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3  Preface by Nathan Abramowitz, June/2002

Podu Iloaiei was the shtetl of my father and my ancestors. While doing family research, I came across and was able to obtain a copy of a book called The Jewish Community in…Podu Iloaiei by Itzik-Schwartz Kara. Originally published in Iasi in 1925, the book was republished in 1990 in Bucharest by Hasefer Publishing House. I received permission from Hasefer to publish an English language translation of the book.

The initial translation was done by Eugene Hriscu of Iasi, Romania. Although English is not his first language, I was amazed at the quality of his English translation from the original Romanian text. KM Elias of Toronto clarified the Hebrew and Yiddish expressions, and, with the assistance of Dana Melnic of Toronto, resolved some of the idiomatic questions that arose as the work progressed. Catherine Richter, a professional editor, did an excellent job of editing and preparing the translation for publication. It was truly an outstanding group of people, and I gratefully thank all involved – including my wife Lucile whose patience and understanding allowed me to devote a great deal of time to this project.

A note about Dr. Kara: I was directly in touch with him via Mr. Hriscu. He expressed delight about having the book translated into English and requested several copies to distribute among institutions and his colleagues. Unfortunately, Dr. Kara passed away in May 2001 at the age of 94. His obituary, as presented by Dr. Silviu Sanie, is reproduced at the end of the book[B-3].

 

4  Obituary for Itic-Svart Kara, May/2001

The following obituary was delivered by Prof. Dr. Silviu Sanie

The passing of Mr. Kara marks our separation from the representative of an elite generation that had among its last gone to join their ancestors from the Iasi community Dr. S. Kaufman and Prof. S. Friedenthal. It was a heder generation for which Yiddish was truly a maternal language. A generation for which life had prepared a road full of obstacles they were the actors and the witnesses of some great catastrophes for the Jewish community.

Itic Svart was born almost 95 years ago in Podu Iloaiei, in a large family where faith and customs were highly respected.

The Svart family gave three personalities to the Jewish culture – Simha, Iulian and Itic – a sculptor, a writer – actor and one who was to manifest interest in many fields.

I.Svart graduated from The Faculty of French Language, but has also been a professor of Yiddish language and he followed this second calling for a longer time and it brought him great satisfactions.

These are some of the Yiddishist's accomplishments:

In 1948, he published a Yiddish language grammar. Within the short period of time when Salom Alechem's language was allowed to affirm itself in schools, his work proved to be most useful.

As the literary secretary of the Jewish State Theatre of Iasi, he translated from several languages into Yiddish and worked hard to improve the quality of the Yiddish language spoken by the actors. He loved the theatre and this is maybe the only area where his brother Iulian had an advantage – he was also an actor.

However, Yiddish is the language of many of Mr. Kara's writings. Certainly, he could have said as Mircea Eliade did about the Romanian language that it is “the language of his dreams”. In Cernauti, he found himself in the proximity of several poets like Itic Manger (who later came to Iasi) and Eliezer Steinberg, in the very core of the cultural life of the “small Vienna”, in the period between the two WW. The writer brought to the public facts and events that he wrote about in the Yiddish papers in Vilna, Warsaw, New York, etc. He coordinated some volumes of the paper “Bucarester Shriftn”. The prose writer wrote many stories, some of them with autobiographic content. He later gathered them in the 1976 printed volume “A Moldavis Ingl” (“A Boy from Moldavia”) and, in 1987, “Iurn fon Hofmung” (“Hope Years”).

The man who traveled the world all the way to the Soviet Far East where Svart became Kara, the French professor who also spoke Russian and English continued to be the same “Moldavis ingl”, but accomplishing many. He received awards from the Israeli Yiddish specialists and FCER's “J. Pineles” award.

The man who started his journey from a stetl has also been a folklorist, carefully recording some of the things he felt would disappear together with the world that gave them birth. Proverbs, sayings, children's holiday wishings and many more.

He had a call for history. Like Iacob Psantir in the XIX-th century, I. Kara knew that he had to save for the history the documents and moments of the communities' lives; he also published different testimonies that some considered of minor importance, but he understood their significance. He permanently improved the method, the style as well as the critical apparatus of his works. His writings touched issues from the cultural and socio – economical life. Historiography will remember him as the author of the monographs on Bacau, Podu Iloaiei, that was also published in German by the great humanist E. R. Wiehn, and “Contributions to the History of the Jewish Community of Iasi”. He published in museum and academic institutes' magazines.

He published, together with Dr. Stela Cheptea, “Medieval Hebrew Inscriptions (aprox. 300) in Iasi” which was awarded by the Romanian Academy. He was a bibliophile. A scholar.

An unostentatious believer, but possessing extensive knowledge from his childhood and adolescence years (as described in his books), Mr. Kara was one of the main counselors of the Iasi community. He discretely guided the cultural activities, he possessed the skill, the patience and the understanding needed to be a malomad and to prepare those who trained to put tefilim, he conducted the Seder on Pesach, etc.

He was at the same time one of the main men who attended the sil.

He could talk to people of all ages and professions. He also knew, together with the missed Mss. Tili, how to be a pleasant host.

He was a man with an ever strong will to gather knowledge, quickly to adapt to all kinds of situations and places – from Podu Iloaiei. Iasi and Cernauti to the Soviet Far East and Berlin, as a soldier, professor, literary secretary, librarian, community activist and, above all, a writer and a historian. A full life that spread over almost an entire century.

The man we are saying good – bye now to was a complex and important personality, a representative symbol of the Iasi community.

 

5  Foreword by Dr. S. Caufman, 1990

In the 1990 version of the book this section appeared at the back of the book as an “afterword”

As a good Moldavian Jew, and as the president of the Jewish community of Iasi, I have a special interest in the past, present, and future of the community of Iasi, without neglecting the other communities in the district and even those in the neighboring districts.

Since I was born and spent my childhood in a Moldavian “shtetl,” I am familiar with the way things used to be in those days of yore, in the Jewish borough, and I feel a part of the place, with its milieu, the concerns, the suffering and the joys, the strain and the victories of tens of thousands of Jews who lived in the towns and boroughs of Moldavia, its becoming a traditional, inextricable part of the Moldavian world, of the historic Moldavia.

As a matter of fact, the traditional culture in which I grew up and with which I have identified myself all through my life, and my interest for the life and culture of the Jewish population of Romania, make me totally capable of understanding and experiencing all that is depicted in I. Kara's writings dedicated to his native borough, Podu Iloaiei, which is located only 21 kilometers from Iasi and in whose cemetery, unfortunately, many of the victims of the “death train” are buried.

Finally, the person who is writing these lines has one more advantage: He knows the author I. Kara, alias Itic Svart, very well, Ithac ben Avi who for more than two decades was a member of the community's committee. Our relationship is not limited only to a long-lasting and close cooperation on the cultural and educational field. We are also familiar with his hard work and the results of his research in the field of the Jews' history in Romania, studies that have been carried on for more than half a century. We also know about his permanent co-working with the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania. This is one more reason to expect the most from the present monograph, a one of a kind piece of work in the field of monographs on the small Jewish communities of Moldavia, written by a qualified historian, the author of more than a hundred works published since 1939 both in the country and in prestigious international magazines.

I first read I. Kara's study as it was eight years ago, and I read it again with sympathy, curiosity, and exigency in its final form, and so I dare to make some observations.

The first chapter of this work is an incursion into the history of events of the Jewish community of Podu Iloaiei. The author has an open attitude when approaching the facts, placing them in the wider framework of the borough's development, the life of all of its inhabitants, and the activity of the entire commune. Thus, it provides a clearer image of the reality in its diverse aspects, with all of its contradictions and concords.

Regarding the tragic events of the years 1941 to 1944, some of my own personal experiences confirm the author's depictions.

The detailed presentation of the borough's economic life, based on novel, Hebrew sources, makes a chronological and synchronous analysis of the data at hand, confirming the general impression, that is not only mine, regarding the paramount role played by the Jewish population in the development of the town and the boroughs and even in the foundation of some of them.

In the chapter dedicated to the community life, the author resorted to considerable autobiographical data as well. This chapter is written more colorfully and sympathetically, with more emotional involvement, a style that the undersigned prefers to the author's sober tone that characterizes the other chapters. Reading the chapter on education, I felt a justified nostalgia. Fundamentally, many of the elements of the life and history of the Jewish community of Podu Iloaiei are common to most of the Moldavian towns in the 19th century and even in our century too, at least until 1940.

The chapter on folklore and ethnography was also quite meaningful to me. The author used to collect Yiddish folklore, ever since his high-school years, and has published it since 1933. He has pursued this “sin of the youth” until now. You do not have to be a historian to realize that the author has not used up all the available data in his monograph and that there is still money to be made in this field by future researchers.

I am particularly satisfied with the anthology of literary works dedicated to this town. The author offers translations of some Yiddish literary works. “The Rabbi of Podu Iloaiei” appeared in the volume A Moldevish Inghl (A Boy from Moldavia) by I. Kara, published in 1976 by Kriterion Publishing House in Bucharest. The great poet Itic Manger dedicated a wonderful ballad to this noble rabbinical figure. The anthology also includes a translation of the short story Podu Iloaiei by Simcha Schwartz (1900-1974), the author's older brother and a great playwright and famous sculptor recognized as such in France and Argentina. He is also the author of the delightful Hotchpotch and Podeloier Times, dated 1920. The funny character Dudl Consul was also portrayed in A Boy from Moldova.

I am sure that researchers will be very glad to find the numerous and substantial documentary appendices that include novel material gathered with much effort, meticulousness, and skill from archives and libraries. Qualified historians have made this last appreciation. How could I dare contradict them? Actually, this chapter is also written in a lively, fluent, convincing, and accessible style, without losing any of its strictly scientific value.

The Federation of the Jewish Communities should be praised for publishing this unique and highly valuable work. It can, of course, be improved upon and new material added, but it will surely set an example for others to write such valuable monographs for some of the country's other communities.

They will undoubtedly have the support of the communities and the Federation, which has published so many excellent historic works in the last years.

 

6  Introduction by I.Kara, 1990

While working on the essay “The History of the Jews in Romania until 1917” that was completed in 1976 and recently revised, I felt the need for such an incursion in the history of the Jewish community in my native borough. The first part, following the events until the year 1848, appeared in a short version in the Yiddish-written anthology “Bukarester sriftn”, volumes I-VI (1978- I983). The writing of a history of the Jewish population of Romania proved to be a difficult task considering the relatively limited amount of information that survived in the community archives, the insufficient material in the public and private archives, the small number of monographs dedicated to some communities and institutions, and the difficulties in consulting information, sources and studies.

Still, the historian Dr. M.A. Halevy has published in 1931 the monograph “The Jewish Communities of Iasi and Bucharest”, volume I, (up to the year 1821), while “Iuliu Barasch History Society” supported (during 1886 - 1889) the elaboration of monographs of the Romanian Jewish communities. “The History the Ploiesti community “by Israel Sapira (1889) was the only one to be published; the monograph on the Bacau community by A.D. Birnberg remained in a draft form and I revised it in 1947; the monograph of the Botosani community by H. Ghinter could not be found.

In our century, there have been only several modest attempts to write monographs regarding our communities or some of their institutions. I mention here Nisim M. Derera's monograph (1906) and S. Semilian's (1931) regarding the Jews in Braila. The community in Craiova has been described in the works of Leon de Askenazi and M. Staureanu; short monographs were dedicated to the community in Roman by E. Schwarzfeld and I. Kaufman. Iosef Kaufman is the author of a two-volume work, “The Chronicle of The Jewish Communities of the Neamt District” (1928-1929), which includes a lot of valuable data and materials, but much insignificant detail as well. There are several incomplete monographs on the communities in Transylvania: Alba Iulia, Oradea, Timisoara signed by Dr. M. Eisler, E. Fleischer, Dr. I. Singer.

The articles that were once published by the press and even some of the articles that appeared in “The Magazine of the Mosaic Cult” have mainly a popularizing character; the original material that they sometimes bring can not replace the necessary scientifically-based monographs. The lack of information cannot be compensated even by the work of monumental proportions “Pinkas Hakehilot Romania”, volume I (1970), volume II (1980) published by “Yad Vashem” Institute in Jerusalem or by the anthologies of occasional articles, memoirs, and memorial articles that appear in Israel and the U.S.A., in Hebrew, Yiddish, Romanian, English, German, Hungarian.

Putting together the comprehensive monographs regarding the Jewish communities that exist or existed in Romania between the two WWs remains an objective for historical research. For now, there are still to be collected materials and information from the people who spent their childhood in the towns and boroughs of the beginning of the century, as well as trying to find papers, documents, photos, objects that can prove useful for the study of our history. The importance of these monographs has been repeatedly emphasized by a great personality as His Eminence Dr. Moses Rosen, Chief Rabbi of the Mosaic cult and the president of' the Federation of' the Romanian Jewish Communities.

It has been pointed out that the monograph of a certain community, no matter how small it is, clarifies some aspects of the life of other similar communities. In fact, most of the events, situations, structures, activities, and mentalities were almost the same within the small communities in Moldova. The study of one community could end up in the drawing of conclusions that remain valid for other communities as well.

Several annexes were added to the present text, presenting in extenso original sources, many of them unpublished before, together with an anthology of the literary works that depict the life of this modest Moldavian borough. Several photos and illustrations have also been added.

I express my gratitude to the Iasi and Bucharest State Archives, The Library of the Romanian Academy, The Library of the “Al. I. Cuza” University, Iasi, the library and the archives of the Federation of the Romanian Jewish Communities (FRJC) as well as to all the people who supplied me with materials and information, thus contributing to the writing of this monograph.

I want to thank especially the FRJC and His Eminence Dr. Moses Rosen who showed a special interest in the publishing of this work.

The Author


  1. [KME] In this edition the obituary is printed at the beginning of the book on page 15. return

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