“Radauti” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2

(Romania)

47°51' / 25°55'

Translation of “Radauti” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1980




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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Bruce Reisch

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania, Volume II,
pages 516-520, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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Radauti

Translated by Y. Aizic Oked Sechter

Editorial Assistance by Bruce Reisch

RADAUTI: A town in Northern Romania, is the county of Radauti and governorship of Bukovina. Northwest of Jassy and south of Cernauti.

Jewish Population

YearNumberPercentage of Jews
in total population
18803,45230.9
1888523 families 
19117,754 
19305,64733.6
19414,76335.2
194262 
19476,000 
1962800 (approx.) 

Until World War I

It isn't known exactly when the first Jews arrived in Radauti (Radautz). But it is known that a small Jewish community existed when it was under Moldavian rule. The Jewish community then was called “the Jewish Guild,” headed by the “Starosta.” When Bukovina was annexed to Austria in 1777, a number of Jews arrived in Radautz together with German Schwebs. During this period there were not enough Jews to enable them to hold community prayers (minyan) on a regular basis. During holidays, the Jews of Radautz went to pray in a nearby village, Petrauti.

At the beginning of the 19th century, under Austrian rule, thousands of Germans (Schwebs from Bohemia and Moravia) started migrating to the southern parts of Bukovina and to Radautz. Together with these Germans, the Austrian government invited Jews from eastern Galicia to come and move to this area. The reason is that the Jews were loyal to the Austrian regime and spoke German. From this period onwards the number of Jews in Radautz increased steadily. Most of these Jews made a living from the trade in lumber and the transport of these trees after they were cut down. They also dealt in the trade of livestock and various other professions.

Later, towards the end of the 19th century, some of the Jews in Radautz prospered and established quite a number of industries. These included the production of buttons, sugar, packaging materials, furniture, metal products, soap, candles, brushes, electrical equipment etc. Radautz was also famous all over Austria for its alcoholic beverages and beer. The Jews also owned or operated lumber sawmills, leather industries, flour mills etc.

Just before W.W. II there were in the Radautz district 250 industrial plants that had been established by the Jews. Most of them employed many Jews. Jews owned about 90 percent of the stores, banks, hotels and restaurants in Radautz. Also most of the professionals, such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, pharmacists etc., were Jews.

The Kehilah its Organization and Development

According to an Austrian law, Radautz did not have an independent Kehilah (autonomous Jewish religious self-government controlled and supervised by the government of the country in which the Kehilah existed. Among other things, the Kehilah supervised and supplied the Jews with all their religious needs, and also collected taxes). The Jews of Radautz were under the religious jurisdiction of the Kehilah that existed in Siret. Only in 1859 were the Jews of Radautz allowed to organize their own Kehilah. From this time on, the Jews living in the villages in the vicinity of Radautz (such as Straja, Bilca, Galanesti, Milisauti, Badauti and Tiban) were also put under the jurisdiction of the Kehilah of Radautz.

According to a regulation of the 28th of June 1891, that was based on an Austrian law, that went into effect in 1890, Radautz was one of the 15 cities that was granted the right to organize a Kehilah.

During the years 1859-1890 a six-member committee managed the Kehilah. From 1890 and onwards, the managing committee numbered 24 elected members. The budget of the Kehilah at the beginning was based on: a ritual slaughter (shehitah) tax; the sale of burial plots in the cemetery; income from the sale of Matzoth; marriage tariff; contributions and fund raising; income from inheritance bequests and legacies. Later on the Kehilah tried to initiate a progressive tax. This did not succeed, because the Kehilah lacked the power of enforcement.

The first cemetery in Radautz was established in 1820. It was then located four kilometers outside the city limits. Until 1820, the Jews of Radautz were buried in Siret. The Kehilah being the center of Jewish life in the city and its vicinity caused friction and clashes between different Jewish groups. During the 19th century, the Hassidim and Orthodox Jews quarreled with the more modern Jews. Towards the end of the 19th century, all this changed; the arguments were between the Zionists (all of its parties) and the ultra-religious and left wing-socialist Jews especially the Bund.

The benevolent societies, such as soup kitchens for students, funds for the marrying of poor brides, helping the poor that were suffering from ill health and a special fund for the upkeep of synagogues, were mainly funded from: inheritance bequests and legacies and from the rent of houses and stores that they had received from the wealthy people of Radautz.

In 1906, the Hesed Shel Emet society was established. It helped the sick that were needy and buried those that did not leave any means by which they could be buried. The Mahzikei Shabbat society and the Matan Be Seter society cared for the needy sojourners that passed the town. There was also a soup kitchen that gave free meals to the needy.

Synagogues

Eliahu Gewölb established the first synagogue in Radautz in 1830, in the center of the town. During the visit of the Emperor Franz Joseph I in Radautz in 1880, a delegation of Jews requested from him that they be given a proper plot of land to build a big synagogue due to the increased number of Jews in the town. The Emperor agreed and gave the Jewish community a large plot of land in the center of the town. Then a big argument broke out between the orthodox and more progressive Jews. The orthodox demanded that the synagogue be built in the more traditional mode of synagogues. The progressive demanded that the synagogue be a more modernistic one in the style of the great synagogue of Czernowitz, with a cathedral type round dome. Due to this argument the building of the synagogue was postponed for several years. At the end a compromise was reached and the synagogue was built in the style of the great synagogue of Czernowitz, but with one big difference, instead of a round dome, two twin towers were built. The stage where the Torah is read was located in the center of the synagogue. The women's section was on the western gallery. The synagogue was inaugurated on the 18th of August 1883, the birthday of the Emperor Franz Joseph the first. The new chief Rabbi of the town, Yitzhak Kunstadt, gave the inaugural address. By 1888, Radautz had an additional 8 synagogues.

Rabbinate

The first Rabbi of Radautz was Hirsch Shapiro, who was the chief Rabbi for about 20 years until his death in 1881. After his death, the Kehilah elected a famous Rabbi, a disciple of the “Ktav Sofer,” from Pressburg, Rabbi Yitzhak Kunstadt as the chief Rabbi (who served between 1883-1909). Rabbi Kunstadt was known as a great rabbinical scholar and a great orator. He wrote a number of rabbinical books including, “Luah Erez”, and “Luhot Shniot.” He also served as a role model raising the religious and moral level of the community. He raised a generation of Jews that were loyal to the Torah and their people. He instilled in the community a great love for Zionism and the renewal of Israel's sovereignty as a nation. In 1892, he established together with Dr. Nathan Birnbaum the Zionist organization, “Ahvat Zion,” and was its leader for 10 years. After him, Dr. Yaacov Hoffman was appointed as chief Rabbi (served from 1912-1922). He had served as chief Rabbi of Bekustel in Moravia. During WW1 he served as a chaplain in the Austrian army. At the end of the war he returned to Radautz and continued to lead the community during the difficult transition period from Austrian to Romanian administration. But in 1922, when he was offered the position of chief Rabbi of Frankfurt in Germany, he decided to accept and left Radautz.

Radautz was also the center of several Hassidic courts, which included famous Rabbis such as Rabbi Alter Hager and Rabbi Himel Kassover of the Wiznitz dynasty, who was followed by his son Moisheleh. The last Rabbi of this court in Radautz was Rabbi Israel Hager. His son immigrated to the United States with his family in 1912 and there he died a short time later. Another court in Radautz was that of the “Rabbi of Czernowitz,” and the court of Yitzhak Moshkovitz a descendant of Rabbi Meirel from Primishlan. This Rabbi also left Radautz a short times before WW2 and immigrated to the United States. Outside of these Rabbis that lived in Radautz there were quite a few well-known Rabbis that visited the town from time to time. The most important one was the Rabbi of Mautneh, Rabbi Haim Hager of the Wiznitz dynasty. He made it a custom to visit Radautz on the Sabbath of the reading of the Torah portion, “Toldoth.” The Kehilah put at his disposal the big synagogue. Despite the 1000 seats, the synagogue was packed with Hassidim that came from all parts of Bukovina. Radautz also had about 200 Hassidim of the Sadagora and Boyan courts. The fact that Radautz was a Hassidic center, improved the financial situation of several households in Radautz. These households rented rooms to Hassidim that came to visit the town.

We must remind readers here of Rabbinical Judges, such as Shimon Shapiro, who served for about 30 years until his death in 1917. His son-in-law Rabbi Azriel Kaveh succeeded him. He was killed in the Holocaust at Kopaigorod in 1942. Other Rabbis killed there were Rabbi Haim and Rabbi Moshe Gottlieb, the sons of Rabbi Zvi Gottlieb, who was known as the Chernovitzer Rebbe, despite the fact that the last 30 years of his life were spent in Radautz.

Of the secretaries of the Kehilah we will mention here David Hertzberg, who after leaving the town, gave for community purposes his big house in the center of the town, and Lipman Kunstadt the son of the Rabbi Yitzhak Kunstadt, who served the community until 1950. He was very active especially in the fields of education and culture. He made Aliyah to Israel in 1961.

Education

The first educational institution in Radautz was the “Talmud Torah,” which opened in 1830 and gave a free Torah education to the children of the poor of the town. This institution remained open continuously until the start of WW2. In 1939 there were 130 pupils enrolled in four classes. Outside of this Torah institution there were several private “Cheders” in Radautz, which educated pupils of all ages, up to adults who were trained in education and became teachers in the “Cheder.”

In 1907 the “Safah Brurah” school was established. This school taught all its subjects in Hebrew. After WW1 this school grew considerably and by the start of WW2 it had an enrollment of about 200 pupils per year. Next to this school was also a Hebrew kindergarten. Among the prominent teachers were Goldstein, Czernstrovsky and Moshe Blei, all of whom were killed in the Holocaust.

Zionist Activities

In 1912 a Jewish sports organization, “Hagvurah,” was established and was active until 1947, when the communist regime closed it down and confiscated all its property and equipment. This organization was quite prominent especially in the sports of soccer and gymnastics.

It won many regional competitions and for a certain period it was even the city champion. In 1920 it won 15 out of 20 prizes that were awarded by the Macabee competitions in Czernowitz. At the second Macabiah games that were held in Eretz Yisrael in 1935, 24 members of this organization participated in the games.

In 1912 “Bearisah,” a Jewish nationalistic student's organization, was established. They utilized the summer vacations for Jewish nationalistic studies and activities. They also held fencing competitions as was the custom among the Austrian students.

Active political movements started in Radautz in 1892 with the founding by Rabbi Yitzhak Kunstadt of the “Ahavat Zion” organization. In 1900 Dr. Yosef Bierer moved to Radautz. He was the son of the well-known Zionist leader Reuben Bierer, who was one of the closest friends and chief assistants to Dr. Herzl.

Dr. Bierer became active in Zionist causes in Radautz and changed the name of Ahavat Zion to “Dorshei Zion,” turning it into a moving force and the center of the nationalistic movement in Radautz. This organization also operated a library and reading room, where most of the Zionistic activities were held until WW1. This was also where most of the local political campaigns were prepared for the elective bodies of the Kehilah and the municipality.

Between the Two World Wars

In 1918 when Bukovina came under Romanian administration, there were two Jewish representatives on the Radautz city council. From then on, under Romanian rule, elections were held for the management of the Kehilah. Five different Jewish political parties tried to win seats in the management of the Kehilah. They were General Zionist, and Poalei Zion; there were also the national Romanian political parties such as the Liberals, The National Farmer's party, and the Social Democratic party. From 1930 onward, internal elections to the Kehilah were no longer held due to the interference in the internal Jewish affairs of the Kehilah by national Romanian political parties. From then on, the Romanian government appointed provisional committees to run the affairs of the Kehilah. The committee members were Jewish representatives from the ruling Romanian political party. In 1934 there was a general meeting in Radautz of all the Jewish organizations protesting against the provisional committees.

From the end of WW1 and with the Balfour declaration, Radautz became an important Zionistic center. Special emphasize was put on educating the youth according to the Zionistic spirit. The Hebrew schools were enlarged and in 1919 the “Hashomer” movement was established, which later became Hashomer Hatzair. This movement had a membership of several hundred youths. Their meetings were held in Hebrew, and amongst their members many made Aliyah to Israel.

The main Zionistic political parties in Radautz were the General Zionist, Mizrahi, Poalei Zion, Beitar, and Ichud (Mapai). They not only operated in the pure Zionistic field but also in local politics, like the municipal and national Romanian elections, where the Romanian political parties had Jewish members.

Many residents of Radautz, especially the youths, made Aliyah, even before Hitler rose to power.

Outside of the Zionistic parties, the Bund party was also quite active, in cultural, sport and political activities, and its strong opposition to the Zionists.

The Revisionists established in Radautz an organization called “Herzliah” and a youth movement called “Beitar.” They managed to send illegally to Eretz Yisroel many of its members, despite the fact that the British did not allow immigration to Eretz Yisroel at that time. Most of the Zionist organizations had youth movements like Bnei Akiva and Haoved Hatzioni.

In 1933 a Jewish merchant, Y. Hecht, gave a building as a present to the Jewish religious community. On the first floor, a synagogue was established and on the second floor a Beit Yaacov school. On the eve of WW2 there were in Radautz 23 synagogues including the Hassidic prayer houses.

During the years 1919-1926 there was in Radautz a Jewish High School, which taught in Hebrew. The school was operated under the auspices of the Kehilah and its principal was Dr. Z. Weinstein. In 1926 it was forced to close down under the orders of the Romanian government.

During the years 1937-1940 there was a Jewish religious school for girls, “Beit Yaacov.” In 1940 when the Legionnaire regime prohibited the Jews from studying in public schools, the Kehilah opened a Jewish school with four grades, which operated until the Jews were expelled from the town. Until then, the public schools included in their curriculum the study of religious subjects and the Jewish students were allowed to study Jewish religious subjects.

In 1925 a Jewish home for the aged was established in Radautz. It was situated in a luxurious building donated by David Yossef Hecht, plus additional small contributions. This institution had room for 40 elderly patients in relatively good living conditions. After WW2 the building was nationalized and was turned into a governmental hospital for children.

About the same time (1925), a soup kitchen was established which served free meals to about 100 needy persons every day.

In 1926 Dr. Rabbi Yaacov Nacht was appointed as the chief Rabbi of Radautz. But in 1928 he left his office after being appointed the chief Rabbi of Strasbourg.

Two years later, a big rift developed between the Hassidim and the enlightened Jews when Dr. Rabbi Shimshon Stein was appointed as chief Rabbi of Radautz. Rabbi Stein was born in Radautz and received his Rabbinical training in Vienna. Rabbi Stein practiced his religion in a more modernistic style. This rift brought about the intervention of the Romanian government, which fired the management and leadership of the Kehilah, including the chief Rabbi, and then appointed Rabbi Yitzhak Rabinowitz as the new chief Rabbi. A year later, in the wake of the Romanian Liberal party's wins in the general elections of Romania, the new Kehilah management was fired and another new management was elected. Rabbi Rabinowitz was fired and Rabbi Stein was reinstated as chief Rabbi. In 1940 Rabbi Stein died and until the expulsion of the Jews from Radautz no new chief Rabbi was appointed.

Radautz was one of the centers of the anti-Semitic Romanian political party headed by A. Z. Cuza, and one of its members, an anti-Semite from Radautz, Nichifor Robu, was elected to the Romanian parliament, representing Radautz.

The Shoah, Holocaust

The problems of the Jewish population in Radautz started already in 1937, when the Goga-Cuza party came to power. Then Jews were beaten on the streets, and storeowners were forced to open their stores on the Sabbath. In the surrounding villages, the oppressions and hardships towards the Jews was so bad, that the Jews were forced to flee the villages leaving behind all of their valuable possessions and move to the city. The Kehilah sent a committee to Czernowitz and together with the chief Rabbi of Bukovina went to Bucharest in order to try to persuade the ruling Goga-Cuza regime to stop the harsh treatment of the Jews. The committee, headed by the chief Rabbi, was unsuccessful in their efforts and went home empty-handed.

The Goga-Cuza regime did not last long and was forced to resign in 1939. But a year later, with the annexation of large portions of Romania to Russia (June 1940) the situation of the Jews went from bad to worse, and the first signs of the approaching Holocaust could be seen clearly. Jews were thrown out of moving train cars. The first Jewish victims to be murdered were more than 20 villagers living in villages near Radautz. The retreating Romanian soldiers murdered them in June 1940. In Radautz itself, a number of Jews were also murdered at this time. In September 1940, the “Iron Guard” came to power in Romania and the situation of the Jews worsened. The new regime came out with a long list of new regulations against the Jews. These included the need for Jews to wear a distinctive cloth so that everyone would know that they were Jews. In addition, their homes were confiscated; their children were expelled from schools; Jewish government workers were fired from their jobs; and Jewish doctors were no longer allowed to treat non-Jewish patients.

On the 24th of January 1941, the first organized pogrom in Radautz occurred. Twelve Jews, including two members of the Kehilah management, were killed.

On the 22nd of June 1941 with the start of the German-Russian war, with Romania joining the German side, the last chapter of the Jewish life in Radautz started. A curfew was imposed on the Jews, and they were not allowed to leave their homes after 6 PM. The area where the Jews lived became a ghetto. The Kehilah was forced to send Jews as hostages to the military government. In July, about 1,000 Jews expelled from Seletin and Storojinetz and other villages from the vicinity passed through Radautz on the way to Transnistria. The Jews of Radautz brought them into their homes, and to the synagogue, and gave them food and provisions for the road. They also provided them with carts that would take them up to Edineti. The wealthy Jews of Radautz provided these carts. In August, all 2,000 Jews of Siret were transferred to Radautz and the Kehilah had to care for them.

On the 11th of October 1941, the 10,000 Jews of Radautz together with all of the other Jewish refugees were ordered to leave the town within 48 hours and to start marching towards Transnistria. The orders were to shoot and kill any Jew that remained in the town after the end of the two days. Those expelled were allowed to take with them only hand baggage. They were ordered to put their money and valuables in government banks, without receiving any receipt whatsoever. This caused a great distress among the Jews and some of them even committed suicide. The Kehilah tried to abolish the deportation notices but without success. On the 12th and 13th of October, all the Jews of Radautz were on the way to Transnistria. At the railroad station, the Jews were ordered to go on cattle trains. The expulsion was carried out in two phases, On the 12th and 13th of October about 6,000 were sent by train to Marculesti in Bessarabia. The last transport with the remaining 4,000 Jews left on the 13th to Atachi.

Of the 6,000 Jews sent to Marculesti, 90 percent were murdered on the way to Transnistria and the rest in the camps of Bersad, Obodovca, Tibulovca, Balta and other camps. They were not only murdered by the Romanian guards, but also died from the extremely bad living conditions there, the cold, hunger and diseases.

Of the 4,000 Jews that left on the 13th to Atachi, about 25 percent were murdered on the way to Transnistria and the camps.

Among the martyrs of Radautz there is a need to remember, the Rabbis Azriel Kaveh, Moshe and Haim Gottlieb; the ritual slaughterers (Shohatim) Aharon Keren, Yossef Shechter, Hirsh Melech Shreiber; the physicians Dr. Nobert Doler, Dr. Gever, Dr. Ephraim Sabbath; lawyers Reuben Lang, Meshulem Katz, Shmuel Merling, Hirsch Konig, Pinchas Brecher, Pinchas Katz, Kalman Wasserman, Berl Rath, Yossef Postilnick, Yaacov Bernstein, Yishayahu Moshe Postelnick, Shalom Sternshosh; the Rabbi's wife, Hannah Kunstadt, and Hannah Lang, who was involved in Jewish community affairs and many others.

After the Shoah, Holocaust

In 1945 the survivors started to return to Radautz. Only about 4,000 survived, but many of them went on to Bucharest, cities in Transylvania and (Montania? Uncertain of this word's translation) with the hope of continuing from there to Eretz Yisroel. Of the veteran residents of Radautz, only about 1,500 returned to it. But because of the geographical location of Radautz close to the Russian border, many of the Jews from north Bukovina, Bessarabia, Czernowitz and other towns, passed by it on the way into Romania. This unending caravan of displaced persons continued till the end of 1946 when the Russians closed the borders.

Since the town was so close to the Russian border, the Jewish population of Radautz grew and by the end of 1946 reached 8,000 persons. Most of them did not remain there for long and left the town after several months, in their efforts to reach Eretz Yisroel, European countries and North and South America.

It is estimated that the number of Jews passing through Radautz during 1945-1946 was more than 30,000. Those stopping over and remaining in Radautz for a few days or more are estimated at about 20,000. Most of them continued travelling as soon as they were able or found a way to do so. Starting in 1946 the number of Jews in Radautz drastically dropped and hardly any Jews remained in the town. The illegal immigration to Eretz Yisroel was in full swing, with the “blind-eye,” unofficial blessing of the Romanian government. Thousands left the town, mainly young people, streaming towards the Western borders of Romania, into Hungary and from there to western Europe or to port towns by the seashores.

In 1950, Romania allowed all its Jews to sign up legally to make Aliyah to Israel. About 80% of the Jews of Romania grabbed this government offer. Those signing up, were, abused, spied upon, threatened and fired from their jobs. The Press also joined the attacks against the Jews. From the fall of 1950 until April 1951, the Aliyah from Romania was in full force, from Radautz alone.

Over 2,000 Jews made Aliyah. The Romanian officials in their efforts to cause hardships to the departing Jews did not always give emigration certificates to all the family members. This caused so family tragedies, parents were left behind, and brothers and sisters were split up and sometimes husbands from their wives.

When this huge wave of emigration was stopped in 1951, there remained in Radautz about 3,000 Jews. Most of them had also signed up to make Aliyah. In October 1958, Jews were again allowed to make Aliyah. Most of those that had signed up in 1950 signed up again, including Communists, who had previously caused so much hardships for the Jews that had signed up for Aliyah. These Communists seemed to have become disenchanted with the Communist regime and decided to emigrate. Those that didn't sign up either had held high government posts and were confident that they were safe in Romania, or were afraid to sign up because they had been Communist party members in the past.

By 1962 there remained in Radautz only about 800 Jews.

The Re-organization of the Kehilah

When the Jews returned to Radautz after the Holocaust, they discovered that all the synagogues had been transformed into warehouses and cowsheds. Of the 175 Torah scrolls that the community had given to a gentile to keep for them, only one was found. The rest were recycled, to make different things such as drums and sandals. The Kehilah managed to find most of the things manufactured from the Torah scrolls and re-bought them and had them buried according to Jewish tradition and law. The cemetery was in ruins, having been desecrated by the Romanian soldiers. The Jewish houses and stores had been ransacked and all the possessions inside stolen. In some of the houses, the Jews discovered that Romanians were now living in them, and in others the government had confiscated them. Only in very few cases were the furniture and industries returned to the Jewish owners.

About 80% of the returning Jews found themselves without any earthly possessions. A soup kitchen was established by the Kehilah and was operated by the Joint Jewish Appeal, and American Jews that had originally lived in Radautz.

These American Jews sent food and clothing. The Jewish health society OZA supplied three meals per day to about 250 children. These children also received clothing, special medical care. The weaker children were sent to a summer camp. The World Jewish Congress established in Radautz a center for southern Bukovina.

The Kehilah reopened the public bath, held a census of the Jews (members of the Kehilah), renovated the big synagogue, opened a “Heder,” and kindergarten.

In 1962, three synagogues were conducting services in Radautz. But only the big synagogue managed to attract a relatively large number of worshipers, while the other two synagogues had a difficult time conducting services and had enough worshipers only for services on Sabbaths and holidays. The other synagogue buildings in Radautz were taken over by the government and put to other secular uses.

In 1945 Rabbi Yisroel Hornick was appointed as chief rabbi of Radautz. Rabbi Hornick was a great Torah scholar and author of a number of books on Jewish religious subjects. Rabbi Hornick died in 1947, and after his death no other chief Rabbi was appointed and since then Radautz no longer has a chief Rabbi.


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