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7  Chronicle (1818-1968)

The place-name Podu Lelioaiei—the old form of today's Podu Iloaiei—is much older than the borough itself, which was founded in the second decade of the 19th century. In fact, a fortified settlement existed there from the 9th to 14th century.[A-1] According to Alexandru Graur, the name Podu Lelioaiei is probably derived from the “name of the wife of someone called Lalu, who was known as Iloaia, the wife of someone called Ile or Ilie.”[A-2]

In 1883, C. Chirita depicted the local tradition that was still alive at the beginning of the 20th century: “It is said that [Podu Lelioaiei] took its name from the bridge that crosses the Bahlui River. The bridge was built by a Jewish woman named Iloaia, who lived in Podu Lelioaiei at the beginning of the 19th century. There was an inn, and on the other side of the river, the left side, there were several cottages where the old post-carriage station had been. Wanting to link the inn with the postal route, the Jewish woman Iloaia built a permanent bridge over the waters of the Bahlui River. The bridge still bears her name today.”[A-3]

Actually, a bridge existed there long before the 19th century. In 1700, a Polish traveler related: “In Poduleloi, on the shore of the Bahlui River over which there is a small brick bridge, there are only small cottages.”[A-4] It is possible that the old bridge was destroyed in the meantime. In 1653, “Ruler Vasilie and his army, which he had gathered in a hurry, camped at Podul Lelioaiei. The battle was fought there, and Gheorghe the chancellor won. Vasilie then fled to his father-in-law Hmil, the Cossack ruler.”[A-5] (Hmil is Bogdan Chmelnitzki [1593-1657])

At the beginning of the 20th century, this battle was still mentioned in the local stories. It was told that the dead soldiers had been buried under the hill in front of the church. I remember myself as a child searching for buried treasures from the time of Vasile Lupu, but without much success. Some used to say that they found helmets, weapons, mail, skeletons, and other objects, while digging.

On June 10, 1655, Gheorghe Stefan, the ruler of Moldova, sent a letter from Podu Iloaiei to Gheorghe Rakoczi II, the ruler of Transylvania. Miron Costin related that Gheorghe Stefan's carts were robbed at Podu Iloaiei in 1655.[A-6]

In 1664, 1665, and 1673, the village of Podu Lelioae was mentioned.[A-7] A Dowry Act from January 15, 1664 stated: “my part of land from Podul-ii-leloe, which will be taken from that shared with my brothers … and a neighbor Ilia and his sons, who live in Podul-ii-leloe.”[A-8]

Neculce's chronicle mentioned that under the rule of Constantin Cantemir (1685-1692) “troops of mercenaries were camped at Podu Iloae.”[A-9] [A-10] In 1700, a Polish traveler found here “only a few cottages and a shortage of food and fodder. We spent the night outside in the cold.”[A-11] After 1703, Mihai Racovita kept guards in Podu Iloaiei.[A-12]

The Swedish officer Weissmantel (1709-1714) mentioned the stone bridge in Podu Iloaiei.[A-13] The settlement was also mentioned in 1715.[A-14] Manuscript No. 1846 of the Iasi State Archives contains calculations for the income of the bar in Podu Iloaiei for the years 1800 to 1806.

As mentioned in the Great Geographic Dictionary, in 1810 “a certain number of Jews requested permission from the owner of the Totoesti estate to settle here and raise a borough. In 1818, as stipulated in ruler Calimah's document, the borough was founded near the bridge, taking the name Podul Iloaiei. Because the borough was located where the borders of several estates intersected, each owner granted permission for the foundation of a town on their property.”[A-15]

This favorable geographic position — on the route from Iasi to Targu Frumos — explains why the founders of the town chose it, of course, at the invitation of the owner of the Totoesti estate. But how did some Polish Jews learn about the intentions of the Moldavian landlord? The borough was established at the confluence of the rivers Bahlui and Bahluiet.[A-16a]

The founding of the borough of Podu Iloaiei was not an isolated event, but rather a part of a larger process of establishing new settlements. At the end of the 18th century and during the first half of the 19th century, 61 such settlements were established in Moldova, which at that time was of significant economic and social importance. “These small, semi-urban settlements promoted the most dynamic forms of socioeconomic life. Each settlement developed and enhanced the connection between the village and the city, their presence reviving the entire region. Economically, they were centers where raw materials were collected, and products were manufactured from these regional materials. They were also markets for products produced in the cities and abroad.”[A-16b]

The updated chronicle of the borough of Vladeni (later named Mihaileni) from November 16, 1826 stated in paragraph six that “the tax for selling spirits will be cashed by the owner of the estate as decided by the 1816 act issued for the borough of Podu Lelioaia and the 1823 act issued for the borough located on the Scobalteni estate.”[A-17] If no mistake was made by the clerk, the preceding statement refers to the agreement between the future inhabitants of the borough and the owner of the estate, since the oldest document known to refer to our town is the one from 1816 (see Appendix A). In a letter to C. Palade, the owner of the estate, it was mentioned that the inn at Podu Iloaiei must be rebuilt.[A-18]

The act issued in 1818 by Scarlat Callimachi to the landlord C. Palade, regarding the establishment of the borough of Podu Iloaiei on the Totoesti estate that was owned by the latter, was not upheld. However in 1823, Stefan Roset, the guardian of Palade's estates after his death, managed to obtain from Ionita Sandu Sturza the renewal of the first act. It seemed that, owing to the current events, the settlement developed very slowly since it was not mentioned in the 1820 census. However, because the census was of a fiscal nature regarding taxes, the “absence” of the inhabitants of the new settlement could be explained by the tax exemption that was applied for several years, as was the case for other new settlements.[A-19] On May 25, 1823, the former first court official, Serban Negel who had been loyal to Ionita Sandu Sturza during the difficult first years of his rule, also obtained an act for the founding of a borough near Podu Iloaiei. Subsequently, the two settlements formed a single administrative entity.

On March 21, 1821, the villagers of Scobalteni were worried about the “carts and chariots that passed by Podu Iloaiei and up hill.”[A-20] In fact, Beldiman wrote in Tragodia: “The road to Podul Iloaiei going up the hill / For the woods were close and the town defended still.”

The activities of the Eterists[B-4] diminished the population of the developing borough of Podu Iloaiei. In 1822, Gheorghe Sion came to the Moldavian districts to appoint new chiefs of the administration. “All of the remaining inhabitants of Podu Iloaiei came to greet us here, where at that time there was only a post office, a tavern, and General Constantin Palade's great inn, then unplastered. And from among all the townspeople we met, we have chosen Constantin Drosul, who has little knowledge of reading and writing, and Neculai Mantu, the administrator of the Braesti estate, to administrate the Carligatura district.”[A-21] The 1818 act that was renewed on July 25, 1823 and issued for “Podul-Leloea” on the estate of the deceased general C. Palade reestablished the 16 paragraphs of the agreement between the landlord and the future townspeople:

  1. The tax on the sale of spirits “in all the town's streets and suburbs” will be 40 parale per measure [B-5]. Any smuggled alcohol will be confiscated and a fee will be paid.
  2. The tax for wine is 30 parale. The wine will be measured on the outskirts of the borough by the administrator of the estate. The same rules apply for smuggling as above.
  3. The tax for fuel oil and axle ointment is 10 parale per measure. The same rules as above apply for smuggling.
  4. Jews who own a butchery will pay the landlord 2 parale per lamb, 4 parale per sheep, 6 parale per calf, 10 parale per weanling or young bull, 20 parale per cow, and 30 parale per ox.
  5. Jews are allowed to bake their own bread and pretzels for home use only.
  6. Candles made for personal use are tax-free. A tax will be paid for selling them.
  7. Each person may keep up to three cows in the grazing field tax-free.
  8. The sale of hay and barley is tax-free.
  9. An annual tax for place of residence or shop will be paid: 2 lei per length measure[B-6]; the depth will be 18 measures long; with the agreement of the owner who has the first right to buy if the house should be for sale.
  10. Homemade beer and hydromel can be sold tax-free; industrial production requires the owner's accord.
  11. Two synagogues, two slaughter houses[B-7] “near the school” and the cemetery are exempt from taxation.
  12. The day of the fair or the marketplace will be established on the developing main street that passes by the inn all the way to the main road.
  13. Anyone may display his merchandise in front of his house; if done at the corner of the street or in the center of town, a tax must be paid to the owner.
  14. A tax is also paid for an orchard, garden, or vineyard.
  15. The owner's agreement is necessary for the construction of a factory.
  16. If one does not build a home within a year of signing this contract, one loses the right to build one.[A-22]

The conditions imposed by Serban Negel for the founding of a borough on his estate Scobalteni were tougher and did not stimulate the borough's development. He asked 24 bani for each adult cattle slaughtered. The landlord had the right to build houses and stores without paying the tax, which was 10% of the rent for the rest of the townspeople. The right to sell spirits, fuel oil, bread, and meat, and the tax for weighing was cashed by the landlord exclusively. He also had a right for tax exemption for 30 men, whom he would bring from abroad “to maintain the security of the town.”

The landlord also appointed the mayor of the town and the masters of the trade and manufacturing associations. The tradesmen from abroad were tax exempt for five years. Monday was fair day, and there would be eight more annual fairs. The inhabitants of Scobalteni and Podu Iloaiei could freely visit each other on the fair days.[A-23] But success did not come as expected, and Negel gave the Jews of Podu Iloaiei a lot of trouble.[A-24] Not until June 17, 1824, did 10 Jews manage to sign a more favorable settlement contract with Negel, although it contained “architectural” terms.[A-25] They had to pay a 4 lei tax per length measure for a 10 measure house. The houses had to be built one next to the other with board or shingle roofs, and with a space between them for the street. The selling of the houses had to have the accord of the landlord, and he had the right to make the first offer. The stores could not sell bread or wine to the Christians. Kosher meat could only be sold with the landlord's agreement. Jewish taverns could only host Jewish patrons. The 10 Jews could not resort to their rights as Sudits if they had a conflict with the landlord. Anyone who did not build a house within a year lost the right to settle. Each inhabitant of the borough had the right to free grazing for up to four cattle; a tax was collected for more cattle. The cemetery (50 square measures), the synagogue (25 square measures), and the public bath (15 square measures) were tax-free.[A-26]

The population was made up of Moldavians, Jews, Lippovans, Armenians, Greeks, and Gypsies. The 1824 census mentioned 4 Jewish Sudits (See Appendix B). The Sudits were “foreign citizens or natives who enjoyed foreign protection while living on Romanian territory, as stipulated by the terms of the treaties signed by the Western powers and the Turkish Empire.”[A-27] Sura Herscovici was born in this town in 1826; she died in January 1935 at the age of 109.[A-28] On March 24, 1826, Iaakov, son of Smuel, sold a piece of land to the Lippovan Iacov, for which he had “a property document issued at the establishment of the borough” (see Appendix C). A receipt, issued in Scobalteni and dated April 18, 1828, was given to a small nobleman for 172 lei of merchandise that he purchased here from Haim and Itic.[A-29] The year 1827 was a dry one, and the occupation armies ate the few cereals that were left.[A-30]

According to information that I received in 1935 from the shochet Burah Svart, in 1828 there was a Chevra Kadisha, a burial society that was also functioning as a social assistance service for the poor. The register was lost during World War I.

In 1839, the foreign affairs minister Neculai Canta bought the estate and borough of Scobalteni for 200,000 lei from the guardians of the property of the deceased village chief Negel.[A-31]

In 1982, the Jewish cemetery in Podu Iloaiei still had some gravestones from 1829 and 1830. One of them was for Haim sin Meer, who died on 1 Adar 5589 (Wednesday February 18, 1829); another one belonged to Avram sin Moise, and was dated June 1829; a third certified that Iehuda ben Iaakov died on July 28, 1829. The gravestones of Efraim — son of Iehuda Leib from Tismenita — and Haim Moise sin Hers are dated 1830.[A-32]

A contract from 1830 offers information about the income of the owner of the borough. It stipulated an agreement for leasing the borough to Moise Juster and Herscu a Mendeloaie for 12,000 lei per year.[A-33] The inn had to be properly maintained and returned in good condition. The landlord, at the recommendation of the tenants, appointed the captain of the borough. The military were allowed to keep their “feeding lands,” but had to pay tax on them. The landlord's Gypsies also had to pay “the tax of the land.” The borough's cattle could graze for free on the grazing field. The tenants received ten measures of land[B-8],a place for a garden, and the right to use the waters from the Bahlui Mill upstream. They were also granted tax-free milling of 10 measures of wheat and corn. The garbage from the inn had to be deposited outside of the borough. All the buildings that were to be built remained in the possession of the landlord for three years after the termination of the contract. In 1831, Palade demanded the cancellation of the contract because Jews were not allowed to have “possessions.” Herscu refused to return the advance payment of 6,000 lei. In fact, both the Jewish and Christian inhabitants of the borough were against Herscu, who was a dishonest tenant (see Appendix D).[A-34]

During the first years, the founders of the town were also the leaders of the Jewish community. Aspects of the modest day-to-day life are depicted in The Official Paper of the Moldavian Principality. In 1832, there was a lawsuit between Leiba “Rozil” and the townspeople “for refusing to pay the required taxes.” Rozil was, of course, the tenant of the borough's income. That same year, another lawsuit was recorded between the Jews Richter and Barbalata, who had a dispute over “an iron hoop.” A beautifully trimmed “matseva” in the style of the Jewish stone carvers was found at the grave of a Dov ben Samuel, who died in 1831.

It is noteworthy that the administration system of the town involved clerks, who were appointed by the owner of the estate, and thus defended the owner's interests. The first “captain of the borough of Poduleloaiei” was Manolache, who issued a register for the alcohol trade on May 11, 1828.[A-35] Another captain, Tudorache Popovici, was dismissed by the tenant Herscu Juster, who then took over as captain. The divan, however, reinstated Tudorache in his former function.[A-36] The activity and abuses committed by the town's captain will be discussed in more detail later on.

The Organic Rule mentioned the cancellation of the tax system that had been applied to the Jewish population based on the tax on kosher meat. This tax served primarily to pay the rabbi, the shochet, and the rest of the community's clerks, as well as to cover the needs of the school, Talmud Torah, the asylum, hekdesh, etc. In the 18th century, the treasury noticed that its weak tax collecting system was not efficient with the Jews and decided to impose a common tax on the community. The leaders of the “Jewish guild” arranged the total amount of the tax with the treasury, and included the tax in the community's budget.[A-37] In 1831, the treasury tried to collect the taxes directly from each Jew, as stipulated by the Organic Rule, but “the trial proved that only the old system could efficiently collect the taxes from the Jews”[A-38] (see Appendix F).

The system of foreign protection for Sudits offered an advantage against abusive clerks. Here is a typical case from 1833: Iosef Coter, Moise Barbalata, Grinbaum, and Iancu Amoki, who would lease from the landowner the town's income in 1836, were arrested, beaten, and taken to Targu Frumos under the suspicion of insulting the subprefect of Carligatura County. The Prussian consul explained to the Russian general Mitcovici, who was president of Moldova's divan, that these men were Prussian subjects and asked for their release. On December 23, 1833, the French consul intervened in favor of the French subject Iosef Coter. The State's Secretary showed that the arrested men were born in this country and had their homes in Podu Iloaiei.

The tombstone of Slomo Iosef Leib - son of David, who died in Iasi in 1834, still exists today. The year 1835 was inscribed on the tombstone of Manili, the daughter of Mose Mirkis from Iasi, who was buried in Podu Iloaiei.[A-39] On February 12, 1853, “the assembly of the Jewish community from the boroughs of Podulelioaia and Scobalteni in Carligatura county” complained to the treasury that “not only had they endured poverty and lack of bread,” but they also could not pay the Sudits' taxes. So they made up a common tax, which they offered for leasing. Some of the leaders who were Sudits railed against this tax. After voting, 32 Jews were for the tax and 36 Sudits and tenants were against it.

In 1835, 134 new households were built in Podu Iloaiei.[A-40] In 1835 and 1836, Moscul Barlacu and Iancu Mikioaia leased the town's income. Subsequently, they had disputes with Tudorache Radovici, the owner's head man. The conflict ended in 1846.[A-41]

The inhabitants of the town complained about the Jewish land administrator and obtained his dismissal on the grounds that he had no right to lease.[A-42]

We do not know the nature of the transaction that led to a lawsuit between Grigore Peris and several townspeople from Podu Iloaiei.[A-43] A conflict between Gavrilas, the administrator of the royal vineyards, and Froim seemed to build between 1835 and 1836. The same Gavrilas, no doubt the captain of the town, ordered his men to beat up a certain Jew named Solomon. Iancu Belcester, likely the chief of the local Jewish community, went with several tradesmen to demand an explanation from Gavrilas. Gavrilas accused them of coming to beat him up (see Appendix C).[A-44] It is possible that the conflict with Herscu a Mendeloaie[B-9], the administrator of the town's income, caused the disputes.[A-45]

Because of the town's position on the main road, the central authorities were particularly concerned about its status. Thus in 1837, the bridge “on the road of the stagecoach” was repaired; its maintenance cost 3,279 lei.[A-46] In 1836, “all the Jews, locals, and Sudits” from the borough of Podu Iloaiei gathered to argue that some of those registered in the census were here only for short periods of time, had fled elsewhere or died, or had paid 4 galbeni as tax and the town pays for them. Some of those who did not pay the taxes were beaten and carried barefoot through the town. They asked for lower taxes and the right to implement their own taxes. The proposal was signed by Moise Berlescu, Solomon sin Herscu, Iosef Coter, Iancu from Targu Frumos, David Casap, Marcu Leizer Casap, Simha from Targu Frumos, and Solomon Richter. A three-year contract was signed with the collective tax collector for 5,200 lei per year.

The economic development of the borough was hindered by the 1823 act that was issued for the Scobalteni estate. On November 28, 1838, a new contract was signed with the new owner, Neculai Canta. Taxes for the sale of spirits and fuel oil were established. The tax was increased to 3 lei and 72 parale for each stanjen of a household 10 stanjeni long. The houses were to be built one next to the other and covered with board or shingle. The sale of meat, bread, and candles, the barbershop, kitchen, and scales were to remain the property of the owner. The church, cemetery, school, and public bath were tax exempt. A free grazing place was given for 90 cattle. According to the agreement, Toma Gavrilovici, Izrail sin Isar, and Avram Leiba had to pay the owner 37,350 lei (see Appendix H). The reinforcement act was dated May 2, 1839. On July 5, 1839, the captain of the town sent the list with those who were guarantors for the Jews: the community chief Moscu Berl and the Christian Gheorghe sin Vasile Velciul. The Armenian and Lippovan guilds also asked to have the right to appoint a community chief and to have an overall community tax as stipulated in a document found at the Iasi branch of the State Archives[B-10].

The economic life of the town followed its “usual” course. In 1839, Herscu called I. Ponici to trial for a debt of 100 galbeni.[A-47] [A-48] The year 1840 was marked on the beautifully carved tombstone of the elder Eliahu ben Dov Ber. That same year, the poet Costache Conachi bought from the fair several Gypsy workers: carvers, shoe and boot makers, and beer makers.[A-49] The Austrian agency appointed a guardian to manage the estate of Iosup sin Lupu Casapu, an Austrian subject.[A-50]

The value of all the shops in the borough in 1841 was 80 galbeni, 4,000 lei.[A-51] A property document for one of the town's buildings was dated the same year (see Appendix I).

The conflicts with the tenant of the town's income seemed never-ending. In 1841, 19 of the townspeople complained about Herscu Lesner, who had lent them money and grain in 1832 but was now being accused of forging the accounts.[A-52] To prove his innocence, the tenant obtained testimony from several other inhabitants that the leasing of the town's income had been done correctly.[A-53] But the leasing partners were in conflict once again in 1842. Moise from Berlesti and Iancu Macioaiei argued that Tudorache, their partner, erected buildings using the employees and materials of the association. Owing to his carelessness, the wheat harvest was ruined. They also brought Christian witnesses.[A-54]

The leasing act was published in Bulletin, Official Paper and in The Rural Paper. In 1841, the townspeople regained the right to appoint the town's captain and to organize three seven-day fairs each year. The act was reconfirmed in 1848. A list of tradesmen from 1842 included 91 Christians, living mostly in the suburbs, and 66 Jews (see Appendix J). Here is an anecdote that is representative of the town's customs: Reiza Iosupovici, the wife of the runaway Samsa who had unpaid debts, asked the Justice for her dowry list to be given first priority.[A-55]

The town's food supply was leased in 1844, and the following prices were established: 16 parale for an oca of bread, 26 parale for beef, 24 parale for lamb, and 3 lei, 16 parale for an oca of candles.[A-56]

The trade papers, house selling acts, and other transactions that were done among the Jews had to be confirmed by the rabbi and then in court. In 1845, the rabbi Mose from Podu Iloaiei confirmed an act for the sale of a house for 1,676 lei (see Appendix K).

The privileges of the Sudits were decreasing. Many of them gave up their allegiance to the foreign power, as was the case for Leib Ihil and his wife Susie Hatul (Etl?) from Podu Iloaiei.[A-57] The Austrian agency dealt with the sale of the properties of the deceased Elias Berkenthal. Rabbi Mose confirmed that act in 1845. As guardians of Iosup's orphans, the same rabbi and Marcu sin Pascal sold an inn in town to the shochet Herscu Strulovici for 6,000 lei.[A-58]

In the beginning, a captain appointed by the landlord administered the town. Later on, the captain was appointed by the Treasury and was paid from the town's taxes. In 1841, the landlord-appointed captain received 100 lei per month, while the captain in Mihaileni was paid 200 lei and the captains in Stefanesti and Lespezi were paid 150 lei each.[A-59] The captain often abused his authority. In 1843, the Christian inhabitants of the town complained about the captain, “the man of the police,” because he was enforcing hard punishments for small offences. Therefore, they asked for an inquiry.[A-60] Another request to appoint someone to replace this Tudorache Radovici was made on May 24, 1844 by “the community of Christians and Jews in the borough of Podu Lelioaiei.” Several Christians and Jews signed the petition (see Appendix O). They brought testimonies from four Lippovans, three Romanians, and five Jews, who maintained that Tudorache was persecuting the bartender Toader Bamaruca, an honest man.[A-61]

The new administrative code stipulated for Podu Iloaiei one captain and two foot soldiers paid by the State.[A-62] The position of captain lasted until 1864, when a radical change took place in the administration system of small towns. But in 1846, the captain supervised the sale of bread and candles in the town.[A-63] In the same year, the taxp collectors complained that they were not given enough kosher meat, and asked for the tax to be raised to 6 parale per oca like in Targu Frumos.[A-64] This complaint was repeated in 1847, but since the administration felt that there were not enough Christians living in town to buy the non-kosher meat, the town was not granted the right to have more cattle.[A-65] At this time, the leader of the Jews was Alter sin Strule.

An act of “everlasting property” was issued by N. Cantacuzino, the owner of the town, to Moise Itic for a place of 6 x 20 stanjeni on which Moise amongst others had shops and for which he paid tax and other contributions.[A-66] A similar act was issued to the Lippovan Stefan for a place of 2 x 16 stanjeni, on which he had shops. At that time the economic life of the borough was very much dependent on the days of the weekly fair.

We have no information on how the revolution of 1848 influenced the life of the town; however, we learned about the many victims of the cholera epidemic, most of who were poor.

In 1851, the tax that covered the needs of the community was 20 parale for each oca of beef.

The value of the buildings in town increased as the town developed. In 1852, Mendel Cat received 4,000 lei from Zamvel sin Bercu for a 2 x 15 stanjeni street shop located close to the bridge. .

The Cernauti-Botosani-Iasi road passed through Podu Iloaiei, while the salt road passed through Scheia and Targu Frumos. The work on the Iasi-Podu Iloaiei road was still in progress in 1854, and in 1860. Podu Iloaiei was mentioned in a list of towns inhabited by more than 100 families. In 1855, the price of regular bread was 24 parale for an oca. In 1856, an oca of good bread was 1 lei, an oca of meat was 1 lei and 8 parale, and an oca of candles was 4 lei, 12 parale. The semi-urban character of the town was becoming more and more apparent.

During the Russian occupation, grain was requisitioned from the population. Strul Avram Ringhelescu asked that the requisitioned goods be paid back. During that year, the consular privileges were still in place. The Austrian subject Samson sin Naftule obtained, with the support of the consulate, full rights over the property of his deceased brother Moise Itic, a Moldavian subject.

The tax was leased in 1858 to Aga Vasile Bosie. In 1859, the tenant was Copil Dulberger, who paid 27,500 lei per year. That year, several places in the proximity of the church and close to the grazing place were sold. In 1858, Haim sin Herscu, the delegate of the Great Synagogue, sold for 100 galbeni several houses that had been donated by Huda, the daughter of Hers.

In 1862, the community appeared to be well established. For example, “the representatives of the Jewish community” Herscu sin Moisa, Iancu Popescu (from Popesti), and Alter Strul confirmed the death of David sin Lupu, a third-degree tradesman; the death certificate was made official with an oval stamp that read: “The United Principalities. The Commission of the Borough Podul Iloaiei, 1859.”

On the front of the Great Synagogue (which was seriously damaged between 1941 and 1945, and demolished in 1967) was inscribed the date of its inauguration: 5622[B-11], corresponding to 1862. In 1865, they were still working on the road that passed through the town. During the same year, Mihail Kuhirsky opened a pharmacy.[A-67] Several letters published by K. Lippe in the Jewish magazine Libanon (April 1, 1868, No. 205) from Paris described the good relations between the Jews and the Christians living in the town, but also mentioned that the new policeman persecuted the Jews, shutting down their shops and forbidding them to wear their traditional clothing.

When civil status documents were introduced, the Jews began to register their newborn children at the town hall. One birth certificate from 1869 was signed by Lupu sin Herscu, a 36-year-old fiddler, and by Avram Marcusor, a tradesman. Vasile Petrovici, president of the ad-interim commission, was in charge of the “Civil Status Office.” In 1870, the town hall leased to Isac Vecsler the right to collect taxes from the butcher shops in town.[A-68]

The Topographical Dictionary by Frunzescu (Bucharest, 1872) mentioned that 2,715 people were living in the borough of Podu Iloaiei, where the offices of the subprefecture, a telegraph, and a railway station were located. It also noted that the place was famous for “its huge, delicious melons.” In 1873, the Jewish physician Ancel Hart, a 30-year-old Moldavian subject, settled in the town. He was still practicing there in 1898. His daughters were Sofia, Tereza, and Iuliana. In 1873, a huge fire destroyed all the houses made of wood. Only the church and 20 brick houses were saved. The losses amounted to 100,000 galbeni, but the insurance only covered 80,000 galbeni. The insurance companies were quick to cover the losses and as suchon October 16, 1874, Nuhem sin Mendel, S. B. Morgenstern, Ilie Marcu, Marcu Ghetel, Elie Itic sin Bercu, Ghersin Margulies, Faivel Candel, Moise sin Iosef, Francisca Botez, Moise Iacob Hahane, and Baruch Smilovici expressed their gratitude.[A-69]

One shochet, a long-time resident of the town, slaughtered chickens without following the rules, wanted to eliminate the tax, and didn't listen to anyone. He was dismissed in 1877 by Rabbi Taubes from Iasi[A-70], thus putting an end to this type of abuse, which was quite frequent in some Moldavian communities at the time.

We have no clear information on the participation of the Jewish population of Podu Iloaiei in the independence war. It is known, however, that at the beginning of the 20th century, seven “righteous” Jews lived in the town, most of whom were descendents of veterans of the 1877-1878 war. They owned bars or tax collection offices, and had the right to vote in the elections for the town's counsel and parliament. There is a Yiddish saying about this war: “mit im vesti nisht annemen Plevne.” It means “you won't conquer Plevna with his support” and refers to a man who is not too smart or too diligent. There is also a Yiddish anecdote: A mother was saying good-bye to her son, who was leaving to join the army. She advises him not to wear himself out: “fis a terk in ri dich up,” which means “if you shoot a Turkish soldier then you rest a bit.” The son asks: “What if the Turk shoots me?” The mother laments: “Oh my, what possibly could the Turk have against my boy?”

Fires were quite frequent, just like in other Moldavian settlements. At the initiative of mayor Gheorghiu, fire extinguishers were purchased, and proved to be of great help in fighting the fire of 1880. The mayor, together with Xenofon Vlaste and Moise Wecsler, collected money on the day of the fire to help the victims.[A-71]

The legal status of the Jews who were born and brought up in this country and who enjoyed no foreign protection was quite precarious. In 1881, eight Jews, who were living in town and had four years of army service, were declared “foreigners.”[A-72] Jews were still unjustly banished from their villages. In November 1881, Volf Avram was driven away from Obrojeni to Podu Iloaiei. He left behind a household, 20 cows, cornstalks, and other belongings.[A-73]

Particularly important was the campaign to obtain the title of urban commune for the settlement, which was the wish of most of the inhabitants. In 1881, the communal counsel, which had no Jews among its members, declared that “the interest of a small town is to be inhabited by various craftsmen and tradesmen no matter what their religion or ethnicity.” They then emphasized that the townspeople had ancient rights and that restrictive laws (against Jews) would only hinder the development of the town, which if it became an urban commune would have a secondary school, a better hospital and pharmacy, a veterinarian, etc. It was also pointed out that the town was an important grain export center, which needs warehouses, better communication systems, etc. The prefecture was asked to intervene to the Minister of Internal Affairs in favor of ranking Podu Iloaiei as an urban commune. The request was rejected on January 20, 1882 following a demand from 14 non-Jewish tradesmen, who claimed that the borough should remain a rural commune so that they could protect themselves from Jewish competition. In fact the commune's counsel insisted on their request, but the Parliament rejected it.[A-74] Also in 1882, the state issued laws encouraging Jewish emigration, but no one from town emigrated that year.[A-75]

The November 26, 1882 issue of the magazine The Brotherhood published on page 7 information about the community of Podu Iloaiei, which was made up of approximately 150 families. The community taxes covered the needs of the rabbi and the two shochets, as well as the sponsorship of the Talmud Torah. There was a Hasidic court[B-12], and the tzadik enjoyed a good reputation in the town and in other communities. The Great Synagogue had been restored in 1876. Several confessional asylums[B-13] were in operation. There was a “heder” and a private tutor. Social assistance was provided on Pesach for “maot chittim”. The community bath collected 100 galbeni annually. There was a “brotherhood fund” for helping the sick. Thirty students attended Talmud Torah.

Beginning in 1885, the town hall no longer leased the town's income. A relevant, unusual incident: the mayor - Nicolae Gheorghiu- a baptized Jew, was killed by a Greek named Procopie Dimitriu on August 18, 1888, even though another Jew had tried to stop the killer.[A-76] The victim had founded the town's church.

Numerous attempts to support the town's development by having it ranked as an urban commune were all rejected by Parliament in 1892. In 1894, the tenant S. Schwartz sponsored the rural hospital. Emil Florescu and then H. Grigoriu were the practicing physicians; there were also a subsurgeon and 10 assistants. In 1895, Leopold Ferderber managed the pharmacy, and later became a communal counselor. That same year, a police station was founded, some of the sidewalks were repaired,[A-77] and the new building of the State school was opened; at this time, the mayor was D. Lupu.[A-78] Several fountains were also restored. In 1896, there was an attempt to close down the slaughterhouse that had been found to be unsanitary and the brick factory that had been managed for 25 years by Avram Cahane. The space for the marketplace was reduced by the shacks constructed by some people.[A-79]

The townspeople read newspapers. In 1897, L. Fruchtman was selling The Opinion, which was edited in Iasi. The Yiddish and Hebrew press were distributed by subscription. In the same year, 1,200 pieces of clothing were collected for the victims in Stefanesti. The community budget, managed by Zeida Rotenberg, was insufficient. Besides paying the rabbi, four shochets and three synagogue janitors, the wages of 10 day-time guards also had to be paid.[A-80] However, thieves continued to attack unhindered.

The economic crisis of 1898-1899 and the leaving of the Jews on foot from the country had a serious impact on Podu Iloaiei (see the chapter “The Economic Life”). In 1902, the commune's budget was insufficient again. The anti-Semitic mayor Lupu and the tax collector Ghedale Haimovici raised the tax on kosher meat. A committee of seven people was elected to ensure support for the community's primary school.[A-81] The community could not pay Dr. Hart.

In the communal elections of 1902, seven of the 156 voters were Jews. The commune (including two villages) was inhabited by 2,883 people. The above mentioned D. Lupu, an office attendant with five years of high school training, was reelected mayor. Of the eight counselors, only three knew how to sign their name.[A-82] From 1902 to 1903, and again in 1916, the monthly magazine The Public Notary was edited in Podu Iloaiei by D. Cassian, the commune's notary.

Marcu Ghetel, a wealthy estate tenant moneylender, and tradesman plays an important role in the life of the borough. In 1903, he brought laborers from Bucovina to work the land on his estate.

During the same year, a public garden was opened and visited by Minister Spiru Haret. In 1904, the new slaughterhouse was ready to be opened and a new Romanian popular bank called “Good News” was opened. From 1903 to 1908, the town's police proved ineffective against the large number of burglaries and attacks. One serious event was the fire at Vlaste's mill on June 10, 1904 that resulted in 200,000 lei in losses. The same year, Gheorghe Botez, who was later elected mayor a number of times, was appointed communal inspector of the Podu Iloaiei region. In 1905, the iron bridge over the Bahlui River was opened. In 1906, I. Sneer became the principal of the community's school, replacing Iancu Horodniceanu, who continued to work for several decades at the school. I, myself, studied at this school between 1914 and 1918, and later taught along with my former teachers during the school year of 1928/1929. At the beginning of 1907, the town hall requested that the town be supplied with water from the Timisesti River — the same source of water used by Iasi—based on a project that was later completed.[A-83]

During the violent spring of 1907, the peasant uprisings affected Podu Iloaiei to the same degree that they affected the rest of the country.

It is known, that from the beginning, there was an attempt to direct the focus of the North Moldavian villagers' complaints towards the Jews. Approximately 300 peasants came to Podu Iloaiei; the army was unable to stop the revolt. Tenant Druckman's house, among others, was destroyed, in addition to the shops in town (almost 50); merchandise was thrown in the mud. On the second day, the military squads from Harlau arrived and fired shots into the air. Twenty people were arrested. The March 3rd, 1907 edition of The Opinion of Iasi reported that the initiators of the revolt included the institutor Brudariu, Tita Pavelescu, and the gardener Ionescu.

According to The Universe (March 3, 1907; vol. 25, no. 60), “on March 1, 1907, almost 800 peasants came to town and committed indescribable acts of violence, devastating most of the houses and shops of the Jewish inhabitants, throwing merchandise into the street, and shattering and destroying everything that stood in their way. The following tradesmen were seriously injured: Zeida Schwartz, Itic Moscovici, Aba Blumenfeld, Iancu Merovici, and many others whose names are unknown. The windows of all synagogues and Jewish schools were broken as were the windows of the 'miracle-maker' rabbi's house, and those of the other rabbis.”

In Iasi, a committee was established to help those whose households had been destroyed. On March 14, 1907, 3,000 lei were sent to Podu Iloaiei and distributed by A. Magder and M. Solomon. On March 17, Marcu Ghetel, Elias Solomon, and Saia Sternberg launched a campaign to help the poor who were living in the town.

One of the consequences of the uprising was the emigration of Jews to the United States. In June 1907, some families left. The devastation and the anti-Jewish regulations issued after the uprising led to a decay of the economic situation of the town, which was already precarious at that time. On April 1, 1908, the communal counsel was dissolved and in August was replaced with another one. The new counsel was led by Pavel Botez who contributed to the development of the commune and ensured a supply of drinkable water. One of the counselors was Xenofon Vlaste, the owner of the mechanic mill.

In 1909, there was a dispute regarding the issue of buying back from its two owners the land on which the town was situated. Matei Gane's heirs were asking for 150,000 lei; it was unknown how much Lucia Cantacuzino-Pascanu was asking for her part. An agreement was never reached. In 1909 a flood caused great losses to the town's Jews. However, a deal was signed with the engineer B. Diamant from Iasi regarding the use of the Timisesti source for the town's water supply. The town hall was to pay 43,000 lei.

The physician in the rural hospital was Carol Vitner, one of the few Jewish doctors paid by the State. As proof of his especially good reputation stands the fact that he was sent to Germany to specialize in bacteriology.

In 1910, a general economic crisis struck, affecting mostly the small tradesmen and craftsmen in the town. The epidemics of cholera and typhoid fever brought great concern, considering the poor hygienic conditions in town. In 1911, the floods from the Bahlui River caused serious damages.

As was the case in other towns, various forms of community assistance were established for those in need. As reported by the May 27, 1911 edition of The Equality, at the initiative of Aron Rosenthal, a society called Mata-Baseiter was founded to help the poor in case they became sick. The directing committee was made up of Moses Bucmann, president; Moses Schneier, vice president; Herscu Schwartz, cashier; and others.

New communal elections took place in Podu Iloaiei at the end of 1912. Const. Benuce was elected mayor.

The opening of the railway line between Podu Iloaiei and Harlau increased the importance of the local station, which became a railway junction. An advertisement that was printed in the newspaper by the person who restored the station, M. Vasilescu, described the restaurant as “first and second class” and promised to bring delicatessen and pates “from abroad.” A few years later, M. Vasilescu declared bankruptcy after borrowing embezzled money from the station's cashier.

The outbreak of the 1913 war brought new examples of Jewish patriotism. In February and March, Jews gave money to the National Navy and Air Force. Jews from Podu Iloaiei were drafted for the campaign in Bulgaria; one of them died in service. The committee that was established to help the families of those fighting in the war consisted of the mayor, the priest, the postmaster, the chief of the station, the principal of the primary school, as well as three representatives of the Jews. The Jews also gave money to the Red Cross, in sums ranging from 1 to 20 lei. The victory of the Romanian troops raised hope that the problem of the Jews' citizenship would be resolved. In September, the families of those who were killed in the war, including the Jewish families, received help from the prefect.

Let's end the chronicle for the year 1913 by relating a dramatic event. Alexandru Ferderber, the son of a pharmacist and probably a baptized Jew, fell in love with a Jewish girl. The parents opposed the marriage, and the young couple attempted to commit suicide in the Jewish cemetery. They were taken to the hospital, from which they escaped. Several years later, the young man killed himself; it was his third attempt. In the meantime, the cholera epidemic that had ravaged the region during that year's campaign ceased.

The year 1914 brought to this modest town too the signs of the outbreak of a global war. Food was more expensive. Reservists were mobilized, and this raised the popular concern. A committee was formed in Podu Iloaiei to help those in need. The crisis resulted in bankruptcies. Several families immigrated to America with the help of the I.C.A. organization in Iasi. After the outbreak of World War I, living costs increased .

Between August 1914 and August 1916, the people of the town experienced worry and hope, joy and grief, and concern and cheer. Periodically, men under 40 years of age were drafted, making everyone think that there was going to be a war. On the other hand, Romania's neutrality enabled Germany to make large acquisitions of food and raw material from Romania, and some tradesmen, noblemen, and wealthy peasants made good deals. Thus passed the years 1914, 1915, and the first half of 1916.

The Jewish population of the town realized with fear that the cataclysm was nearing, but there was still hope that those who had the right to citizenship would finally receive it. To avoid further confusions, The Native Jews' Union organized civil marriage services for the Jewish couples who had been married only religiously. My father Hers Svart was especially involved in this project. On March 23, 1916, the Jewish community in Podu Iloaiei organized a banquet in honor of the mayor Teodor Cazacu and the notary D. Cassian, who had attended the civil marriage ceremonies of more than 100 Jewish couples, giving legal support to the couples' family life, their right to succession, and the possibility that their children would receive citizenship.

In August 1916, Romania entered the war that, for the price of extreme sacrifices and suffering, was to bring territorial completion, a goal that had the full support of the Jewish population, particularly those living in Moldova. “Wives, sons, brothers, relatives, and friends are called under arms. Wives and children, mothers, sisters, fiancées, and relatives cry their heart out, while fathers discretely wipe off their tears.”[A-84]

On August 21, 1916, a decree was issued, forbidding the use of any language other than Romanian. The ladies of the Romanian elite continued to “chirp out” in French, while strict regulations were enforced against Yiddish. The September 23, 1916 issues of The Opinion clearly stated that the issue at stake was the use of Yiddish: “In Podu Iloaiei, Jewish men and women are beaten on a legal basis [the famous 25 strikes to the …] for using their native language.”

Despite all the hardships, no Jew from Podu Iloaiei took advantage of the November 1916 decree that was issued for the Jews who wanted to emigrate. The democratic press was outraged, and pointed out that Jews should be given citizenship and not driven away.

After the first rough months of war, Podu Iloaiei became an important military and medical center. Many refugees settled here, coming from the occupied territories. The Jewish school and the synagogues were transformed into hospitals. Most of the Jewish families who had members, who had been called to fight in the war, were poor and did not get enough out of the modest help offered by the authorities. Jews were accused of racketeering, espionage, and many other sins. Nobody was spared the brutality of the police (major Schipor), not even women. However, the vast majority of the Jewish population endured the same sufferings as the rest of the population, lacking food, fuel, and soap and confronting a raging epidemic of typhus. Several military doctors died in duty. Among them was Siegfried Rosenthal, a young physician from Iasi, who died while taking care of the ill in the hospitals of Podu Iloaiei. In April, shacks were built outside of the town for the patients with typhus. The communal counsel was dissolved on May 12, 1917.

To prevent a shortage of vegetables, special areas were designated and students worked the land. On September 22, 1917, the general secretary of the Internal Affairs Ministry visited Podu Iloaiei and the vegetable garden of the Jewish school, which was supervised by Adolf Magder, the principal of the school. In October, the State school and the Jewish school began operating by taking turns in the building of the Jewish-Romanian primary school.

The war was still going on. The Bucharest peace treaty, the recommencing of the military maneuvers until the defeat of Wilhelmian Germany and its allies, was reflected in the town's life. In January 1919, the town became the center of one of eight areas used for the repatriation of the Russian troops.[A-85]

Jews, who were promised during the war that their sacrifices would earn them citizenship, were disappointed by the decree-law that granted naturalization based on complicated formalities. These formalities were even harder to fulfill because of the wickedness of the clerks. In September 1919, The Native Jews' Union opened a legal assistance office for the local Jews who were requesting naturalization. But public opinion was drawn to more pressing issues in the years 1918-1920: assistance for war orphans, social integration of the veterans, and rehabilitation of the invalids. Thus, the Native Jews' Union closed its offices, waiting for more just and efficient laws.

The reverberations of the Russian revolution raised hopes for a more democratic political life in the reunified Romania, including a solution to the Jewish demands. Meanwhile, the townspeople lacked food for their animals so the prefecture allowed the acquisition of a two months stock.

The new naturalization decree brought less complicated formalities, and thus the political parties became interested in the Jews' votes. The Jews joined Averescu's party (“di avereskeiner”), the party of the liberals and the peasants. Even N. Iorga published electoral leaflets in Yiddish. Beginning in 1921, the mayor's assistant was a Jew (Michel Sor and then Lupu Buchman).

The community elections also aroused disputes. On April 27, 1919, the old leaders (the traditionalists) lost the elections to the Zionist wing. The voting took place in the presence of the region's administrator D. Cassian and the mayor Popovici. Moise Buchman, Volf Fisler, Haim Orenstein, Moise Haim Anciu, Aron Ianculovici, M. Schor, V. Iosupovici, D. H. Hahamovici, Lipsa Maizner, and T. Herscoviciare were elected. The majority of the population, however, remained faithful to the old customs. A subscription list for the yeshiva in Buhusi was signed by 125 people, who donated various sums of money ranging from 1 to 20 lei. A bond with the past may have explained the new community elections in 1920 that were supervised by Adolf Magder. Some of the resigning members of the former committee were reelected. After only one year, new elections brought success to the Zionists. Michel Sor obtained for the commune a grant for the Jewish-Romanian primary school; he had argued that the enrollment of Jewish pupils in the communal school would cost much more (classrooms, teaching staff). In 1922, new community elections were held.

Personal ambitions and interests caused a climate of instability that also reflected the confusion created by the complex post-war circumstances. Indeed, the development of the economy in the unified country and the social-political unrest caused by the increase in anti-Semitism were the new issues that the Jewish towns in Moldova had to face. The more active Jews joined political parties and became assistants to mayors like Michel Sor and Sanielevici. Others in the community continued the old “machloket,” disputes and conflicts on unimportant issues that had obvious negative consequences. For example, a group led by Simcha the tinker, who owned an oil deposit and a soda factory, hired one more shochet in 1923 and 1924, thus overcharging the community's budget. A candidate for the position of rabbi was brought in from Maramures[B-14]. The commission asserted that, although he was a good Talmudist, he could not speak modern Hebrew and thus could not be a rabbi here. After the death of Elie Rosental, Burah Svart remained as dayan.

The rising prices, the monetary crisis, and other economic hardships caused serious concern among the local people. The new law regarding the organization of cults stipulated the establishment of a community leadership. The new project, made up of 32 articles, was voted on by the general assembly on May 3, 1925 and published in a booklet (see Appendix R). The committee had 16 members. The community's moral and legal status became official on Oct 12, 1925.

The year 1926 was marked by political unrest and anti-Semitism. The united opposition won the communal elections with 603 votes in April 1926, but the newly elected communal counsel was dissolved. Rota, the principal of the public primary school, chaired the ad-interim commission, although he was accused of opportunism for joining in turn the liberal party, Cuza's party, and now Averescu's. The monument dedicated to the 1916-1918 war, which was built over several years from public donations, was inaugurated in September 1926.

The chronicle for 1927 opened with the community banquet organized by I. Rotental, an old Hebrew institutor. In February, the Zionist organization elected a new committee. The craftsmen protested against the increase in taxes that was imposed by the corporation.

The cultural society Iavne was renamed Achad Ha'am, while the Shalom Aleichem society celebrated two years of existence. In March, the Ceres mill was destroyed by a fire; the losses amounted to 8 million lei. The Jewish school obtained good results on the exam at the end of the school year. In September, The United Society presented the play Manasse by Ronetti-Roman.

The year 1928 was marked by economic difficulties. A banquet was organized to raise funds for the kindergarden that had begun functioning in October of the previous year. On Purim, the children presented a play in Yiddish that was prepared by their teacher Haia Derbandiner. A. A. Policman was the community leader and Rubin Epstein was the school principal. The community was confronted with the financial demands of the landowner Lucia Cantacuzino-Pascanu who owned the land on which the new school was built. The committee resigned on May 30.

The ad-interim commission, made up of six people, was not able to finish the restoration of the public bath because of a lack of money in the impoverished population.[A-86] Heroes' day was celebrated at the Great Synagogue.

A large amount of money (800,000 lei) was discovered missing from the town hall. On August 2, 1928, a storm followed by heavy rain caused great damage to the town. In December, an ad-interim commission was established at the town hall with Moise Solomon as vice president. Insufficient drinking water became a problem. The traditional annual banquet organized by the community was held on February 7 and R. Epstein gave a speech. In 1929, the banquet was held in November.

The years 1929 and 1930 were marked by escalating crisis and anti-Semitism. It is true though that Maccabi and the charity society continued their activities. The ad-interim commission of the commune could not be legally established, since three of its members were not present at the oath-taking ceremony. These members were later accused of being against King Carol.

This was the community budget for 1930:

REVENUES: Tax on kosher meat 528,456 lei; subventions 78,909 lei; school taxes 46,740 lei; public bath 13,800 lei; other revenues 27,444 lei; and burials 12,890 lei.

EXPENSES: Overall expenses 141,892 lei; salaries 505,120 lei; 1929 deficit 137,318 lei; and 1930 deficit 77,091 lei. The total sum was quite impressive for a modest community, but the deficits represented a serious warning of the economic situation of the Jews living in the small town.[A-87]

Economic crisis and political unrest also marked the following year, 1931. In May, the communal counsel was dissolved and Pavel Botez and the former gendarmes' lieutenant Doroftei chaired the ad-interim commission. Here is an example of a political event that occurred that year: The eight sergeants in town, who were members of the Peasants' party, were replaced with members of the ruling party. In July, the bakers in town, who were waiting for an increase in the price of bread, went on strike causing a shortage of bread. A trial began against the cashiers who embezzled 800,000 lei that belonged to the town hall; so did a trial against the former mayor Tudorache, who probably was the chief of the “sergeants of the town” before the war.

On October 11, 1931, the three-year term of the community's committee came to an end. An ad-interim commission prepared the elections. The only list included M.H. Schor, Litman Vigder, Z. Anciu, Solomon Marcovici, Dr. S. Iancu, Herman Barat, Aron Aronovici, Iosef Blumenfeld, and Sender Cojocaru. A small Hebrew play was presented at the Hanukkah celebration. The teachers Etla Marcovici, Eti Credinciosu, and Fani Buium were honored.

The years 1932 and 1933 were dominated by the country's economic and political crisis. Yet even under these harsh conditions, solidarity among the people remained strong. A list of the donations for the Jewish hospital in Iasi included 30 Jews from Podu Iloaiei, who annually donated sums up to 300 lei.[A-88] In the same year, 65,080 lei of equipment belonging to the Jewish-Romanian primary school in town was deposited in the safe at the Iasi hospital.

The creation of the Romanian-Jewish party by Dr. Th. Pischer did not have much of an impact. On the other hand, the local Jews, as well as the rest of their coreligionists, reacted promptly to the news of the racist measures adopted against the Jews in Hitler's Germany. On April 27, 1933, a meeting was held at the Great Synagogue to protest Hitler's excessive measures. It was, in fact, an anti-fascist meeting.

But let us not anticipate, and instead follow the events of 1932 in their chronological order. On February 25, Maccabi celebrated 10 years of existence, and the short play Der Geht by Shalom Aleichem was performed. On March 26, a local group of pilgrims left for Eretz Yisrael. At the farewell party, the play The Way to The Inner Self, written by a local militant A. A. Policman, was performed in Yiddish.

The local police proved to be ineffective; four smoke shops were robbed in three weeks.

The community's committee had resigned in December 1931, but it was not until May 24, 1932 that an electoral bureau was formed to monitor the elections on June 5. The only list to be voted on had Dr. S. Iancu in the first position.

Changes were also taking place at the town hall. An ad-interim commission chaired by Tudose was appointed. With the elections coming, Goga's followers won the support of the lawyer G. Fisler, while the Peasants' party requested and obtained the support of the Jewish population. After their victory in the elections, they donated 200,000 lei to help the town's victims. In August there were debated issues such as the installment of electricity in the town and the building of a dyke in the Bahlui River to prevent floods and damage. In December, Maccabi performed The Jackpot by Shalom Aleichem in Yiddish, of course.

The assassination of I. G. Duca was considered to be a bad sign by the local Jews. The democratic parties were asking for the Jewish votes. Avram Orenstein was nominated for the position of mayor's assistant. In January 1934, the town was damaged by a terrible snowstorm, but it did not suffer any consequences from the earthquake in March 1934. In the communal elections, the government obtained seven counselor seats, while the national-peasants' opposition obtained only three.

The society of the Jewish craftsmen elected a new committee on May 16, 1934. Due to rising difficulties, the community's committee resigned in October 1934; some of its members were accused of embezzlement. Also in October, the issue of installing electricity was discussed again. The poor economic situation led Mayor Dr. Popescu to request and to obtain a cancellation of the tax on the household's value that had been established by the Peasants' Party.

The crisis and the ever-rising prices were still an issue in 1935. However, thanks to several millers from Iasi, however, the price of bread was reduced by 1 leu per kilo and as such Podu Iloaiei is exemplified by the press media. With respect to cultural activities, nothing of particular interest occurred in 1935.

The chronicle for 1935 mentioned a robbery attempt at the Ceres mill that was owned by two Jews. The bakers raised the price of bread, but Lupu Buchman, the mayor's assistant, negotiated with them and a compromise was reached. In February, the 25th anniversary of the Jewish school was celebrated. The committee included Moise Iancu Sor, president; Michel Sor, president of the school's committee; and Solomon Elias, the elder of the town. In April, one year later, Dr. Tenenbaum's death was commemorated, since everyone in town loved him, regardless of their religion. The town hall named a street after this popular physician. In July 1935, the grain market opened, causing serious problems for the small tradesmen in the grain business. A second pharmacy also opened.

On September 27, 1935, Moise Buchman died at the age of 73. He had been one of the community's leaders, and his sons, Ghetel the engineer and Lupu Buchman, played an important role in the community's life. Lupu Buchman was still alive in 1981.

In March 1937, the town hall reduced the tax paid by the bar tenants, thus reducing by 80,000 leithe State schools' income, which were subsidized from this fund. In fact, the entire communal budget was insufficient.

Dictatorial behavior could also be found among the Jews. The mayor's assistant appointed the community's leaders without calling elections, a decision that displeased a segment of the Jewish population. A new shochet was brought in without the committee's approval. The shochet was arrested on September 10. At the shochet's request, some Jews came to give him a “minyn” in his prison cell. He was released and then arrested again.

The year 1938 began with the sinister and tragic farce of the Goga-Cuza government that deeply affected the life of the town. How could the Jews not to be affected by the revision of their citizenship that conditioned their presence in economic life and by the various offensive measures that had been taken? This episode was a warning sign to the Jews, a prelude to the racist laws that were to come.

It is true, that by April 1938, the mayor P. Rusovici had accomplished a series of improvements: paving the main road; increasing threefold the revenues from the fairs; ensuring that the town was clean; and hiring eight street sergeants instead of the two “guards.” The reopening of the grain market, controlled by I. Daderlat who forbade any deal of more than 100 kilos of grain, still threatened the existence of the small grain tradesmen. In only a few months, more than 4,300,000 kilos of grain were sold in this market.

In the spring of 1938 (13 Nisan 5698), Volf Fisler died. He was an erudite, enlightened bartender with a sarcastic personality, a specialist in Hebrew, and a former friend of the well-known Velvl Zbarjer. He had been a constant presence in the community's life eversince 1897. His sons proved to be just as active; they were interested in culture, as well as serving in the bar.

The community life continued. On December 3, 1938, the new leaders of the community took an oath in the presence of the rabbi Burah Svart, who was actually a dayan. The new leaders were Simon Lupu, B. Mayer, S. Friedman, Haim Spiegler, Iekel Blumenfeld, M. H. Goldenberg, Leizer User, M. Eintraub, Bercu Ioina, A. Aronovici, Ghedele Rabinovici, A. Mendelovici, and David H. Nusen.

In 1940, the process of forced integration into Romanian society began, along with the reexamination of the rights to Romanian citizenship (which had serious economic consequences for those who were denied citizenship), the drafting of Jewish reservists to serve in work battalions, and the restrictions imposed on cultural freedom. All of these caused tension and concern among the townspeople. The community carried on its activities despite the most difficult circumstances.

In 1940 and 1941, the situation of the Jews became noticeably worse. Yet the traditions were generally maintained in Podu Iloaiei: The shops were closed on Saturdays and the ritual laws were fulfilled according to the circumstances.

After Romania joined the war in 1941, the situation became even worse. The Jews were forced to do “community work” in conditions that are well known. Many families with missing men lived in poor conditions. The pogrom that took place in Iasi in June 1941 had a terrible ending in Podu Iloaiei.

The “death train” stopped at the station. More than 1,200 bodies were taken out of the wagons and buried in a common grave in the Jewish cemetery. After the war, the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania erected a monument at the martyrs' common tomb with an inscription in both Yiddish and Romanian: “Here are buried the victims of the savage massacres against the Jewish population.”

The 800 survivors were led off the train. They were first hosted in the synagogues and then in the houses of the local Jews who took care of them the best that they could, thus showing a brotherly solidarity.[A-89]

Actually, the Jewish population in Podu Iloaiei knew that they could be evacuated from the town. This was to happen in 1941, but a postponement was obtained.

The late Moise Sor told me about an interesting event: When the order arrived to evacuate all the local Jews to Iasi, the communal council held a special meeting. The mayor was Dr. Ionescu, who was the physician at the local hospital and a good-hearted man. Both he and the chief of the police, as well as the teacher D. Dumitriu from Erbiceni, objected to the evacuation of the Jews, which would economically ruin the commune. The mayor interceded in the Jews' favor at the prefecture, but the prefect Adam, a member of Cuza's party, ordered the evacuation to be completed within 48 hours. A two-week postponement of the order was obtained with many sacrifices, and so the Jews were able to sell their belongings under less pressing conditions.

S. Cristian related on April 14, 1942: “This Saturday almost a thousand Jews from Podu Iloaiei arrived in Iasi, leaving behind their belongings and their shops, which had been temporarily closed. The evacuated Jews were left in the yard of the community building with no roof over their heads. Another 400 Jews were waiting to be evacuated from Podu Iloaiei. The evacuation order had been suspended last fall because of a lack of houses and the high cost of living. A landslide had just occurred in Ticau, and the Christian population there also had to be evacuated. The Jewish community in Iasi did not have the means to help the Jews in Podu Iloaiei. Dr. Gingold made no attempt to stop the evacuation.”[A-90]

According to other sources, the community of Podu Iloaiei maintained a certain amount of autonomy in Iasi, having Lebel Ionas as its president. All that was necessary for living in this city had been purchased, and the community was still active.

After August 23, 1944, some of the local Jews, whose houses had not been affected by the fight that had taken place here, and some small grain tradesmen returned to the town, but they could never go back to living the same community life they had before.. There was even a shochet, Iosef Rosental, who had been a teacher of Hebrew at the community's school for many decades. The Census Statistics for 1947 estimated that the Jewish population of Podu Iloaiei was 300.

However, these individuals also moved soon to other cities and countries, such that in 1965, only a few old men were still living in the town. One of them, the smith Avram, used to go every Saturday to say the prayers all alone in the synagogue, which had been destroyed by bombs during the war. The community in Iasi sent a shochet each week to slaughter a bird for him. Soon these elders died, the last Mohicans of a community that had existed for 150 years.

Epilogue: I started to gather material for this monograph in May 1946. I came back to the town to find it seriously damaged by the war. The few Jews that remained did not realize that they were the last representatives of a many centuries old way of living in Eastern Europe—a world that was soon to end—and that new economic, political, and social life forms were being established in these realms. The borough, “dus shtetl,” was passing from the harsh light of reality to an aura of legends and poetry. However, the borough left deep marks not only in people's souls, but also in the historical development of all Jews and the countries they lived in.

I have tried to depict here the history of a Jewish community in Moldova as seen through the eyes of a son of the community. I have tried to be objective and to exclude passion and bias from my writing. I have tried to present the events and the way of living, thinking, and feeling as a fragment of Eastern European Judaism in the context of the Romanian society.

This monograph remains, however, a Kaddish, a requiem for a disappeared way of life that has not been spared history's hardships. We have only love and understanding for the values that were created by the shtetl; this means a lot more than nostalgia and idealization.


  1. [Ed-Com] The Eteria movement fought for the independence of Greece. return
  2. [Ed-Com] A measure is 10 liters. return
  3. [Ed-Com] A length measure is between 1.96 and 2.23 meters. return
  4. [Ed-Com] ??? The word “hahami” is used here for ritual slaughter. It's from the Hebrew word “chachma”. The “shochet”, Hebrew for ritual slaughterer, is usually a rabbi or one who is well versed in the laws of ritual slaughter. return
  5. [Ed-Com] Measure refers to a falca which equals 14,322 square miles. return
  6. [Ed-Com] Herscu a Mendeloaie = Herscu son of Mendel's sister. return
  7. [Ed-Com] 1759, opis 2008, file 30, f. 30, 35 return
  8. [Ed-Com] 5622 on the Jewish calendar which starts from Creation. return
  9. [Ed-Com] Hasidic court is the Hasidic rabbi, his synagogue and his followers. return
  10. [Ed-Com] Confessional asylums: probably religious institutions such as schools, charities, hospitals, etc. return
  11. [Ed-Com] Maramures: the Western region of the country. return

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