46°55' / 26°55'
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 246 - 253, 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
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
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(pages 246 - 253)
English translation researched and edited by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.
Translated by Ziva Yavin, Ph.D.
Translation donated by Robert S. Sherins, M.D., Richard J. Sherins, M.D., and Beryle Solomon Buchman
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The first Roman documents where Jews were mentioned were from the beginning of the 18th century. A document from the time of Prince Mihai Racovita from 1709 stated the sums that Christian, the Armenian, and Jewish merchants had to pay and ratified the church's right to collect taxes from the Jews.
In 1714 and in 1842, a blood libel was cast on Roman's Jews.
In 1825, representatives from the local church came to Prince Ioenita Sandu Struza with a demand to close the Jewish cemetery since it was located in the center of the town. The prince declined, but they started to sue the Jewish kehillah and incited the citizens against the Jews. In 1846, the Jewish kehillah had to buy another lot for the cemetery. In 1849, the old cemetery was abandoned, and in 1866, the municipality no longer recognized the congregation's ownership of it. In 1867, according to a municipal decree, soldiers and firefighters destroyed the cemetery; they threw the bones out of the graves and on the Rabbi's tombstones they painted crosses. The desecration of the graves stirred worldwide protests, which brought about the dissolution of the town's municipality. The bones were collected and together with the old tombstones transferred to the new cemetery.
By the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the number of Jews in Roman decreased. Many of them immigrated because of the economical persecution, which all Romanians suffered.
The Jewish kehillah had an ancient ritual bath, mikvah, which was used also as the only bathhouse for the town's citizens, Hekdesh (home for the needy) that in 1875 became a new hospital, and an old people's home. Among the institutions for helping the needy were the society, The Lamp Light, and from a notebook (1781), from which we learned that it gave scholarships to pupils; the society Poaley Tzedek (justice makers) of the craftsmen (from 1794), and the societies Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) and Gmilut Hasadim (giving charity - from 1796). The Jewish kehillah had its own coins named Pruta for giving charity to the poor.
In 1907, during the farmer's riots, 98 Jewish homes were destroyed in Roman. In 1908, the court required one of the Jews to take a Jewish Oath, but the congregation refused to open the synagogue for a trial.
During that time there were 3,500 Jews, who paid taxes. The Jewish kehillah's committee published a bulletin with reports about its activities. In 1934, they collected a special donation in order to give monthly support to the needy.
As in other towns in Romania, the Romanian political parties were involved in the social life of Jews. From 1926 and on, the Jewish kehillah's leadership was nominated by the government and included members belonging to the ruling party of General Averescu.
There were also institutions that did not belong to a congregation. Between 1918 and 1920, a traditional Yeshiva was active, headed by Rabbi Berl Isacsohn; also several Jewish libraries: the Roneti Roman library (1918-1922); the Or Zion library (1918-1922); the Maccabee library of the same organization (1918-1935); the VIZO library (founded in 1920) with books in Hebrew, which was also active during the war in the Jewish high school building.
Jews took part in the general political life by belonging to Romanian parties and sometimes there were Jews, who served on the town council. They were not representatives of Jewish organizations, but served as activists in the Romanian parties. In 1930, there were 6 Jews among the ten members of the commercial and industrial council. In 1934, a Jewish deputy mayor was elected.
In 1922, following the first pogroms in the universities under the slogan of Numerus Clausos (see below), the students, who returned from the universities for vacation, influenced the high school children who later formed the local Iron Guard.
The local Bishop, Lucian Triteanu, was one of the most famous anti-Semites in the country and openly supported the anti-Semitic movement. In 1928, in a discussion held in the Romanian Senate in Bucharest on the religious law and status of the Jewish communities, the Bishop attacked the Jews, arguing that they had a negative influence on the country with their particular ways and by their shutting themselves off. The Jewish Senator, Horia Carp, answered back sharply.
The anti-Semitic atmosphere was evident from the fact that in 1930 the Romanian professor, A. K. Cuza, the leader of the Christian-National anti-Semitic party, was elected to the parliament. In 1933, Cuza prevented the erecting of a memorial to a Jewish physician, who sacrificed his life while saving a Christian worker who had fallen into an oil well.
In 1937, the lawyer's bureau of Roman decided not to accept new Jewish members and not to give tenure to the previous ones.
Still, several things happened. The Jewish kehillah's leader was attacked by a legionnaire and a Jewish boy was killed by his schoolmates. The decrees against the Jews were executed with care, but were not too brutal. The Jewish merchants kept dealing with their trade, but from time to time had to put a sign on their stores (since November 1940), Jewish Store. Some of the bartenders were expelled from the town and Macedonian refugees from the Dobrogia region took their place. Eleven Jewish lawyers were removed, some Jews were fired from their posts in government ministries, and some Jewish teachers were removed from public schools. Many Jews were dismissed from private plants (factories), and for those who remained, their salary was reduced. For each, a Christian substitute was at hand. Of 1,259 craftsmen and workers, 241 ended up unemployed; of 244 clerks 158 lost their posts and of 281 store and plant owners, 250 were kept away.
On August 11 1941, the police forbade the Jews from accepting Christians to provide them certain with services. From July, Roman Jews had to wear the mark of shame, even before the police published the decree about that. Shopping in the market was allowed only from 10 to 12. Eventually a separate market only for Jews was established in the outskirts. Movement within the town was first forbidden from 6 pm until 7 am and then from 8 am to 6 pm. In September 1941, the Jews of Roman, like all the Romanian Jews, were obliged to bring the first half of the garment's tax, and on February 1, 1942 the other half. In the autumn of 1941, Jews were forced to sign on a completion loan the sum of 51 million lei instead of the 10 million that was previously decreed. The mayor squeezed out a million lei from 12 Jews after jailing them for 12 days. Antonescu praised the police commander for the act in a special broadsheet that was distributed all over the country.
The Jews had to donate hundred of thousands of lei to the patronage council, 650,000 lei to the foundation of the invalid palace, also hundreds of beds, pillows, sheets etc. to military hospitals in the town or in Trnasnistria. Eight hundred Jews were sentenced because they were unable to bring those things. For a sum of 100,000 lei, the Jewish kehillah succeeded in canceling the trials.
On September 16, 1942, the authorities stopped giving bread coupons to Jews. On November 30, 1942, they were not allowed to be on the streets except for two hours a day, before noon. The Jewish kehillah's leaders succeeded to cancel the decree after one month.
With the outbreak of war between Romania and the Soviet Union (June 21, 1941), about 800 refugees, who were deported from towns in the vicinity, joined the Roman Jewish kehillah.
The first convoys of the deported arrived in Roman impoverished after all their belongings were robbed. The following convoys were organized by the Jewish kehillah in order to be guarded by the police, so that the deported could bring their belongings. They were sheltered in the synagogues and private homes. A special soup kitchen for the refugees was immediately opened with meals for 600 people. On July 1, 1941, after the pogrom in Iasi, 160 of the leaders were taken hostages with Rabbi Isakson and Dr. Fenkel. They were jailed in the central synagogue. After 3 months they were freed, but they were told that they would be held accountable for any acts of sabotage executed by Jews.
On July 2, 1941, at dusk, the death train from Iasi to Calarasi stopped in Roman with those who were expelled from Iasi and survived the bloodshed in the train. The Mayor's deputy, N. K. Pipa, forbade helping any passengers, who were dying inside from suffocation and thirst. However, Mrs. Victoria Agarici, the local Red Cross chairwoman, with the help of the garrison's commander, Colonel Graur, after overcoming the opposition of the journey's commander, Judje Triandaf, and others, succeeded to break loose the iron locks of the train cars doors and provided water to the people. They brought food and clothes. Mrs. Agarici instructed to let the people get off the train for the night 53 were already dead and sent them to the bathhouse. Meanwhile, the inner walls of the train cars were painted. The next morning the passengers boarded the train and continued their way to Calarasi, but thanks to the help they received fewer of them died on the way. Several hours afterwards, Mrs. Agarici was suspended under the pressure from the other members of the Red Cross and the Mayor's deputy.
During that time, 100 Jews from all levels of their society were jailed in the synagogue and held for twenty days under a military guard. From August to September, thirty-eight of them from 8-9 families were deported to Transnistria on the pretext that they had evaded the forced labor. Another 80 were deported because they were communists and were sent to Vapniarca camp.
During the time of the expulsions, the Jewish kehillah kept in touch by letters and messengers, who brought them food, clothes, and money. Special donations were collected with the slogan a meal for a deported to Transnistria. They collected a large sum. One Jew from the first group died in Transnistria; the others came back in 1943. The other group in the camp returned in March-April 1944.
In April 1944, when the Russian military advanced, Jewish refugees began to arrive in Roman from Targu Frumos and Pascani. German trucks were rented and in return for 3,000 lei per person, Jews from Targu Frumos were transferred during the nights. Altogether 1400 Jews were brought from Targu Frumos and about 1,000 from Pascani. The police instructed to jail those refugees in the synagogue and to court martial them for deserting a war zone without permission. Refugees were freed and they received a special permit to stay in town. With the help of JOINT special soup kitchens were organized. That same period (May 1944), the military commander tried to establish a ghetto in Roman and instructed to Jews living on main and commercial streets of the town to move away within 48 hours to the outskirts of town near to the gypsy's quarter. After bribing officials, the decree was cancelled.
On May 10, 1944, the regional office of the Jewish Center received an order from the army to allocate 600 people, 300 men and 300 women, for digging projects. The same day, the head of the police transferred General Racovita's decree to the leaders. According to the decree, all Jews, men and women alike, age 15-55, were required to work. The Jewish kehillah had to provide their food and tools. On May 22, 1944, a third decree was issued from the General Staff with details of the different tasks Jews must perform: for the men paving roads, digging, building bridges and more; for the women washing linen, kitchen work, sewing and more. Each unit was to be comprised of 500 people, be under the rule of the army's headquarters, and the headquarters would be in constant touch with the kehillah. The work that was forced upon Roman's Jews in that last stage was the hardest and continued until after August 23rd.
The Jewish school had a good influence over the mood of the Jewish population in Roman. With the initiative of Rabbi Dr. Frenkel, the high school conducted public prayers every Saturday and on holidays. The choir and the cantors were students. During the holidays and on other occasions, the teachers and the students organized parties and all the town's Jews participated.
When the orphans returned from Transnistria in the spring of 1944, 2 of the congregation's representatives traveled to Tiraspol and brought back 132 orphans. They were placed in Jewish homes. In 1944, many deported Jews arrived to Roman from Transnistria and since they were originally from Bukovina, then under Russian rule, they could not return to their homes. Many of them settled in Roman. Also, some of the deportees from the region remained in Roman and never returned to their homes.
There is still a small Jewish kehillah in Roman today.
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