheve became one of the largest communities in Hungary. Interestingly, the Jewish community of Mukacheve eventually became well-known for commitments to two opposing ideologies. On the one hand, Mukacheve became known for its extreme conservatism and commitment to the Hasidic movement, while also becoming known for its Zionism and advocacy of modern Jewish education.

The Jewish population grew, and was continuously augmented by new arrivals from Galicia. In 1741 there were 80 Jewish families living in Mukacheve; the Jewish population doubled by 1815. In 1830 there were 202 Jews living in Mukacheve, and in 1842 there were 301.

In the beginning, Mukacheve’s Jews worked in commerce and acted as brokers in the trade between Galicia and Hungary. Other Jews worked as farmers and craftsmen. As the community grew, its members became more involved in local and national politics; during the Hungarian revolt against the Austrians (1848-1849) 247 Jews from Mukacheve joined the local guard. Additionally, the Jews of Mukacheve worked on developing community institutions; a large yeshiva was established in 1851, and a Hebrew press was founded in 1871. Two additional synagogues were built in 1895 and 1903.

Prominent rabbis who served the community included Tzevi Shapira, who succeeded his father in 1893; Solomon Shapira, Rabbi Tzevi’s grandson; and Chaim Eleazar Shapira, who began his tenure in 1913 and became known as the leading opponent of Zionism in the Hasidic world. After Rabbi Chaim’s death in 1937 he was succeeded by his son-in-law, Baruch Rabinowitz, who would ultimately serve as a rabbi in the Israeli city of Holon.

In 1891 the community numbered 5,049 (47.9% of the total population). In 1910 Mukacheve’s Jewish population was 7,675 (44% of the total). The Jews of Mukacheve numbered 10,012 in 1921 (48% of the total); and 11,241 (43% of the total) in 1930; during the latter census, 88% of the Jews in Mukacheve registered their nationality as Jewish.

INTERWAR PERIOD

Between the two World Wars Jews participated actively in the administration and political life of Mukacheve. In spite of Mukacheve’s heavy Hasidic presence and influence, the Zionist party of Czechoslovakia found many local supporters. Local students, as well as those from the surrounding area, flocked to the first Hebrew elementary school, which was founded in 1920 by the Organization of Hebrew Schools in Subcarpathian Ruthenia. A Hebrew high school was established in 1925 and, beginning in 1929, was led by Chaim Kugel, who became a member of the Czechoslovakian parliament in 1935; Kugel was later succeeded by Eliahu Rubin.

Hebrew was not the only prominent language in Mukacheve during the interwar period. Four Yiddish newspapers were published in Mukacheve during this time, attesting to the prominence and importance of the Yiddish language.

On the eve of World War II there were about 30 synagogues in Mukacheve, many of which were Hasidic.

Mukacheve reverted to Hungarian rule in 1938, ushering in a period of discrimination and violence against the region’s Jews that would peak during the Holocaust.

THE HOLOCAUST

Beginning in 1940, many of Mukacheve’s young Jewish men were drafted into work battalions and sent to the Russian front. Then, in July and August, 1941, Jewish families who did not have Hungarian citizenship were expelled to Galicia.

The Germans occupied Hungary in March of 1944. Shortly thereafter, the Jews of Mukacheve were forced into a ghetto that spanned a few streets. Sanitary conditions were extremely poor, and food was in short supply. Those who were able to work were conscripted for forced labor. Deportations to Auschwitz began during the second half of May, 1944. By the end of the month there were no Jews left in Mukacheve.

POSTWAR

After the war approximately 2,500 Jews returned to the city. However, after the Soviet annexation many left, mostly for Czechoslovakia and the newly-created State of Israel.

Jewish life in Mukacheve proved to be difficult under Soviet rule. The synagogues were confiscated; the last remaining synagogue building was converted into a warehouse in 1959. Some Jews were imprisoned for practicing kosher slaughter.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 Jews were living in Mukacheve in the late 1960s.By the 1990s, however, almost all of the city’s remaining Jews emigrated to Israel and the west.