“Iasi” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 1

47°10' / 27°36'

Translation from Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1969


Project Coordinator

Robert S. Sherins, M.D.

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to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania,
Volume 1, pages 141-176, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1969

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(Pages 141-176)

Iasi, Romania

By Theodore Lavi, Ph.D., Coordinator of Pinkas ha-Kehilot in Yad Vashem/Transnistria, Hargat

English translation researched and edited by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.

Translated by Ziva Yavin, Ph.D. and Rabbi Jack H Bloom, Ph.D.

Translation donated by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.,
Richard J. Sherins, M.D., and Beryle Solomon Buchman

N.B. Kehillah will be used where reference is to the organized Jewish kehillah. Kehillah is the name given to Jewish communal organizations in Eastern Europe. The role and authority of the Kehillah varied greatly, depending on location and historical period. At times a Kehillah would have quasi-governmental authority over both the Jewish kehillah and its relationship with the Gentile community.



In Jewish sources: Yash or Yassy. (Aramaic: In the place Yas, which sits on the Blahui River and the Caicianu River and on springs.) A county city in the Moldavia region, on the bank of the Bahlui River and close to the Prut River. A railway intersection connecting Chisinau, Cernauti, Galati, and Bucharest. From 1565, the capital of the Moldavian Princedom. During World War I, served as a provisional capital of Romania. An important cultural center.

Jewish Population

Year Number % of Jews in General Population
1803   2,420 (Heads of Households)
1820   4,396 families
1831   17,570
1838   29,652
1859 31,015 47.1
1899 39,441 50.8
1910   35,000
1921   43,500
1930 35,465 34.4
1941 33,135 29.6
1942   32,369
1947   38,000


Until the End of World War I

The beginning of Jewish settlement and its development; the organization of the Kehillah; religious life; organizations and institutions; Zionist, national and socialist activity; cultural life; Iasi university- a nest of anti-Semitism.

The Beginning of Jewish Settlement and Development

According to tradition, the first Jewish settlers arrived in Iasi during the second half of the 15th century. The first person to register the history of Romanian Jewry was Iakov Psantir, who records that he found two early tombstones from the years 1467 and 1549. Contradicting the historian, Dr. M. A. HaLevi, claimed in a monograph that the oldest tombstone in the city was from 1648, but he acknowledged the fact that there were older cemeteries that were ruined with the passage of time.

When Iasi became the capital of Moldavia (1565), Jewish settlement started to develop rapidly. Strong commercial and political ties developed between Jewish merchants and bankers from Kushta and the Moldavian capital. In 1551, the Jew “Emanuel” was nominated by the Turkish sultan to be the ruler of Moldavia, however it is not clear whether he actually ruled. Several historians identify him with Aron Voda, who ruled in 1591-1595. In 1594, this ruler rebelled against the Turks, conducted a massacre against them, and killed 19 Jews from Iasi.

In the Responsa literature of Polish scholars from the end of the 16th century, the Jewish settlement in Iasi as a stopover place for Polish merchants on their way to Bessarabia and the port at Galati. Several Moldavian princes used Jewish doctors, who also served political roles. The trade in wine and hard spirits at that time was almost solely in Jewish hands. Yoseph Shlomo Rofeh Dilmadigo, who visited Iasi in 1619-1620, found a large Jewish kehillah headed by an important rabbi, the cabalist Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aroio.

In the 17th century, Iasi served as a stopover for immigrants to Eretz Yisrael from central and eastern European countries. At the time of the draconian measures of Poland in 1648-1649 [Cossack Uprising led by Hetman Bogdan Chmielnicki (RSS)], some Jews escaped from Poland to Iasi and settled there. In the Responsa literature of Polish scholars from that time, it was recorded that the Jews of Iasi redeemed Jewish captives, who were brought to slave markets by the Tatars. However, Iasi Jews also suffered at the same time from persecution and pogroms; in 1650. The Cossacks burned Iasi and massacred Jews, Turks, and Armenians. In 1652, when the Moldavian prince Vasile Lupu was forced to marry off his daughter to Chmelnitzki's son, Timus, Cossacks, who came to the wedding, killed 60 Jews; and others were only able to save themselves by paying them enormous sums of money. In 1653, Vasile Lupu was forced to give up his rule and his son-in-law, Timus, came to his aid with an army of Cossacks. They tortured the Jews, jailed them in towers, and tormented them to extract more money from them. The Christian Cardinal Macarie from Antioch, who happened to be in Iasi, saved them from an even bigger massacre.

In 1726, Jews of Onitcani from Bessarabia, which was under the rule of Moldavia, were charged with a blood libel. Prince Mihai Racovita ordered four of the accused with their families to be brought to Iasi. The main accused, a Jew, Leiba, was brought to the front of a synagogue in suburb of the city and the ruler's torturers flogged him with whips for a full day trying to force him by extensive torture to stab his son and shed his blood. Meanwhile the mob conducted a pogrom on Jewish homes, burned their books, and destroyed their synagogues. Even the anti-Semitic historian, A. D. Xenopol, testified that what the Moldavian prince did was Satanic and that his aim was not to find the truth from the Jew, but to extort money from him. The Jewish guild sent a messenger to Kushta, who returned with a decree from the sultan to free the accused and to compensate them; the prince was ousted from his position and jailed in Kushta. The new prince, Constantin Mavrocordat, who ruled Iasi on three occasions, (1733-1735, 1741-1743, and 1748-1749), issued a decree banning the looting of the Jewish population, but also banned Jews from hiring Christian maids, who were under age 30. In 1741, this prince exempted Jews, who had come from Poland, from paying taxes, with the goal of increasing Jewish settlement in the city. As opposed to him, another prince, Ion Mavrocordat, 1743-1747, used to extort large sums from the Jews and even forced them to buy a certificate to bring a ritual slaughterer to their kehillah.

In the second half of the 18th century, many Jews from Galicia and Bukovina settled in Iasi, The Jews lived in a suburb called the “kikeville”, which stretched along the eastern valley of the main hill where the city was built. Many Jews lived in the German quarter. The rich ones lived in the main street and the poor in the quarter called “Tirgul Kokoloy”. In 1799, the merchants' main street was destroyed in a fire and the Jews were forced to find other places to live. In 1782, the ruler, Alexandru Mavrocordat the First (1782-1785), expelled the Jews from the neighboring villages and they settled in Iasi.

The Jews of Iasi were exporters of wine to Poland and Wallachia. Towards the end of the 18th century, the Jews forged strong commercial ties with the city Brody and many of Brody's Jews settled in Iasi and even established their own synagogue. Trade in grain, honey, cattle, wool and cheese was entirely in the hands of Jews. At the onset of the 19th century, Jews occupied a central role in all branches of trade. In 1843, the city's center was occupied mainly by Jewish merchants (compared to only 15 Christian merchants) and people started to complain about “Jews spreading to all the streets and neighborhoods.” In the middle of the 19th century, Jews began to serve as bankers and moneychangers, professions that were beforehand in the hands of the Turks and the Greeks alone. Jews also took an important part in heavy industry.

An important stratum of Jewish society were the Jewish craftsmen who were permanent residents of Iasi, and established their own associations. The earliest records of these craft associations that we have in our hands are those of the “tailors' association” from 1794 and that of the “hatters” from 1797. However, it is common knowledge that the associations were founded a long time before that. A notebook of the tailors from 1800 was preserved and also of the shoemakers from 1809. The regulations in several of the notebooks stated that the members were obliged to marry local girls. Jews were tailors, hatters, coppersmiths, watchmakers, blacksmiths, and tanners. Each craft association had its own synagogue; the tailors and the builders had four or five synagogues. Most of the craftsmen in Iasi at that time were Jewish, except for the metal workers, who were gypsies. There was perpetual friction between the craft unions of the Jews and those of the Christians; the latter wanted to restrict the activity of the Jews and put limits on them. In 1817, prince Scarlat Calimachi intervened and ruled in favor of the Jewish craftsmen.

In 1803 in Iasi, a libelous document was published under the name “Infruntarea Jidovilor” (protest against the Jews), written by Noeh Belfer, a convert who became a monk and changed his name to Neofit Jidovul. The libelous document, was published by the Moldavian Metropolitan, Yaakov Stamate, provoked the Christians to outbreaks against the Jews, but the new Metropolitan, Binyamin Costache, defended them and many found shelter in the church yard and protection from the crowd's rage. The Metropolitan also declared that the rioters would have to go over his dead body to harm the Jews.

During the Greek rebellion, in 1821, The Jews of Iasi suffered greatly. The Greeks had started an anti-Semitic movement two years before the riot, When the rebellion broke out they adopted the slogan, “Rob and kill the Jews.” The Jewish leaders turned to the authorities requesting help, but the authorities were unable to provide any. At that time the Jews were living in the same quarter where the Turks had settled and when the Greeks assaulted the Turks and massacred them, several hundred Jews were also killed. The rebellions leader, Ipsilante, received a lot of money from the Jews for his promise not to harm them, but still did nothing for the Jews and did not punish the murderers. After the Turkish army conquered the Moldavian capital, the situation of the Jews did not improve and many of them were jailed and had to pay huge sums to free themselves.

In 1824-1825 and 1829, there were epidemics of plague and typhus in Iasi. With the pretext that the diseases are more dangerous in the quarters populated by the Jews, the Jews were evicted from the city to the surrounding hills. That night 32 children died from exposure to the cold weather. In 1831, there was an outbreak of cholera and again Jews were driven out by the Romanian authorities. Also in 1847 and 1848, plagues raged in the town and killed around 10,000 people; among them 3,000 Jews. The well-to-do Jews fled to Bukovina and other villages; the poor took shelter in tents outside the town.

During the time of prince Mihai Grigore Sturza (1834-1849), anti-Semitism and persecution resumed in Iasi. In 1835, this ruler appointed a commission to check the situation of the Jews and to deport those who were impoverished or behaved badly. According to the report of the consul of Prussia, K. A. Koch, seven eighths of Iasi Jews were ordered to leave. The heads of the Kehillah asked the banker, Michael Daniel, to intercede so that the edict would be cancelled, the quid pro quo being the cancellation of the debts the prince owed the banker. The Kehillah paid the prince's debt and he dismissed the commission and cancelled the deportation edict. In 1839, two Scottish missionaries, Andrew A. Bonar and Robert McCheyne, visited Iasi. The two were eyewitnesses to the following; a gypsy falsely accused the Jews of staging a comic imitation of an Easter parade. The agitated Christian population killed one Jew and jailed another twelve who were sentenced to be hanged. Again, two Jewish bankers saved the accused by promising to forgive the ruler's indebtedness.

In 1843, a Christian wet-nurse kidnapped a Jewish baby girl, brought her to the priest, who baptized her and placed her in a monastery. Since the parents were Prussian citizens, the Prussian consul protested this act. The government decided to punish the priest, but the baby was not returned. Another chain of anti-Jewish persecutions and decrees started. The Prussian consul protested again, but to no avail. In 1848, a censorship was placed on Jewish books, newspapers, and pamphlets. From 1853, these publications could be sold only by Jewish book dealers with the pretext that “an end has to be put to the plots of the Jewish nation.” In 1860, several Romanian citizens complained to the minister and the historian, Mihi Kogalni-Ceanu, about the fact that a certain synagogue was located too close to a church. His response is worth remembering, “Let's hope that all prayer houses will be under one roof and people will behave with each other like brothers.”

When in 1867 the prime minister, Bratianu, ordered the expulsion of the Jews from the villages, he came to Iasi to personally supervise the deportation. In his presence, searches were conducted in the streets for a number of days and Jews found without documents were arrested and without interrogation transferred to the far bank of the Danube. Manor owners in Iasi protested to prince Karol [German prince Carole Hohenzollern, became Romanian King Karl I, (RSS)] saying that those kinds of actions brought shame to the city and were a threat to individual freedom. The English and Austrian ambassadors also protested in Bucharest, and Napoleon III sent a letter concerning this matter to prince Karol. In an official response the government tried to justify the deportation as a “means of purging Iasi from all kinds of good-for nothings, no matter their religion.” Prince Karol himself came to Iasi to stop the persecution, but to no avail and the intervention of France and England did not bear fruit. Even after the Congress of Berlin (1878) where the Romanian government committed itself to “Emancipation,” government policy of persecution of Jews continued, especially in Iasi. Many of the city's Jews, including veteran physicians, were fired from their posts. In 1874, the health inspector of Iasi wrote a report on the health and propagation of the Jewish population in Iasi and prophesied that by 1925 no Christians will remain in Iasi.

During the last twenty years of the 19th century, persecution of Jews in Iasi worsened. When a Jew came to testify in a court, which was a nest of anti-Semites, the presiding judge asked that the windows be opened so that the bad odor would evaporate.

From the 10th to 15th of October 1882, a “Romanian Economics Congress” was convened in Iasi, in which members of parliament, senators, and reporters, attended. The “Congress” proposed a boycott of Jewish merchants and banning Jews from studying in commercial schools. In 1884, another economic congress was held in Iasi, which was used as a stage for anti-Semitic incitement. That same year, an “Exhibit of Industry and Trade” took place in Iasi, but Jews were not allowed to participate. The Jewish newspaper, Fraternitatea (Fraternity), responded by calling upon Jews to boycott the exhibit, and it ended with a large deficit. The anti-Semites published a pamphlet called, “Iasi Enslaved,” in which they blamed the Jews for not cooperating with the Romanians, undermining the status of the noble city, and dirtying it. Once again many Jews were expelled from the villages surrounding the Iasi area, especially those close to the city. A “Commercial Club” was active in Iasi that in fact was an anti-Semitic organization. With the authorities connivance, the club closed 60 textile shops and impaired 136 antique shops, which were in the hands of Jews. Many families were left without the means to support themselves. Jews, who were caught on the street engaging in trade, were fined large sums of money; and when they were unable to pay the fine were arrested. Thus, an economic crisis ensued in city. It was clear that the judges demanded ransom from the Jews and were especially harsh with those who could not pay. When this scandal reached the press, only the middlemen were punished. At that time several Jewish merchants committed suicide.

In 1892, many Jewish craftsmen were driven from Iasi on the pretext that they were vagabonds, although they had been citizens of Iasi for a long time. However, in 1906, the merchant's bureau issued a call to Christian merchants to learn a lesson from the “foreigners” about anything having to do with humility, hard work, frugality, reining in ones appetites and mutual assistance.

The statistics, which follow, highlight the role Jewish merchants and craftsmen played in the economic life of the city: in 1,831 there were in Iasi 1879 Jewish craftsmen and merchants, 43% of all vocations; in 1846 there were 6,178 merchants and craftsmen – 73%; in 1860, 3,212 merchants and 3,721 craftsmen – 78%. In 1906, 3,048 as opposed to 2,180 Romanians and 1,125 foreigners and 3,404 merchants in contrast to 836 Christians. In 1908, the number of Jewish craftsmen reached 77% of the total. Amongst them, 1,461 tailors (compared with 56 Romanians), 164 seamstresses (only 3 Romanians), and 744 shoemakers (compared with 274 Romanians). In 20 branches of the crafts there were no Romanian workers at all.

Despite and perhaps because of the vital role the Jews of Iasi played in the economy of the city, the Romanian authorities made an effort to sabotage it. When towards the end of the 19th century, the railroad was extended to Birlad, Vaslui, and Roman, which Iasi had served as their central city, the line was not connected to Iasi, but instead to Bucharest, the new capital. Since then, Iasi's greatness has diminished.

The Organization of the Jewish Kehillah

Until 1834, the “Jewish Guild” (Breasla Jidovilor) founded in 1622 and recognized by the authorities, was the central institution of the Kehillah in Iasi. At the beginning of the 17th century, the “Chevrah Kadishah” (the ritual burial society) was established, dealing among other things with care for the sick and the poor, supporting charitable institutions, and sometimes even got involved in synagogue affairs.

Three of the “parnassim”(select men) of the Kehillah and one “Hacham Bashi” [in Turkish it meant the most learned one, Among Sephardic Jews, the title “Hacham”came into use instead of “Rabbi” and in the areas ruled by the Ottoman Empire the sultan chose a Hacham Bashi i.e. chief Rabbi, who was given responsibility for Jewish religious affairs and reported to the sultan There were also clearly more local Hacham Bashis whose authority was more limited.] were selected by the Romanian born Jews to manage the guild, which represented the Jewish population to the authorities. The ruler confirmed the Hacham Bashi for life and the chief “parnas” (nicknamed in Hebrew-head of state) for a term of a few years. As time passed the leadership of the guild came to represent the whole Moldovan community and the Hacham Bashi served as the chief Rabbi of the Wallachian Jews. The income from the [kosher] meat tax covered their expenses: maintaining the prayer houses, the Talmud-Torah [religious-studies school], the shelter, and the cemetery. The money was also used to pay ransom and to help the Zionist settlement in Eretz Israel. Several tombstones of a few of parnassim of that time have been preserved with the words: “the chief leader of the country.” From the names on the tombstones we learn that the role of parnas was a sinecure of a limited number of families.

Following the disintegration of the guild in 1834, and the elimination of the post of Hacham Bashi, the Jews of Iasi became organized according to their lands of origin: Austria, Russia, Prussia, and the like. Those communities already had their own organizations, under the sponsorship of the consuls, with their own rabbinic leadership, slaughterers and butchers. The breakup was the source of much friction, functionally resulting in the termination of the Jewish Kehillah as a central organization.

Religious Life

  1. Rabbis
  2. The first Rabbi of the Kehillah of Iasi that we know by name was Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aroio, a Spanish kabbalist, who served in the rabbinate at the end of the 16th century and was also the Moldavian prince's physician. In his old age he immigrated to Eretz Israel. Another famous rabbi was Rabbi Nathan Neta Hanover (1660-1671), author of the books, Yeven Metzulah (Abyss of Despair)- Beginning in 1648, and continuing until the mid to late 1650s, Ukrainians led by Bogdan Chmelnitski [Chmielnicki] waged a revolution against Polish rule. In every town they entered, however, not only did the Ukrainians attack the Poles, but also they massacred all the Jewish inhabitants. Tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of thousands of Jews were slaughtered in the most horribly cruel ways. Abyss of Despair is a first-hand account of this tragedy. Review by Mark Heckman-1998) And Shaare Tziyon (Zion's Gates). He was succeeded in the rabbinate of Iasi by Rabbi Ptachia, son of Rabbi David Lida (1705-1711), author of “Yad Kol Bo” who had fled there when Lvov [Lemberg] was sacked. He was also the head of a Yeshiva and carried the title Av Bet Din (Chief of the Rabbinic Court), and Rosh Metivta (Aramaic i.e. Rosh Yeshiva- Prinicipal/Rector of the School of Higher Jewish Education specializing in the study of Halachah-Jewish Religious law).

    In 1719, the Turks nominated as ”Hacham Bashi, (an inherited title) for the Romanian Countries” Rabbi Bezalel HaKohen, the son of Rabbi Naftali HaKohen, who had served the Kehillot of Ostrog, Posnan, and Frankfurt on the river Main. However, the Moldavian leader did not recognize him because the Jewish craftsmen had submitted complaints about him. His son, Rabbi Yitzhak (1743-1776), received from the Romanian authorities the title “Bashi Hacham” to all the Jewish guilds in the Country” and the Wallachian Kehillahs were also obliged to fall in line with this. In 1764, prince Constantin Voda gave him the right to charge a payment for engagements, marriages, and divorces, and to collect set donations from every head of family instead of income derived from the meat tax, which led to disagreements between him and the craftsmen. During that time, the religious movement of Yaacov Frank began spreading in Iasi, and the Hacham Bashi asked the Pesha [Turkish Sultan] to ban the Frankists from entering Moldavia.

    After the passing of Rabbi Yitzhak a disagreement broke out about the succession, which lasted 13 years. Finally, Rabbi Naftali, the son of Rabbi Yitzhak, was reconfirmed and after him Rabbi Yeshayahu (1809), who was the last to fill this role. In 1834, both post and title were abolished in one fell stroke.

    During the years of the disagreement, the city's rabbinate included several well-known rabbis: Rabbi Zalmina HaKohen, who had a synagogue named after him; Rabbi Yoske, son of Rabbi Leibush Halevi Horovitz from Woloczysk, who was the pioneer of Hassidism in Moldavia.

    One of the great Hassidim in Iasi was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apt, born in 1755, passed away in 1825, known as the Apter Rav, author of the books “Ohev Israel” (One Who Loves the Jewish People), Zhitomir (1863) and “Torat Emet” (The Torah of Truth, Lvov (1854). To this day stories are told about him in Iasi. One story tells that when he arrived in Iasi for the first time, he wrote an acronym for its name. [In Hebrew Iasi is Yod Aleph Samech. The acronym he wrote for Iasi “Sof Eretz Yisrael” – in reverse – and when he left Iasi he wrote in proper order – “Yoshveha Anshei Sodom.” The first means the very end of the land of Israel and the second – “Its inhabitants are the people of Sodom.]

    Another great Hassid was Rabbi Yosef HaKohen Zwolower (d. 1828), author of the book, “Darkhei Haemunah” (Paths of Faith), published in Iasi in 1857; a synagogue was also named after him in the city. Rabbi Yitzhak Moshe, the pupil of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Ladi (d. 1861) was responsible for spreading the Hassidic Torah of Chabad in Iasi.

    Following the abolition of the post of Hacham Bashi, disputes about rabbinic appointments split the kehillah. From 1837 until 1853, the rabbi of Iasi was Rabbi Yosef, son of Rabbi Menachem Landau, who wrote a book of Responsa entitled, “Birkat Yosef” (the Blessing of Joseph), Lvov 1869. During his era, Iasi became a center of Talmudic study. .

    During the same period, Rabbi Aharon M. Taubes from Lvov served in the rabbinate of Iasi (1837-1850). Author of a book of Responsa, “Toafot Re'em” (Oryx Strength), and a book of addenda to the work of the Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Edels) who wrote one of the most incisive and keenly analytical commentaries on the Talmud, Rashi and Tosafot (courtesy OU.ORG) entitled, “Karnei Re'em” (Oryx Horns)[a biblical metaphor for greatness]. Rabbi Shmuel Shmelke Taubes (1852-1865) followed him in the rabbinate and wrote the books: “Sefer Chayei Olam” (The Book of Eternal Life); “Sefer Milchamot Adonay” (The Book of the Wars of God); “Sefer Orchat Mishpat” (The Book of Ways of Justice); “Sefer Asis Rimonim” (The Book of Pomegranate Juice) [The pomegranate is a metaphor for intellectual fecundity (jhb)]; and others. His brother, Rabbi Yaacov Taubes, son in-law of the “Admor (abbreviation of Adoneynu, moreynu verabeynu - Our master, teacher and rabbi- used to describe those who were the revered leaders of Hassidic groups of Rusla, served as rabbi on “Red Bridge” street (“Rota Brika” – Jewish Quarter, 1868-1890). Rabbi Shmuel's son, Rabbi Uri Shraga Fievel Taubes, served as rabbi after his death. Both were also chief judges of the rabbinic court of Iasi. Rabbi Uri Shraga, who served as rabbi for over 40 years, published a book of Responsa entitled, “Ori veYishi” (My light and my Savior), (Lvov 1886). His innovations and those of his father and grandfather were included in the Talmud published in Vilna.

    From 1866 until the end of the 19th century, the status of the rabbinate in Iasi declined mainly because of the frequent disputes among its rabbis. The head of the militants in favor of traditional Judaism was Rabbi Yeshayahu Shor (1850-1879), chief Rabbi of Iasi and the nation's rabbi, The editors of the Hebrew weekly, “Korot Haitim” (The Times Happenings) took as their cause removing him [from office]. This rabbi wrote a controversial pamphlet against the “Admor” from Sadagura and several books, one of them, “Sefer Klil Tiferet” (a book of wonders), and a kabbalistic commentary on the Pentateuch.

    One of the Chabad Hassidim, who served as a rabbi in Iasi, was Rabbi Berl Rabinovici-Birlad (d. 1914), who fought fiercely against the oath “Mora Yudaica.”

    The first of the modern rabbis in Iasi was Antuan Levi from Alsace (1867-1871). Dr. I. Niemirower served between 1896 and 1911, and after World War I, became the Chief Rabbi of Romania. He wrote many books, among them one on the history of the Kehillah and the rabbinate of Iasi and did research about Hassidic history and Jewish philosophy. His sermons were published in German in the book, “Zichron Neum” (Speeches to Remember). He was also active in the Zionist movement and in education, was a popular lecturer, and headed up the local office of “Bnei Brit”.

  3. Synagogues
  4. The oldest synagogue in Iasi was built in the “Tirgul Kokoloy” quarter (1657 to 1682) on a lot where a monastery had previously stood. In 1762, the synagogue was rebuilt according to the model of synagogues in Poland.

    The synagogue named for Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel from Opta was built according to tradition in 1770 and was renovated in 1862. In 1865, a prayer house named “Beit Yaakov,” intended for the well to do, was built. In 1910, it was renovated, and in 1935, expanded so that everyone could pray there. Many synagogues were named after the city's rabbis or after “Tzadikim” (leaders of Hassidic groups), who had Hassidic followers in the city. (Zwolower, Rabbi Shake, Rabbi Tversky, Stefanshter Kloise, Rabbi Rabinovici, Bohorsher Kloise, Rabbi Toibas, The rabbi from Kalarashi, Rabbi Reines, the rabbi from Eer'l). A line of prayer houses belonged to the various crafts groups: hatters, tailors (three), carpenters, barrel makers, tanners, shoemakers, butchers, musicians (two), stone cutters, (three) cart owners, bagel sellers, barmen, rags traders, wood cutters, and painters.

Educational system

In 1840, there were 12 “Heders” (elementary religious schools) in Iasi, with 653 children, apart from small “Heders” in private homes. Well-to-do Jews invited modern teachers from abroad, especially from Austria, to tutor their sons at home.

The Moldavia government encouraged the Jews to establish modern schools and even supported them. In 1840, prince Mihil Sturza agreed to not increase the municipal tax, so that the Jews would be able to keep the hospital open and to establish a school. However, the Kehillah was slow in building the school and in 1851, prince Gregoria Ghika appointed a committee to work at establishing Jewish elementary schools to the standards of the Romanian schools.

In autumn 1852, with private initiative, the first school opened. It was one-half official and had 20 students. The headmaster was B. Schwarzfeld, a well-known enlightened figure. Hebrew, German, and Romanian were taught and the teacher for Romanian was a Christian. The rabbis and Hassidic circles were opposed to the school and preached against it in the synagogues; and Rabbi Yeshayahu Shor even declared that B. Schwarzfeld was a “baptizer” and it was forbidden to circumcise his sons. The school closed in 1857.

In 1854, in Iasi, a Jewish school for girls was founded, also private, for the daughters of the well to do and in 1858, the school received government recognition.

In May 1858, the education minister called upon the Jewish Kehillot to open modern schools for boys and girls, and commercial schools on the model of the general schools, and to close the “Heders.” He also required that these schools be under the supervision of his ministry, once their form was established following agreement reached with the leaders of the Kehillah. The prince endorsed the minister's proposal. However, under pressure from ultra Orthodox Circles, the leadership of the Kehillah did not fulfill the proposal and bribed the responsible clerks to delay its implementation. In 1859, the Prime Minister, Mihai Kogalnicaunu, summoned several of the Kehillah's leaders to discuss with them how to instill in the Jews the aspiration for a modern culture. As a result, the Kehillah decided to establish (in 1860) three elementary schools. A special committee, authorized by the education ministry, received its instructions and acting on its behalf, submitted a curriculum and a budget proposal. The authorities promised to allow freedom for teaching religion and to help raise the status of the rabbinate, and demanded that they educate the youth in accordance with good citizenship and cooperation. The slogan was: “The Education must be Romanian.” The Prime Minister took part in the opening ceremony of the first school in the suburb of Tirgul Kokoloy; and in his speech he thanked the Kehillah on his own behalf and on the prince's behalf and advocated that Jews and Romanians develop closer relationships. Two additional schools were opened and 900 children registered, but 400 were rejected because of lack of adequate space. Most children were educated gratis and also received clothes and books.

In 1863, these schools closed in keeping with the new policy of the government, which precluded intervention in the affairs of the Kehillah. In keeping with this policy, the meat tax was cancelled, and the Kehillah was left without financial means; but in 1864, the tax was reinstituted and the schools reopened. In 1866, the religious minister, C. A. Rosetti, was reinstated as chief of Iasii County with the proviso that the traditional schools be closed and that the government schools be opened to the Jews. In 1867, 352 children were still studying in the three Kehillah schools; but in a short time those schools closed.

After all attempts to establish modern schools in the spirit of assimilation failed, the Kehillah started to establish “enlightened Heders.” By 1856, the weekly, “Korot Haitim” (History of the Times), called upon the Kehillah to establish a modern “Talmud Torah,” where general studies will be integrated with Jewish education. However, only in 1876, was such a school opened in the “Red Bridge” quarter (“Rota Brika”). In 1908, a special building was constructed for the school, with 250 students. In 1872, a school for girls was established by “Ihud N'shei Yisrael” “Organization of Jewish Women” (established in 1867 and supported after World War I by JCA (Jewish Colonization Association) and the Joint Distribution Committee. In 1877, one of the older schools was reopened, and in 1880, 200 students studied there. Apart from the Kehillah, a youth movement named, “Junimia,” also supported the school.

Only a few Jewish students studied in the government-sponsored schools, which were pervaded with anti-semitism. The Jewish students were beaten for their refusal to bow down in front of icons or to cross themselves, and sometimes were seated in separate benches. The teachers instigated the Christian students against them and the study books were filled with anti-Semitic topics. In 1893, the Jews were expelled from the government-sponsored schools and in response to this, a mass protest gathered in the city. Dr. H. Tiktin, a lecturer at the University, initiated a struggle to establish a new school. A committee was selected, which managed to find permanent donors, and in 1894, two schools with 583 pupils opened.

In 1899, a commercial school was founded with the support of JCA. In 1906, a Charity Association opened a girl's school called “Kochav” (star), and during the years following, the school offered a course for tailoring, underwear sewing, and embroidery with adjacent workshops. During that year the “Bnai Brith” bureau founded a girl's school named after Dr. Ed. Stern. In 1910, there were 5,000 students including both boys and girls in the Kehillah schools,

The expulsion of Jewish students from the government schools continued, especially from the high schools; in 1910, not a single Jewish student was accepted to a high school. During World War I, the Jewish School buildings were confiscated.

Organizations and Institutions

The most important Jewish institution in Iasi was the Jewish hospital. At first, it was a “Hekdesh” (almshouse - asylum for the indigent sick and itinerant mendicants. In Yiddish, it became a metaphor for a disorderly, dirty place.) founded in 1728); in 1772 it became a hospital. During the years 1840 – 1874, the hospital received a yearly grant of 350 gold coins from prince Mihil Sturza. in addition to an exemption from tax “for the benefit of the hospital and other matters that benefit the Jewish nation.” After 1851, the hospital became an official institution, but only in 1900 was it recognized as a legal entity.

In 1834, when the trade unions were abolished, as well as the post of the Hacham Bashi, (see above) the management of the hospital became the representative of Iasi's Jewry. At first, the management was chosen by the Moldavian ruler, but later was chosen by the Jews of Iasi. The hospital's expenses were paid mainly from the meat tax and when the tax was cancelled, the budget became inadequate. A. C. Cuza, the deputy mayor, initiated the restriction of Jewish slaughterers from entering the slaughter-house (1891), and even ordered guards placed at the city's entrance, so that the Jews could not bring in kosher meat from outside the city limits. Jews were also banned from slaughtering poultry and the intervention of the Interior Ministry did not help. In Cuza's newspaper, “A New Era,” he complained about the fact that the Christian population had to pay meat tax in order to the benefit of the Jewish hospital and suggested reading the anti-Semitic book by the veterinarian, George Jocu, opposing the municipal slaughterhouse and against the Kehillah of Iasi. By the end of the year, the Jewish hospital had to give up the meat tax and from then was funded by bequests and donations. In 1894, the hospital comprised 60 beds in its internal medicine unit and 30 beds in its surgical unit. Adjacent to the hospital, a clinic functioned, evaluating about 100 patients per day, amounting to about 21 to 22 thousand patients per year. In the hospital, there was a special maternity building for the poor that were built in 1911 by the “Women of Israel” society (founded in 1878), which treated around 400-500 women per year. The hospital also treated Christian patients.

Caption at bottom of photo on p.147 Assurance from 1714 from the prince of Moldova, Nicolai Marakordas, affirming the Kehillah's ownership of the land, on which The Great Synagogue had been built in the middle of the 17th century.

Caption at bottom of photo on p.151. A letter to Benjamin Schwarzfeld from the committee of the Jewish school, requesting guidelines for the teaching of Hebrew (1892) (General archives of Jewish history).

The Craftsmen's Union (Fraterna Pacurari) established a surgical clinic in 1911 and in 1915, founded the “Children's Hospital named after Dr. L. Ghelerter.

In 1890, three craftsmen established an old people's home. In 1892, a building was donated for it, and in 1907, the building was expanded and renovated. In 1911, it housed 30 old people. In 1818, the Neuschatz orphanage was founded by the philanthropist, after whom it was named. It was housed in his home and paid for by a bequest from his inheritance. The orphans learned a profession and the best among them were sent to a commercial school in Vienna. At first, there were 12 orphans in the institution; and afterwards their number reached 25.

Caption below photo on p.152
Report from 1879 about the activities of the committee of the hospital, which also filled many Kehillah roles.

At the end of the 19th century, when the Jewish population of Iasi was impoverished due to the severe economic crisis in the country, the “Bnai Brith” office established a soup kitchen with the help of “the Alliance Israelite Universelle. During the first year it provided 93,000 meals. In 1911, a restaurant was opened for the school children, named after Amalia and Yitzhak Ghetzler, in a special building erected by these philanthropists. A second building was donated by the couple in order to pay the restaurant's expenses and was managed by the “Bnai Brith” office. Besides the school children, poor adults also ate there. Thus, there were several restaurants in Iasi managed by different committees.

In 1901, the society for mutual help was established, “Caritas Humanitas,” that functioned with 1,000 members until World War II. Its aim was to aid its members with medicine, to help them when they became ill and to take care of widows. A building of its own was built from the society's income.

Zionist Activity

Already in the middle of the 19th century, pre-Zionist circles began to be active in Iasi. In 1860, the physician, Dr. Karpel Lippe, from Galicia settled there and until he left the city, in 1911, he headed cultural organizations and published many studies and books, polemical articles versus anti-Semites, books on Judaism, and publicity on behalf of Eretz Yisrael. In 1866, the association of “Dorshey Zion” was founded, whose purpose was to establish a Hebrew library for books and journals.

In 1878, the association “Ohaley Shem” was founded by a group of “maskilim”(enlightened Jewish intellectuals), among them: M. Braunstein-Mibasan, Dr. Lippe, B. Schwartzfeld and N. Frenkel. Its aim was to improve Hebrew language and culture and to spread Jewish studies among Romanian Jewry. The association sponsored public lectures that had a great impact. Its activity was renewed in 1879 by Dr. I. Niemirower and lasted until 1898.

In those days, the poet, Naftali Herz Imber, was a resident of Iasi. In 1878, he wrote the well-known song “Hatikvah,” whose melody was influenced by Romanian folk music.

In 1878, Shimon Berman came to Iasi, the author of, “Masaot Shimon” (Shimon's Journeys), wherein he suggested settling Eretz Yisrael by working the land. At the end of 1880, Eliezer Rokeach arrived in Iasi from Safed. He was the founder of the society, “Yishuv Eretz Israel” (Settling Eretz Israel).

In February 1882, the first committee for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael was founded, chosen by 3,000 people, and Dr. Lippe was chosen as chairman. In April 1882, the second national conference of the pre-Zionist movement was convened in Iasi with delegates from 28 locations. Sir Laurence Oliphant, who was visiting Romania at the time, took part in the conference, which concerned of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael. Later, Dr. Lippe founded a society named, “Doresh Letzion,” aiming to spread news about Eretz Yisrael and its products. Household utensils made from olive tree wood arrived from Jerusalem, and mezuzahs, lamps, oil, olives, figs, and oranges; These were to prove that the Jews settled in Eretz Yisrael made a living by the work of their own hands. The society had 400 members and lasted until 1888.

Caption on 153 top The Seal of the “Doraysh Tzion (Seekers of Zion) Society. [From the book of Dr. Y. Klauzner-Chibat Tziyon b' Romania].

After Herzl's appearance, the Zionist movement in Iasi became invigorated. Dr. Lippe served as chairperson at the opening session of the First World Zionist Congress in Basel (1897). In 1899, five Zionist associations were active in Iasi: “Mevaseret Zion,” “Tikvat Zion,” “Nocham Zion,” “Ezrat Zion,” and “B'not Zion.” In 1900, other Zionist societies were added: “Max Nordau,” Shivat Zion,” “Dr. Gaster,” “Dr. Nemirover,” and others. In 1910, all the societies merged into a single Zionist organization. During that year, a circle of “Poaley Zion” was founded, but aroused a great deal of turmoil.

Second Caption on that page. The Seal of the “Shalom Yerushalayim Society.” [From the book of Dr. Y. Klauzner-Chibat Tziyon be Romania

In 1906, under Zionist influence, something similar to a popular Jewish university, “Toinby Hall,” was established, which lasted 10 years. Besides Iasi's intellectuals, such as Dr. Nemirover, Dr. Nacht, A.L. Zisu, Jacob Groper, M. Rabinovici, M. Weisman (Amir), and I. Botoschanski, the school had famous foreigners; lecture there, such as, Bernard Lazar, Professor Boris Shatz, Professor Franz Oppenheimer, Nachum Sokolov, and Shalom Aleichem, who read his stories. It also had courses on the History of the Jewish people Hebrew, and general culture. The institution also served as a meeting place for the older “maskilim”, ”(enlightened Jewish intellectuals, who believed in the updating and renewal of Jewish culture) with the younger generation of “maskilim” writers and Zionist activists. Every Saturday evening, lectures and evenings of readings were held and Jews from all strata in Iasi waited for them impatiently.

National and Socialist Activity

A branch of the movement, “The Union of Native Jews” (U.E.P), founded before World War I, was active in Iasi. During the time of the German occupation of Western Romania (1917/18), when the government and the parliament moved to Iasi, that branch placed on it responsibility for the situation of the Jews throughout all of Romania. In 1917, its members sent a memo to the legislators requesting the granting equal rights to Romanian Jews. The memo was transferred to the Prime Minister, Yonel Bratianu, who forbade its being printed or publicized, although he promised to help those Jews, who took part in the war.

As an answer to anti-Semitic propaganda in Iasi that claimed that Romanian Jews were not loyal to the country, the Union of Romanian Jews published a declaration of solidarity with the national aspirations of Romania. Many times they brought to the attention of the authorities the persecution of Jews in Moldavian cities, and even approached King Ferdinand, who promised to solve the Jewish problem in a positive manner. Due to the branches efforts, several Jews, who participated in the war, were granted civil rights.

When the special peace treaty with Germany was signed (1918), and both the government and Parliament remained in Iasi, that branch served as mediator between the government and the central committee of the Union in Bucharest. In November of that year, after the signing of the armistice, Yonel Bratianu regained the reins of authority. Before he went to the peace conference in Paris, he invited delegates of the Union of Romanian Jews and suggested they sign a declaration that affirmed that Romanian Jews were loyal to the government, so that the problem of equal right for the Jews would not be placed on the conference's agenda. However, the delegates refused to accede to his request and Bratianu responded angrily saying that rights would be given to the Jews as he saw fit.

In 1893, a Jewish socialist association was founded in Iasi named, “Or” (Light), and was comprised mostly of “maskilim” ”(enlightened Jewish intellectuals, who believed in the updating and renewal of Jewish culture). At first, they operated within the framework of the Social-Democratic Party, but they did not agree with the official stand of the party as to the Jewish problem, and they demanded an active fight for equal rights for the Jews. Several non-Jewish socialist activists joined the struggle. After a time, the group was expelled from the party with the pretext that it acted on behalf of rights for the Jewish bourgeoisie. The debate intensified, and in the socialist gatherings in Iasi, members of the association “OR” (Lumina) were abused with anti-Semitic nicknames. The formal socialist journal, Lumea Noua (New World), maintained an anti-Semitic tone in its debate with members of “Or.”

Groups of socialist Jews gathered all over Moldavia and joined the central Association in Iasi. In 1895, the Association published a journal in Romanian, called “Or,” which appeared until 1897, and in 1896, published a weekly in Yiddish, “Hameorer” (Der Wecker) (The Awakening). That same year, the Association submitted a memorandum about the Jewish problem to the Socialist International Convention, held in London, describing the fight for equal rights and stressed the opposition of the Romanian Social Democratic Party to that demand.

Cultural Life

Iasi served as an important center of Hebrew printing and Jewish journalism. Already at the beginning of the 19th century, Hebrew books were brought to Iasi from printing houses in Chernauti (Chernowitz) and distributed from there to all the Moldavian and Wallachian settlements. In 1832, 68 Jewish leaders turned to the authorities, requesting approval for founding a Hebrew printing-house in the city. A year later, the printing house was built and was able to print a wall calendar for the Jewish year 5594 and several booklets, but within a short time, it was boycotted as a result of opposition by the importers of Hebrew books. Only in 1842-1843, was a list of Hebrew books printed in Iasi, the first ones in all Romania: The Book of Psalms in Hebrew with a Yiddish translation; “Selichot” (penitential prayers) with a Yiddish translation; “Shaarey Zion” (Gates of Zion) by Rabbi Neta Hanover with a Yiddish translation; and others.

During the second half of the 19th century, calendars were printed regularly by Hirsh Goldner. In his printing house, founded in 1856, studies were published in Romanian, among them, studies conducted at the local university. In the last decades of the 19th century, the books of Dr. Karl Lippe were printed there in German: “Symptome der antisemitidchen Geisteskrankheit” (1887); “Das Evangelium Mathaei vor dem Forum der Bibel und des Thalmud” (1889); and “Sammlung von Reden und Vortragen.”

The first Yiddish journal in Romania was published in Iasi, “Korot Haitim” (History of the Times), which appeared twice weekly for a long time, although not continuously; from October 1855 until February 1871. The editors are not known. The aim of this biweekly was to strive for the modernization of Jewish life and it recognized as having quite an impact. The journal also printed a lot of news about the life of the Jewish Kehillah in Iasi.

In 1859, the Jewish-Romanian newspaper, Gazeta Romano-Evreiasca, started to appear, edited by Marco Feldman-Campeanu, in Yiddish and Romanian. The newspaper waged a battle for equal rights and called for the creation of modern schools. It ceased publication after 11 issues due to opposition from ultra-orthodox groups. In 1872, a number of issues of the newspaper, “Timpul” (The Time), appeared in Romanian and Hebrew, edited by the Hebrew teacher, M. Horvitz. This newspaper was severely attacked by the anti-Semite, Cezar Boliac, who submitted an inquiry to the government about permission being granted to the Jews to print using Hebrew letters. The appearance of “The Time ceased, and during that same year their was published in Iasi the first newspaper in Romanian, “Vocea Aparatorului” (Voice of Defense), Its editors were Marcu Feldman, followed by Marcu Rosenfeld, Director of the Jewish schools in Iasi. The newspaper's slogan was, “No rights without responsibilities, and no responsibilities without rights.” However, that newspaper was also fiercely attacked and did not last more than a year.

Other newspapers appearing in Iasi were: “Revista Israelita” (the Israel i.e. Jewish Journal, May 31,1874 to January 1, 1875) edited by Elias Schwartzfeld; five issues of a socialist newspaper, “Lumina”) Light, 1887) edited by Dr. Stefan Stanca); thirty issues in Yiddish of the journal “Der Folks Frind” (People's Friend)(1888) edited by M. Braunstein; “Propasirea” (Progress, 1889-1991) edited by Max Kaufman, whose aim was dealing with the Kehillah's affairs and spread the word about Jewish life in Romania. That newspaper also fought against assimilation. Among its editors were Dr. K. Lippe and Wilhelm Schwartzfeld. 

Caption on 154—
Title page of a Book of Psalms Published in Iasi (1842-1843)

Caption on 155 top — Yiddish Newspaper which appeared at the end of the 19th century.

Caption on 155 bottom right-
Title page of a book of “Selichot”(Penitential Prayers) printed in Iasi in 1842

Caption on 155-bottom left
Title page of the book “Sha'arei Tziyon” (Gates of Zion) by Rabbi Nathan Neta Hanover

Following Hertzl's appearance, another paper, “Rasaritul” (The East, June 18,1899 – March 1901) was published in Iasi. The editors were some of the most famous of the Jewish writers in Romania: Dr. Nemirover, Horia Carp, the poets, Enric Furtuna, A. Axelrod, and others. The newspaper supported the idea of settling on the island of Cyprus, the initiative of Davis Trietsch; and many Jews in Romania were sympathetic to this idea. The editors also published an annual publication named, “Rasaritul” (1899 and 1901).

During the time of the emigration by foot (1900), (“Fusgeyers”) who walked from Romania to the border and from there sought transport to the European ports, the ŽmigrŽs published occasional pamphlets, such as “Drumetii” (The “Fusgeyers”  (Foot Walkers), “Departure from Romania)” or “Lev Echad”(One Heart””) the name of the wanderer's organization.

A group of writers and young “maskilim”(see above), who fought against “Toinby Hall” and for Yiddish literature, published a “monthly” in Yiddish by the name, Licht (“Or”(Light) – 1914). The members of the group were: Y. Groper, Botosanski, E. Waldman, M. Rabinovici, M. Friedman, and A.L. Zisu. Among the artists, who worked for the “monthly,” was the famous painter, Rubin (Reuven). The group held literary festivals, which echoed throughout all the Moldavian towns; one of these was dedicated to the death of I. L. Peretz. And in 1915, a special issue was dedicated to this writer. The monthly, “haOr,” was the first Yiddish newspaper which excelled with a high literary level, and despite having only four issues published, it had a profound influence on Romanian Jewry.

Caption on p.156—
Public Announcement of the death of Y.L.Peretz done by Yaakov Groper in Yiddish and Romanian. [General Archives of the Jewish People]

Caption on 157 – Avraham Goldfaden

Iasi was also famous for Yiddish theatre. Avraham Goldfaden staged his plays for the first time and laid the foundation of Yiddish theatre. He arrived in Iasi in 1876; and his first plays were presented during Hol Hamoed of Sukkot (the middle days of the festival) 5637 in the restaurant garden of the bartender, Mark, a restaurant garden that became famous earlier, due to the appearances of the “Singers of Broder.” The audiences were mainly common-folk as the upper class Jews disparaged this theater. During the rainy season, Goldfaden went on tour with his company to Bucharest and more far-flung locations, Botosani, Braila and Galati. In September 1877, a stage was built for the theatre in the “Green Tree” restaurant garden of Iasi, which became the cradle of Yiddish theatre. There they presented, “Brinzela Cossack” (Offfenbach's operetta) and the “Enchantress.” In the absence of Jewish actors, Goldfaden put together his presentations with the crew of people he had available; unemployed craftsmen, apprentices, and cantors. Later on, professional actors from Russia joined his theatre. Goldfaden was the groups chief, wrote the plays, composed the music, and stage director, all in one. After some time, the company split in two and a new theater was established, the “Tivoli Theater,” where the plays of I. Lateiner (b. Iasi in 1853) who wrote 75 plays were presented, and historical operettas by N. Horowitz, who arrived in Iasi from Galicia. The mainstay of the company was the talented actor, Izidor Ashkenazi, who eventually became famous throughout Romania.

Iasi also served as a center for Jewish scholars and writers, who published books and studies in Hebrew. The most important one was Moshe ben Zecharia HaCohen (passed away in 1799), the author of “Ohel Moshe” (Moses' Tent).

Binyamin Schwartzfeld (1822-1896) founded the first Jewish school in the city (1853, see above), and was also was active in the economic field as a bank manager (1850) and as founder of the first insurance company in Moldavia. He translated into Hebrew the poems of Schiller, Goethe, and Lessing, published articles in the Hebrew Viennese journal, “Kochavey Itzhak”(Isaac's Stars) (starting in 1846), and wrote a study about Hebrew grammar. In his opinion only equal rights would enable Romanian Jews to advance; and his polemics on this matter with Peretz Smolenskin were printed as special additions in the newspapers, “Haivri” (The Hebrew), and “Hamagid” (The Preacher).

B. Schwartzfeld had three sons and all three became famous in the area of Jewish Historiography in Romania. His first-born son, Elias Schwartzfeld (1855-1915), wrote a string of studies about the history of the Jews in Romania; his second son, Wilhelm Schwartzfeld (1856-1894), became famous as a researcher in the field of Hebrew linguistics and published several works about Hebrew grammar, Jewish education in Iasi, and Jewish researchers and writers in Iasi; the third son, Mozes Schwartzfeld (1857-1943), was also known as a historian and a reporter.

The poet, Wolf Ehrenkrantz (1826-18830), whose nom de plume was Welvel Zbarazer published a book of Hebrew poems called “Hazon Lamoed,” (A Vision for the Time) and two folk books, “Kav Hayashar” (The Straight Line) and “Kinot L'Tishah B'av” (Lamentations for the Ninth of Av)(all in 1858), and more.

Caption on p.157
Title Page of the Poems by the Poet Zbarazer (1858)

Mozes Waldberg published a book in two volumes in Hebrew called, “This is the Way of the Torah” (a second edition appeared in Iasi in 1868), as a polemical response to the book, “The Torah's Way,” by Hirsh Mendl Pineles of Galatz. ) 

Caption on p.158 at top
Title Page Poems by the Yiddish Poet Wolf Zbarazer

M.S. Goldbaum (1836-1915) published in 1873 a drama in verse called “Yedidia Haissi”.

N. Frenkel published studies in Hebrew newspapers and translated Don Quixote into Hebrew.

The historian, I. B. Brociner (b. in Iasi in 1845 and d. in Bucharest in 1918), wrote and published several of his works in Iasi.

Caption on p.158 right bottom.
The writer, M. Goldbaum, creator of the drama “Yedidia Haissi”.

Dr. Stefan Stanca, editor of “Or,” became known for his study about “The Socialist Environment as a Pathological Cause” (1891). Later on, he became a famous leader of the Socialist movement.

The poet, S. Lazar (b. 1892), published a book of poems about Jewish topics called “Harpa de Arama” (A Copper Organ).

The poet, Dr. A. Steuerman (1896-1918), among other things became famous for his book, “Spini” (The Reapers, 1915). He translated into Romanian the writings of Queen Elizabeth, known by her nom de Plume, Carmen Sylva. He was a regular reporter for the general Romanian newspapers and even edited Jewish newspapers. As a consequence of the persecutions during World War 1, Steuerman committed suicide.

The poet, B. Fundoianu (1898-1944), son of M. Schwartzfeld's sister, published a book of criticism devoted to French literature (1921) and a book of poems, “Privelisti,” (1930). Later on, he settled in Paris, where he was known by the name, Binyamin Fondane, for his study of Esthetics. He wrote a number of poems in French about the Holocaust. After the German occupation of Paris, he was expelled to Drancy and perished in Birkenau on October 2, 1944.

Iasi University as a Nest of anti-Semitism

By the middle of the 19th century, the university in Iasi served as a center of anti-Semitism. Professors preached from their podiums hatred of Jews. Several of them were especially prominent in their hostility: S. Barnutiu (1896-1864), a professor in the law faculty; Vasile Conta (1846-1884), professor of civil law and a philosopher, who was elected to the Parliament and gave a harsh talk against the Berlin Congress' decision to grant the Jews equal rights; and Nicolae Ionescu, professor of general history, whose lectures described the Jewish religion as degraded and unethical. Opposed to them, Professor Titu Maiorescu protested to the Parliament against the Iasi university professors preaching hatred of the Jews.

In 1881, the leading figure of Romanian anti-Semitism at that time, Nicu Ceaur Aslan, was chosen in Iasi as a representative to the Parliament. On June 4th of that year, he proposed a parliamentary inquiry which demanded taking action against the “invasion” of Russian Jews, who had fled their country due to pogroms. A well-known journalist, Gheorghe Panu, opposed Aslan in a string of articles in the newspapers.    

In 1898, a student's organization was established in Iasi called, “Shichrur” (Freedom), that preached hatred of Jews and was in favor of boycotting them economically and organized anti-Semitic gatherings in Iasi and other cities. This propaganda bore fruit within a year. On May 16, 1899, pogroms raged in Iasi and the newspaper, “Universul,” wrote: “From the time Iasi was founded no such horrible scenes were witnessed.” Several days before the riots, the students spread inciting pamphlets summoning the Christian population to a large public gathering, including delegates from far-flung cities. Among them were well-known agitators from Foscani, such as: Tita Pavelescu, a delegate of the Anti-Semitic league of Birlad; the editor of the anti-Semitic newspaper of Bucharest; and anti-Semitic agitators from Iasi, such as, Lascar Tarabuta. The speakers called for exterminating the Jews and destroying their institutions. After the speeches, the crowds demonstrated in the streets, led by boys who gathered stones and bricks. Hundreds of people joined them armed with sticks and whips; among them soldiers and policemen. Jewish stores on the main streets were looted and destroyed. After that, they broke into private homes, beating, and looting. Children were thrown out from windows. Policemen, gendarmes, and civilians, who tried to intervene, were also beaten.

In the Jewish quarter, “The Red Bridge,” the rioters confronted thousands of Jews, who were ready to defend themselves, so the attackers were distanced from there with force. In other sections, battles broke out between the Jews and the rioters. Sometimes the Jews were not satisfied with self- defense but would actively pursue the rioters.

Looting continued throughout the entire night. Several synagogues were destroyed and Christian houses also were damaged, though they were marked with national flags and crosses. The riot subsided only when the authorities brought in the army from Birlad and Vaslui. “Half of Iasi was destroyed,” wrote the newspaper, “Egalitatea” (Equality). A group of 100 Romanian students published declarations of non-identification with the anti-Semites.

On March 11, 1900, 73 rioters were accused of being provocateurs; including a few Jews. The rioter's defense lawyer was A. K. Kuza, who claimed that the Jews started the events by throwing stones and pots at the demonstrators from their balconies. Several rioters were sentenced to very short terms of imprisonment and only one of the Jews, who was accused of being a provocateur, was sentenced to three months in jail. .

In the beginning of the 20th century, the university became the center of activity of: A. K. Kuza, Professor of Economics; and joining him were N. Iorga, Professor of History; and Sumuleanu, Professor of Chemistry. The latter, who worked as manager of the National Institute of Chemistry, used to come to Jewish taverns ostensibly for supervision purposes and pour out the contents of the barrels, without checking them. When the bartenders complained about his actions (1908), Sumuleanu sued them for libel; and Professor Iorga published in his newspaper a list of 88 bartenders accusing them of poisoning the drinks. The bartenders were punished and this encouraged the students to stage additional anti-Semitic demonstrations.

That same year, the struggle about “The Jewish Oath” In matters requiring an oath before the civil authorities the medieval Jew did not employ the same formula as the Christian or Muslim. The reason is obvious: the state was Christian or Muslim, and no Jew could or would swear after the Christian or Muslim manner. In a Christian land this would have meant recognition of Jesus or the Trinity. Such an oath would not have been binding on the Jew and hence was never imposed. For the convenience of the Jew, therefore, an oath “according to the Jewish custom” was instituted.

The manner of administering the oath varied in different localities. In spite of the emancipation of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the oath, “according to the Jewish custom,” persisted in France till 1846, in Prussia till 1869, in Romania till 1912. Jacob Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook, 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 49-50.

Rabbi Dr. Nemirover was fined for his refusal to use it. In 1911, the appellate court in Iasi ruled that the oath was illegal, malicious and degrading; but the city's judges still attempted to use it.

In September 1909, a convention of students gathered in Iasi, and anti-Semitic propaganda was the lead item on the agenda. The students demanded that the national theaters should ban the play, “Menashe,” which was written by Roneti Roman.

In 1911, the Romanian reporter, Emil Socor, published a book, which proved that the main research publication of A. K. Kuza for which he had been appointed to be a professor was plagiarized. Kuza sued him, but the reporter was acquitted. The trial was exploited for anti-Semitic propaganda with Kuza claiming that it was a “blood libel” staged by the Jews. Again, the riot atmosphere engulfed the city. The students distributed inciting pamphlets and demonstrated in the streets. The police warned the Jews to stay away from the streets through which the demonstrators passed. In the Jewish quarter, the demonstrators met strong opposition and were repulsed forcefully. As a result, the police shut the Jewish stores and accused them of incitement. The poet, Steuerman, who also proved that Kuza plagiarized his poetic works from others, was caught and beaten in the street. Several of the local journalists demanded a boycott of the Jewish merchants and craftsmen. In the regulations of the hospital, “St. Spiridion,” a clause was added that Jewish medical students were prohibited from working there as physicians.

During that year, in the pervasive anti-Semitic atmosphere, no Jewish student, not even the best one, was able to matriculate at a Romanian high school. Romanian students also managed to banish from the national theatre the talented Jewish actress, Francesca Rozan. As a result, the Jews boycotted the theatre that until then had published ads written in Yiddish. Many Romanian students resigned from the “Students' Center” as a protest.

With the outbreak of the Romanian-Bulgarian war (1913), the army refused to accept Jewish volunteers and the “Cultural League” of Iorga rose up at the instigation of Kuza against giving citizenship to Jews, who had served in the army.

During World War I, Jews from Iasi grew poorer and poorer, until 75% of them needed aid from the Kehillah. During the time of the plagues, which raged during the last four months of 1917, 1,200 Jews perished.

Continuation »

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