Until five years ago I knew nothing about Podu Iloaiei, the Romanian town in which my great grandparents lived before coming to Canada in 1906. However my posting on JewishGen caught the attention of another JewishGener in NY, Catherine Richter. She later discovered a German book in the New York public library titled Juden in Podu Iloaiei (call# PXM 00-1458), which is the translation of an earlier Romanian book, titled Obstea Evreiasca Din Podu Iloaiei by Itic Svart Kara. I found the Romanian version in the central public library here in Toronto. (There are only about 30 books in the Romanian section and amongst them was this one, about a small Jewish shtetle in Moldavia. Imagine that!). Kara's book was originally published in Iasi in 1925 and republished in 1990 in Bucharest by Hasefer Publishing House.
The book contains a number of censuses, from which I gathered the following:
To my amazement, the very first entry in the 1898 census was that of my great grandparents.
A few weeks later Catherine heard about another JewishGen member, Nat Abramowitz, who was working on a translation of the book. It turns out that Mr. Abramowitz (whose father came from Podu Iloaiei) had the book translated a few years earlier by a Romanian acquaitance.
Eventually through Nat and other sources on JewishGen, I learned a little about the author of the book. Itic Svart Kara was born in Podu Iloaiei circa 1906 and lived there until his twenties. He was a very educated man - he spoke some 7 languages and was well respected in the Romanian Academy of Sciences. He was considered the foremost authority on the history of Moldavian Jewry, having written dozens of books on a number of Yiddish Stetlach, one of them being Podu Iloaiei.
And to my surprise Mr. Kara, age 93, was still living in Iasi, near Podu Iloaiei. After writing a few letters that were not answered I called him in March 2001, but his poor hearing made communication impossible. A few weeks later a Romanian researcher interviewed Mr. Kara on my behalf and was able to obtain some more information on my family. He told me that Kara would have answered my letters had he not been confined to his apartment in a wheel chair, not being able to visit the post office to mail a letter. The researcher would not accept any payment for the service, explaining that he knew Mr. Kara for many years and it was a pleasure visiting with him and would not consider profiting from Kara's treasure of information!
At about the same time I came in contact with Toronto filmmaker, Simcha Jacobovici (Deadly Currents, The 12 Tribes, etc, etc), whose mother was born in Podu Iloaiei. It turns out that Simcha had been in Romania earlier that year doing work on a new documentary on the Struma and while there he interviewed Kara for a future project on the Jews of Romania.
A few weeks later we received some sad news from Romania that Mr. Kara had passed away on May 29, 2001, the 2nd day of Shavuot.
As it turns out Mr. Kara had a sister living here in Toronto and while visiting the Shiva house, I was shown the video of Simcha's interview with Mr. Kara. I was very surprised. Despite his age and frailty, Mr. Kara was still quite clear and lucid. So I felt quite bad that we were not able to communicate together on the phone a few months earlier.
And now back to the book on Podu Iloaiei... Having developed a very warm feeling for Mr. Kara, I wanted to see this book as well as his others published in English for everyone's benefit. Unfortunately the tanslation commissioned by Nat Abramowitz was difficult to read as Kara wrote in an academic style and referred to sources written in archaic Romanian which do not lend themselves to a literal translation.
So I persuaded Nat that we get the book translated over again. The plan was to make the book available on JewishGen as a free download, providing we could obtain permission from the original publishers in Romania. We hired a Romanian translator here in Toronto and Catherine did the editing. After working on this project for about a year the translation was completed in August 2002. Although Nat was very pleased to have it finished he was rather frustrated that permission from the publisher had still not been obtained. He made it very clear to me that the book should not be distributed to anyone unless the copyright issue is first resolved.
A few weeks later I received an email with some very sad news. Nat Abramowitz had passed away.
Recently Nat's wife Lucille contacted me, enquiring about the project. She was very surprised when told that the book had not yet made available to JewishGen because we did not have the publisher's permission. She was under the impression that permission had been obtained and a few days later she sent me a letter from Hasefer to that affect.
Now began the work of preparing the book for publication. My initial idea was to make it available as a PDF file on JewishGen, however I've since learned that the JewishGen standard is HTML. As such I've made a number of changes to the style in order to accommodate the JewishGen volunteers who have converted our MS Word document to HTML.
I have also made a number of additions and changes to the original book, which will be described in the next chapter.
I am most grateful to the following individuals who invested much time and effort in seeing this project through:
|Nathan Abramowitz zl||project sponser and organizer (see bio below)|
|Johanna Danciu||translation of Romanian|
|Dan Jumara||clarification of certain historical matters and Romanian words|
|Eugen Hriscu||translation of Romanian|
|Dana Melnic||translation of Romanian|
|Simcha Simchovitch [B-1]||translation of Yiddish poems|
A number of books have been written about specific shtetlach in Eastern Europe. Most of these were written by Holocaust survivors and describe shtetl life during the first half of the 20th century.
This book is rather unusual in that it was written by a historian. It's an indepth study of the Jewish community and its origins. Kara uses original sources including government documents, court proceedings and census records from the 19th century.
I hope that those with roots in Podu Iloaiei find delight in this book and that it will serve as an important resource for those studying the history of the Jewish communities of Moldavia.
1.1.1 Book Cover and Illustration of Bridge
The cover of the book bears an intriguing wood-cut drawing of a river with a small bridge. Standing nearby is an old Jew, beard and shtramle, together with a woman, presumably his wife, in front of what appears to be their home. This picture refers back to the very origins of Podu Iloaiei.
Kara tells us in the first chapter that Podu Iloaiei in Romanian means Bridge of Iloaiei. He explains that the town took its name from the local bridge that crosses the Bahlui River. According to tradition, the bridge was built by a Jewish women named Iloaia (meaning wife of Ilie), who lived in the area in the early 1800s. She supposedly built the bridge to connect the inn with the postal station on the other side of the Bahlui River. Presumably the picture depicts Ilie and his wife Iloaia in front of the inn beside the river.[B-2]
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Updated 21 Mar 2007 by LA