47°45' / 26°40'
Translation from Pinkas Hakehillot Romania
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1969
Robert S. Sherins, M.D.
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 1, pages 29 - 38, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1969
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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(pages 29 - 38)
English translation researched and edited by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.
Translated by Ziva Yavin, Ph.D.
Donation of the translation was made by
Robert S. Sherins, M.D., Richard J. Sherins, M.D., and Beryle Solomon Buchman
Botosani: A district town in the northern Moldavia region, on a side rail of the train connecting between Bucharest and Cernuati (Chernovitz), a short distance from the Bukovina border, about 30 km east of Suceava and 120 km east of Prut the border town with Bessarabia. Formerly an important center of trade with Poland and from the 15th century and on a center of trade with grain and cattle in Moldova and also of trade with Bessarabia.
|Year||Number||% of Jews in General Population|
From a document signed by Prince Yon Nicolai Mavrocordat in 1745, it was understood that the Jews were considered as the town's citizens, a status that Jews did not gain in any other European country, so they were equal in privileges and in obligations to all the town's residents and even took part in the town's management. The privileges were also approved in a document signed by Prince Matei Ghica in March 12, 1754.
During the Turkish-Russian war (1768-1774), the Jewish settlement in Botosani suffered from the Ottoman military and the Rabbi was murdered.
In a document from 1769 it was mentioned that resident-merchants were active there, trading with honey, bulls for slaughter and sale, etc. Towards the end of the 18th century, big weekly fares for cattle trade took place in Botosani.
In spite of their strong status, clashes did occur every now and then with the local population. In 1783, a blood libel was cast on them; in 1817 they were in a conflict about enlarging the cemetery; Prince Calimachi ordered to conduct an inquiry and announced (in May 12, 1817) that the cemetery existed already 200 years so that the guild of the Jews is allowed to bury its dead there. He also denied the Christian resident's request not to allow Jews to draw water from the well, arguing that the Jews were until now equal to all the other residents.
During the days of the Greek riot (1821), Botosani Jews were spared from the calamity that came on Jews in all the other places. They fought with the Romanian army and succeeded to drive the rebels away.
However, most of Botosani Jews were not merchants because of the abundance of Armenian ones, who were active there alongside Greek and Turkish merchants. As a result, Jews were mostly professional workers, and in several professions there were only Jews working. From the 1832 census, it was learned that 40% of the professionals in the town were Jews. Only Jews were hatters, makers of sacks for donkeys or water carriers. According to that census, there were in Botosani 98 Jewish tailors in contrast to 32 Romanians and 3 Armenians; 29 Jewish shoemakers in contrast to 10 Romanians; 22 Jewish butchers in contrast to 10 Romanians; and 15 Jewish goldsmiths in contrast to 2 Romanians. In 1900, the number of Jewish professional workers in Botosani reached 90%. Among the Botosani Jews were also those with liberal professions, mostly physicians and lawyers. However, there were also many poor Jews, who inhabited the poor quarter.
In that period Jews were not allowed to join the official trade unions supervised by the bishop; Christians were not allowed to employ Jewish apprentices, so that Jews had their own unions: carpenters, tailors, shoemakers, metalworkers, and blacksmiths, who were organized in a union named Zvat, its offices located in a special building. In 1832, there were in Botosani 63 trade unions, among them 14 Jewish ones. The Christian unions wanted to keep the privilege of having exclusivity in some of the professions, according to privileges they got from the church, but they were not always successful. For example, in 1852, the guild of the Christian furriers protested to the Moldavian Prince, Gregorio Alexandru Ghica, that Jewish furriers arrived in Botosani. The Christian furriers asked him to prevent the Jews from working as furriers, but he denied their demand.
In 1827, a group of people, who opposed the existing municipality became organized. In addition to the boyars and the priests in the group, there were also several Jews. They submitted a plan to the prince with the demand to include in the town's management representatives of the boyars and also of the merchants according to their nationality: Romanians, Greeks, Armenians and Jews. In 1828, the prince approved the plan and a council was established with 2 representatives of the Jewish merchants.
In 1832, all the rights were cancelled by the Russian Organic Articles of Organization. After that, only Christians could become council members. However, in official ceremonies, like receptions, representatives of Jewish nationality took part, holding Torah books and a canopy over their heads.
The Jewish merchants were organized in the commercial club (founded in 1893).
In the beginning of the 20th century, when official trade unions became organized as corporations, the Jewish professional workers were accepted as members, but were not allowed to vote, so the managements included only Christians.
In 1908, a cooperative Jewish bank was founded in Botosani with 231 members. In 1911, a saving and loan bank was founded with 87 members. There was also a Hebrew printing house of Azriel Grinberg, which was known all over Romania for its prayer books and calendars.
Besides their professional activities, the Jews took part in all the town's affairs and influenced every aspect of its public life.
According to the congregation's notebook from 1777, there were one Rabbi, one cantor, 2 slaughterers and one beadle.
At the same time, the congregation operated as a Jewish guild. After the liquidation of the guild, several attempts were made to reorganize, but failed because of quarrels among the Rabbis (see below). In 1893, the congregation received an article of organization, but after a short time it dissolved again. Between the years 1909 until the end of WWI, there was no congregation in Botosani.
In 1833, the women's society of Aid to Women in Labor was established. After WWI, when a maternity ward opened in the Jewish hospital, the society went on aiding the ward, under the supervision of the congregation.
In 1892, a society for helping school children was established under the name Izvorul Viejia (The Fountain of Life), giving aid to 200-220 needy boys each year. Other aid institutions active in Botosani were: an old people's home (founded in 1908 by the Lumina Vietii The Light of Life organization, and renovated in 1935); a restaurant for the boys and girls of the two schools; a restaurant of the professional workers society Zvat; and a soup kitchen for the poor.
The traditional education was also very developed. In 1889, there were in Botosani 32 Heders with 2,000 pupils. Before the outbreak of WWI there were also a nursery and a professional school for girls. Talmud Torah was founded in 1908. In 1910, 500 boys and girls studied there. In the same year, 511 studied at the school for boys and 464 in the school for girls. At the beginning, the Talmud Torah did not have a building of its own and the children studied in the synagogue until a building was built for it in 1917.
Two outstanding educators were active in Botosani, the brothers Zvi Elazar Teler and Israel Teler, both Galician, who were famous for their activities and writings. In 1912, the Journal of the Romanian Teachers Association was published and edited by Scarlat Albrecht.
The well-known Botosani Rabbis were: Rabbi Marco Ben Simon, assigned by prince Alexander Jon Mavrocordat in 1783 as the representative of the scholar Bashi, in order to collect the income and to rule and judge according to Jewish law; Rabbi Haim Tiere (born in 1760), son of the famous Rabbi Shlomo from Chernovitz, author of books and known in the Hassidic circles as a genius, pious and miracle-maker man. He immigrated to Israel and passed away in Safad (1813). His home and religious school still exists in Botosani. Other famous Rabbis were: Rabbi Moshe Alter Barb, born in Botosani, passed away in Bakau in 1873, head of a Yeshiva and son-in-law of the well-known Zadik (pious), Rabbi Shalom Friedman, from Rozin. Author of books; Rabbi Shalom Taubes (born in 1825, passed away in 1885); author of books, his son, Rabbi Haim Taubes, who was also an author; Rabbi Yehuda Leibush Frenkel (born in 1886) in Bucecea, was a Rabbi in Botosani since 1907 and founded the Talmud Torah. He was a descendant of the Baal Shem Tov and the Zadik of Berdichev, (passed away in Botosani in 1917); Rabbi Chanoch Zilberfarb, born in Lita in 1890 and settled in Botosani in 1816; and his father-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Moscovici, who headed a Hassidic court. After Rabbi Moscovici passed away, Rabbi Zilberfarb became head of the Hassidic court, between 1929-1944. He immigrated to Israel in 1947.
Botosani's congregation experienced a bitter rift among its Rabbis. The controversy started in 1889 when a separate Rabbi was chosen for the new town. The conflict peaked at the period of Rabbi M. Mairson's term. He was a great scholar and a gifted cantor, and the public liked him. The conflicts worsened and continued even after he moved to Vienna. Rabbi Leibush Mendel Landau took his place. Rabbi Landau was a learned man and an active Zionist. In 1895, he founded in Botosani a Zionist society (Hertzel mentioned in his memoirs). Rabbi Schmelner presided in the new town. He was a popular orator and was liked by the crowd from the poor quarter. The rift continued until 1921, when one head Rabbi was chosen for the two parts of the town Rabbi Dov Burstein. By the end of the 19th century, Rabbi Elazar Cohen Schechter arrived, who was an author of books.
Another person, who influenced the congregation's life, was the intellectual Hilel Kahana. Born in Stanislav in 1821 and arrived at Botosani in 1860. He became in 1864 the headmaster of the school for boys. He founded a branch of Kol Israel Haverim (All Israel Friends) and a bureau of Bnei Brit, which was reorganized in 1908 and named Hilel. He published articles in Hebrew and a geography book Glilot Haaretz (The parts of the Aretz), which was printed in Bucharest in 1880 and again in Botosani in 1901. He passed away in 1901.
Among the known personalities from Botosani were H. Sanielevici, a literary critic (born in Botosani in 1875); the poet Adrian Verea (1876); and the poet Enric Furtuna (1881). A young man, Zvi Yoseph Leibovici, who died in 1885 at the age of 22, published in Botosani his play, An Idyll On The Life in Erez Israel.
Persecution of the Jews in Botosani continued. In 1887, when a fire broke out in the Jewish neighborhood and 800 houses were ruined, including the big synagogue, 5 religious schools and the Talmud Tora, the fire fighters refused to help the Jews in putting out the fire.
In 1890, a Congress of the Christian Students took place in Botosani, and the students attacked the Jews.
In 1896, a translation of The Jewish State appeared in Botosani. The translator, a student by the name of M. Spiner, was arrested by the police and released only after a lot of effort.
In 1900, several groups of immigrants left Botosani by foot (fusgeyers). They published newspapers in Romanian, Pedestrii and Infrajirea.
In the days of the farmer's riot in 1907, the Jews suffered huge losses. The riot started in Botosani district, where Jews leased many manors. On March 4th and 5th 1907, 1500 farmers from the vicinity attacked the town. From the inns, where they became drunk, they came out to loot the Jewish stores and homes. The Christians houses were marked with white crosses on the walls and windows. The rioters ruined everything in their path and put the looted things onto carts. Twenty synagogues and 2 schools were also looted. The main street with the stores of the Jewish traders looked afterwards like after bombing, as one witness said. The stores stayed closed for a long time and the Jews did not dare to go out of their homes. In that riot 2 Jews were killed and many children were wounded. As well, 1,614 Jewish families were hurt.
It has to be said that some Jews opposed the rioters and on some of the streets they fought with the looters, who were helped by Romanian soldiers. The head of the district did not allow the soldiers to protect the Jewish quarter on the pretext that he could not allow Christians to risk their lives while protecting the Jews.
After the outbreak of WWI, several refugees from Bukovina arrived in Botosani. On January 12, 1915, the police deported the refugees. During that time all of the cultural activities continued.
The Zionist movement was very active in Botosani. Already in 1882, the Hebrew monthly Haor (The Light) was published there, which was dedicated to the idea of the national revival in Erez Israel. The editors were Zvi Elazar Teler and D. Zilberbusch. A reporter named Avraham Feler was a delegate from Botosani to the second Zionist Congress in Vienna (1913).
Botosani Jews took an active part in the public life of their town. In 1921, there were 4 Jewish members among the 15 council members. In 1922, the municipality allocated 95,000 lei for the congregation's schools. In 1930, a Jew was elected as vice-mayor and another Jewish member from the liberal party served on the town's council.
In 1931, the Jewish party got 883 votes out of 1,900 of the Jewish voters. After the elections, the authorities persecuted Jewish traders on different pretexts, but the real reason was revenge for their voting for the Jewish party. In spite of that, Jewish voters continued to vote for the Jewish party. In 1938, that party received 929 votes. The Zionist Party placed three times in the elections to the Parliament and received 90% of the Jewish votes in the district.
In a census from 1937, it was evident that among Botosani Jews there were 758 professional workers, 625 traders, 522 small traders, 33 industrialists, 52 owners of small plants, 33 owners of farms, 116 with liberal professions, 157 clerks and temporary workers and 197 laborers and porters.
In 1930, the congregation founded a clinic headed by Dr. Tauber, who was also the chairman of the congregation. In 1937 a special building was built for the clinic, which in the first seven years of its existence gave medical treatment to 95,599 people. The district's head allocated 50,000 lei a year for the clinic. A ward for surgery and childbirth was established in the hospital. In 1929, a building was built for an old people's home with places for 60 men and women.
At the same time, a cooperative small-loans bank was opened by Joint, a bank which served an important role in the town's social and economic life. It had a special department for charity. Also, there was a charitable society for girls, Frajia (fraternity), which was founded in 1930.
In 1932, the congregation was announced as a formal one, according to the new congregation's law.
Before the breakout of WWII, the congregation had, besides the hospital and the old people's home, two schools, two synagogues and about 70 religious study centers.
A reading circle that started before WWI held a public library with 15,000 books and a special department for Yiddish literature. The library had its own building and was managed by the high school students, who were not allowed to use the Romanian high school's library. The reading circle also organized lectures about Jewish subjects. In 1935, the circle fell into the hands of the communists, who used it for political purposes. The circle disintegrated in 1937, which resulted from the pressure of the persecutions, and the books were divided between the high school library and the municipal library.
The Zionist Movement was very active during that period of time. There were several youth movements: The Zionist Youth and Bnei Akiva. Near the town there was also a place for training of the new immigrants to Israel. Some of them worked in manors owned by Jews.
In 1922, the Yiddish theatre of Kanapof came to visit, but the show was interrupted by anti-Semitic hooligans and the performance had to be cancelled. Eight of hooligans were arrested, but immediately freed.
In 1926, one of the farmers murdered a Jew with his shears. The head of the anti-Semitic party came to Botosani to serve as the defending counsel in the trial. He argued that the murder was a nationalistic act and called all the Romanians to see it as a model. The farmer was acquitted. In the same year, an anti-Semitic newspaper appeared in Botosani by the name, Chemaria (the calling). Its Slogan was written under the main headline: Do Not Buy From The Kikes. Hate Them. They Are A Disaster To The Nation. The newspaper spread the libel that the Jewish bakers put poison into the bread that they sell to the Christians.
In 1932, the police denied the Jews from speaking Yiddish on the streets of the town.
Restrictions and bans were enacted in Botosani as in other Romanian towns. The Jewish physicians only, especially the dentists there were no Christian dentists went on taking care of the Christians in spite the official ban. The town's residents and even the farmers from the vicinity did not forgo their medical care and the Jewish doctors had to examine and treat the sick late at night, accompanied by a policeman.
In November-December 1940, the legionnaires robbed Jewish property. One day all the fabric in the Jewish textile stores was robbed. When the nationalization rules were passed (October 5th and November 17, 1940), the legionnaires seized the moment to confiscate Jewish property that was not included in the rules.
Also, the obligation to give away clothing burdened the Jews. There were thousands of poor in the town, who could not fulfill it, and the congregation had to buy clothes for more than 1,000 people and give it to the authorities. Still, many, who were unable to give clothing, were arrested and sentenced. Only after the Jewish Center passed to the authorities a sum of a hundred million lei, they were acquitted, together with 44,000 other criminals in the country.
Forced Labor started, according to the law in December 1940, but Botosani's Jews, from age 15 to 70, had to do perform the labor in the town and its surroundings before 1940. They worked on the roads, the railways and the dams of Iasi, Falciu and Braila districts. In 1940-1943, the Jewish high school students were forced to sweep the snow and ice from the streets, under the supervision of their teachers.
Those, who worked in Edineti and Atachi in Bessarabia, suffered more. They performed all kinds of hard work for the army and built a bridge over the Dniester River. Some of them were seized in 1944 by the advancing Russian armies and placed in captivity. They returned home only after many years of being prisoners of war. The tanners among the Jews were handed by the authorities to the German army and brought to Transnistria, to Moghilev, where they worked for the soldiers on the front.
From a report to the Jewish Center, it turned out that about 8,000 of Botosani's Jews worked in forced labor. There were 4,000 of them outside of Botosani: 1,500 in Bessarabia, 120 in Husi, 90 in Macin, 40 in Chernovitz, 30 in Tiraspol, 20 in Baltji, 30 in Iasi and 2,000 were scattered around the region.
On July 3, 1941, the interior ministry cancelled the regulation that required wearing the yellow mark, but the military headquarters ordered, on August 14th of the same year that Jews of all gender and age must wear on the left side of the chest a star with six angles made of yellow fabric with a diameter of 7 cm on a black background.
On September 8, 1942, 42 Jews were deported to Transnistria as Communist suspects. Some of the deported were sent following a selection in Tiraspol to Vapniarca, a special quarantined camp in Transnistria, the rest were sent to Mostovoi ghetto in the Berezovea district, where they were shot on Yom Kipur (Day of Atonement), on September 22, 1941, by the SS and by the Romanian gendarms. In the second half of September, another 18 young Jewish men were deported to Mostovoi. In October 1942, the lawyer, B. Rorlich, was accused of inciting the population to immigrate to Erez Israel. The number of those deported to Transnistria reached 148.
With the breakout of the Romanian-Russian war, a new calamity fell upon the Jews of northern Moldavia, who were deported from the villages to the big cities. All the Jews from Sulija, Bocecie, Frumusica, Ripicen, Heci-Lespezi, Targu-Frumos, Liorda, Paalticeni and Pascani were deported to Botosani, with them the Hassidic Rabbi from Pascani and his hassidim. From a report to the Jewish Center it was learned that in November 1941, there were 1,091 Jews from Sulija, 1,547 from Stefaejti, 697 from Bocecei, 568 from Frumisica, 130 from Ripicen, and 206 from Mihaileni. The refugees numbered 11,000 and all of them were a burden on the Botosani's Jews, who were already depleted. Most of the men, the breadwinners, were already working as forced laborers. The deported, who were allowed to take very little with them, were robbed by the army and by local Romanians. Botosani's Jews treated them as brothers. Each Jewish home, all the synagogues and the schools were opened to them and the soup kitchens operated all the time. The congregation organized a help committee with delegates of the deported. The Zionist leaders were especially active. Hundreds and thousands needed free food from the soup kitchen, beside those who could afford to eat at some kind of an inexpensive restaurant.
The number of the needy increased steadily. In 1940 the congregation aided 2,450 people, in 1941 6,246, and in 1942 7,228.
The representatives of the deported congregations, especially the Rabbis and the slaughterers, remained at their posts. A rabbinical court was established with all those Rabbis headed by Rabbi Burstein from Botosani.
|Year||The Congregation's Elementary schools||The High School||The Commercial High School||Talmud Torah|
The growth in the number of pupils was a consequence of the entrance of children of the refugees to the schools and not only because Botosani's children were expelled from the public schools. The school's classes operated in 15 prayer houses.
Due to the dedication of the teachers and the pupils those schools became the center of the Jewish national life. Besides studying religion and the Hebrew language, they also learned the Israeli history. The pupils volunteered in all the aid activities.
In the spring of 1944, 186 of Transnistria's orphaned children were brought to Botosani. Some were scattered in homes and most were put in a school building at Dochia street, under the supervision of a man from the youth movement. Some of the youth movements did not stop their activities in the years of the holocaust (according to a report sent to Richard Lichtheim in Geneva, those youth movements operated in the synagogues). Also, a circle of Hebrew was active, though with interruptions. The youths readied themselves for self-protection and received arms (used later by the civilian guards in the days of the retreat of the Romanian and German armies from the Russians).
On March 7, 1944, with the approach of the Russian army, Botosani was evacuated completely of all the civilian and military institutions and also of most of the Romanian population. Only a few units of the German army and one Romanian unit were left, that one comprised of prisoners, who were sent to the war front to serve out their punishment, among them many legionnaires. The German soldiers began to catch Jews on the streets and sent them to dig anti-tank ditches. Some of those Jews lost their lives. The head of the congregation tried to plead with the Germans and suggested that the Jews themselves would supply every day a certain number of men and, indeed, with that arrangement the number of dead decreased.
After some time, the armed units retreated from the town. Army deserters, gangs, and mobs began to rob the town. As a result, the congregation took over all the functions of the municipality, the prefecture (mayor's office), and the administration that were deserted by the government. A civil guard was on the watch day and night. The congregation helped the sick in the public hospital and in the public old people's home and took upon itself the responsibility for those two institutions. Also, the congregation took over the task of registering all the births and the deaths of the whole population. Lost German soldiers from the famous division Adolph Hitler came to the Jews and pleaded for a slice of bread.
The Russian army entered Botosani on April 4, 1944, and the town surrendered officially by the head of the local office of the Jewish Center. That same night, a delegation of the congregation came to the Russians; in the absence of Romanian personalities, the Jews were appointed to all the public roles and the commander of the Russian army told the Jews not to turn the town to a Jewish republic.
After the War many of the deported Jews settled in Botosani, as well as refugees from Transnistria and those from regions that later became part of the Soviet Union (especially northern Bukovina and Bessarabia). After several years most of them immigrated to Israel.
- Interior the synagogue Simches Shul
- The religious studies school Derech Politza
- Frankl's Schul synagogue
- Yiddishe Schul synagogue
- Dov Yaske's Schul synagoguePage 34: Rabbi Landau
- Michoele's Etkes Schul synagogue
- Hoiche Schul synagogue
Page 35: Tehilim (Book of Psalms) readers and mourners waiting at the entrance to the cemetery. (the collection of Haim Rabinson)
Page 36: A letter from the local branch of the Jewish Center to the Jewish Center in Bucharest about the 30 Jews, who were arrested for not paying the special taxes.
Page 37: A decree from the regional military command in August 1941, which ordered the Jews to wear the yellow mark.
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