« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Pages 53 - 71]

The Jewish Community of Bacau Throughout the Years (cont'd)

B. Jewish Community of Bacau (cont'd)

2. Community Preoccupations and Institutions

a. Cemeteries. The Sacred Society

The cemetery has always been one of the first institutions created by any Jewish Community, including at least several dozens of families. Small communities could use the cemetery of a bigger community near by, until the number of Jews belonging to that particular settlement increased.

In an article entitled “The Jewish Cemeteries in Bacau”, which was published in “The Magazine of the Mosaic Cult”, issue 671/1989, A. L. Iosif listed four Jewish cemeteries in the town of Bacau. Two of them, The Heroes' Cemetery and the “Lazaret” Cemetery are actually cemeteries where there have been buried - beside Christian soldiers - Jewish soldiers who died on the front during the War for Reunification from 1916-1918 or who died from contagious disease during the war.

There are two really Jewish cemeteries, that is cemeteries where only Jews are buried, and which are maintained by the Jewish Community: the so-called Old cemetery and the New Cemetery.

The Old cemetery, from the old Cremene Street, was already there in the 18th century. In this cemetery was found the tombstone dated 1703, which was probably not the oldest one. Here are some inscriptions from funeral stones from the 19th century:

“Here rests an important woman, Haia, daughter of Natan, who died on 17 Kislev year [5]578” (November 24th, 1817).

“Here rests an important woman, Haia, daughter of Ithac, who died on 3 Tamuz [5]581” (July 3rd, 1821).

“Here rests a rightful man of integrity, the honoured Tvi, son of Mr. Ioel, who died on 15 Adar [5]582” (March 7th, 1822).

“Here rests an important woman, Mrs. Mariese, daughter of Zeev Segal the learned man, who died on 2 Svat [5]583” (January 15th, 1823).

“Here rests an important woman, Mrs. Haia Sara, daughter of Mr. Ioel, who died on 18 Menahem Av [5]584” (Agust 12th, 1824).

Participants at the War for Independence from 1877 and at the War for the Reunification of the country were buried here.

The tomb of Faivis Klein the philanthropist is here too; there are also two little houses with the graves of the members of several Rabbi families who shepherded in the town.

But is this the oldest cemetery in Bacau? Let us remember the versions known at the time of A. D. Birnberg, according to which there used to be other Jewish cemeteries in Bacau, (...) giving us the right to consider them the fruit of folks' imagination. They can be traces, in the collective memory, of some realities of the remote past.

Coming back to the cemetery from Cremenei Street, we should also mention some data that have been registered in the archive documents. In 1865, its thorn fence was replaced with a wood one. In 1885, the chapel at the entrance was built; in its wall, the funeral stone from 1703 was fixed, and it remained there until it was taken to Bucharest, after the World War II, at the History Museum of the Jewish Communities in Romania. In 1937, a concrete fence surrounded the land of the Old Cemetery1.

In 1912, the Old Cemetery proved to be too small. Then a piece of land was bought from the City Hall for a new cemetery, which was opened in 1917, after it had been surrounded too in 19152. In 1919, an appeal was made to the Jewish population to make contributions to build a practicable road towards the new cemetery3. Many personalities who played a part in different walks of the Jewish Life from Bacau are buried here. In the fall of 1940, during the persecution from the Iron Guard, the City Hall despotically confiscated a part of the graveyard for agriculture4. The New Cemetery is the one which the small Jewish community of Bacau still use.

Who took care of the maintenance of the cemeteries and of the funeral rituals? In the past, the complicated Jewish funeral ritual did not have to be solemnized by a clergyman or by professional undertakers, but on the contrary, by religious and important people who formed funeral fraternity, called “Hevra Kedosa”, meaning “The Sacred Society” (with the modern short version “Sacra”). Even though it did not have a fixed written organization, the funeral fraternity did exist, it was active, it administrated the cemetery and had an income from selling pieces of land, from funeral taxes and donations.

In Bacau, such a fraternity had been created since the last decades of the 18th century. It had a register (List, Pincas) and its own statutes; all this even before the leading body of the Community had a functioning statute. The phenomenon is explained by the fact that the existence of a cemetery and the certainty of the respect given to the funeral ritual had priority before any other problems of the community life.

What information do we have about the “Hevra Kedosa” fraternity in Bacau? In his monograph, written in 1887, A. D. Birnberg notes that the oldest document of the Jewish community in Bacau is the Pincas of the Sacred Association from 1771. He shows that the following people were written in this pincas, among the persons registered as “gabaim” (chiefs): David san Itic, Suher Beer san Sloime, Manase Leib, Marcu Ionita san Peret, Lupu san Itic, David san Itic, Aron Volf, Burah san Hosea Zelig. It is mentioned here that “only in 1829 was Lupu Burah elected gabai, who was followed by Hers Kindes, Moche' s father [...] (who subscribes today as Moche Braunstein) [...] who functioned until the dissolution of the society. We do not know anything about the persons who are registered as the first leaders of this Association and about their help [...]. As we can draw a conclusion even from the rules provided for in the Pincas, the gabaims were elected from the oldest members, and they had to be native inhabitants of Bacau”. As this is all the information given by A. D. Birnberg about “Hevra Kedosa”, we understand that, at a certain moment in the 19th century, it was dissolved, and it no longer existed when the author wrote his monograph. Unfortunately, he did not write who took care of the cemetery maintenance and of the funeral ritual in his time.

We come across new information about this “Hevra Kedosa” and about its Pincas in an answer sent in 1928 by the leadership of the Community in Bacau to a questionnaire received from Manfred Reifer, a researcher from Cernauti. Here is what was included in this answer: “This Pincas comprises a preface, then different reports on religious topics, a regulation of the society, articles [...]. It is shown how and when the elections take place, the role of the society, the gabaims' s role. There are 3 pages missing, the beginning of a will, then there are receive minutes”. It also mentioned that “this document is very important and is artistically written”, that it had been written by David, son of Iehiel Mihal and that the Society had “a previously arranged schedule as well as aspects related not only to the funeral ritual, but also issues of social assistance”5.

I. Kara offered more complete information about this “Hevra Kedosa”, about its list and its statutes. In 1939, he could analyze and copy the register of the fraternity, which was owned at that time by I. Carniol, who had inherited it from a grandfather, member of the Society leadership. The register was beautifully bound in leather and its dimensions were of 35/22 cm. Based on this research, Kara published the first article in the “Veltspigl” magazine of Bucharest (issue 13, from March 1940), where he showed, among other things, that the oldest entry in this register is from 1774, but the anagram of the title page “Hagoel mimavet” (”The death Deliverer”) mentions the number 1771. (The title page of this pinkas has been photographically reproduced in “Pinkas Hakehilot Romania”, vol. I, Jerusalem, 1970, p. 11). Kara also shows that the first 13 pages the statutes of the fraternity were written - calligraphically, in the Rasi alphabet - as traditional considerations about death and about the importance of the funeral ritual. Then there were pieces of news from the life and activity of the fraternity. The register included hundreds of member names. The author mentioned that, unlike the similar fraternity from Roman, this was where, in 1833, a decision was made that the fraternity leadership should include, beside the chief (gabai), other persons as well: a president (ros), a vice-president, a censor (ros hesbon). David, son of Iehiel Mihal, who had also written the registers of “Hevra Kedosa” from Roman and Telenesti, wrote the register. Kara analyzed this pinkas in other personal6 or collective7 papers.

What is the conclusion from this research? First of all, that “Hevra Kedosa” was not a company of “funeral furnishers”, as we could imagine nowadays. On the contrary, it had many of the Community previous duties: it took care not only of funerals and the cemetery, but also of ill people (bicur holim), of the poor, of the bath, of the synagogues, etc. Therefore, the fraternity members were important people of the Community.

From the fraternity statutes, which are in an alphabetic order (see Appendix I), we find out many interesting details from the life of the Society, but also about the social life of the Jews from Bacau in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Candidates to the to the position of full member of the fraternity had to spend three years on probation (sames). After this period, they paid an admission tax (”berbanta”) and they offered a feast to the entire fraternity. Initially, all the members of the fraternity had fulfilled the funeral ritual; then this ritual became the duty of certain candidates, who were paid by the members.

Those who belonged to the fraternity had to live in peace; they were forbidden to bring conflicts before the official judges; they took part in three feasts every year, which were organized in the synagogue (de Pesah, de Savuot and de Sucot); they had the obligation to behave appropriately (”they must not throw the hat on the ground”).

Here is how the leadership of the fraternity was elected: the names of the “society members” were written on notes and put inside a urn (”kalfe”). The first three names coming out of the urn represented the electors (”borerim”). They designated the chief of the fraternity, his assistant (”bimcom”), the “believer” (”neeman”) and the censor (”ros hesbon”).

The chief established the prices for the pieces of land, the funeral tax and the tax for the construction of the tombstone, the tax for the admission in the fraternity and different fines. He was the one who kept the funds and the register of the fraternity, he presided at the meetings, the funeral ceremonial and the funeral feasts; he was the one to judge the misunderstandings among the members, he considered the opinion of the general meeting of the fraternity, which took place on a regular basis.

Before digging the grave for a deceased, if his family didn't have money, they made a pawning to the chief, which had to be redeemed within one year, and after this term the pawning could be sold in an auction. The fines for different violations of the statute provisions, between 5 and 15 coins, were shared among the chief and the members of the fraternity. Another detail about this register, which is worth mentioning, is the fact that there was a special artistic interest, both by the beautiful calligraphy of the writings, and by the traditional ornaments of the page borders.

Notes have been kept in the register about receiving members, elections, accounting, trials, fines, for the years 1774-1831, a total number of 55 entries; we can suppose that some others may have got lost. It seems that sometimes the members of the fraternity did not follow the chief's orders and conflicts broke out. In 1832, the candidates (”samesim”) pledged to follow the chief, but conflicts occurred repeatedly.

We do not know the date when “Hevra Kedosa” dissolved, nor de we know how the cemetery and the funeral ritual were taken care of during the following period. Analyzing the balances of the community leaderships from different years, we notice that there were times when the community leadership provided in its budget income from funerals and expenses for the maintenance of the cemetery, which means that there was no autonomous sacred society at that time. At other times, on the contrary, the community budgets had no such provisions, therefore, we understand that the activity of “Hevra Kedosa” had an independent leadership and administration.

We should mention here that, in 1947, I. Kara found and analyzed, at Iesaia Ghersei, from Bacau, a register dated 1869 and entitled “Pincas menahavura risona avur refuat haholim ve halviat hamet” (”The first fraternity for the help of the ill people and for participation in funerals”). Both the title page and some of the initials in the text were written in red and in bronze. The dimensions of the manuscript: 34/22 cm. The first 47 sheets of the register were not written. On pages 48-57, there were opinions about the importance of the help given to ill people and of the funeral ritual. Then there were the statutes, which were dated 1907 though, being drafted by Hanoh Henih Safran (son of Rabbi Betalel Zeev Safran), written by Ithac Kaufman (Leon I. Kaufman) and approved by Rabbi Safran's signature and seal. One hundred and twent one (121) names of fraternity members were mentioned next. As we can tell from this, this association was not a substitute for “Hevra Kedosa”, but an association with a philanthropic character, meant to help those in need, in cases of sickness or death. The title of the register did not show any concern for the administration of the cemetery and of its income.

Documents show that, in 1901, there was a “Sacred Society”, autonomous from the community leadership. The appeal made in 1919, which called the population to make contributions for the road towards the new cemetery, was signed by the Sacred Society, not by the community leadership. It seems that, in 1922, there were attempts to improve the existing relations, so that the administration of the cemetery and its income to be made by the Community leadership. A meeting of the population was organized for this purpose8. But this settlement did not last too long or it offered no satisfaction. As it can be seen from the evocation of the community life published by the traditionalist Zionist Mayer Eibschitz, in 1931, the cemetery leadership was under the direct supervision of the Community President, a member of a “historic” party. This one, says the author, had a very partial attitude: “the pieces of land in the front of the cemetery were kept for the rich and for those who had adopted their political opinions; peripherical places were meant for apolitical intellectuals, traders, clerks and handicraftsmen”. In the article about the cemeteries, A. L. Iosif wrote: “Dr. Tecuceanu established the normal right that the poor could also be buried in the new cemetery (they had been buried only in the old cemetery before that)”.

At the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, there is the Convention signed, on March 1st, 1933 by the president of the “Sacred Society” (Samuel Filderman) and by the president of the Community leadership (Ozias Herscovici), and it stipulated the fact that the administration and leadership of the cemetery were the task of the Community, including the “Hevra Kedosa” Department, as a special department. (We underline that this document mentions that “Sacra” functioned based on the statute in 1901). Thus the Conventioned consented with the statute provisions of the Community in Bacau, published in 19329. The settlement, which was provided by this statute, was valid for the entire period to come.

b. The Bath. Securing the ritual nourishment

The public bath was an absolutely necessary institution in every Jewish community, not only from a hygienic point of view, but also from a ritualistic one (ritual baths at least once a week for men and once a month for women in “micva” - the life water basin, permanently refreshed). At Bacau, the public bath is certified in documents since the 18th century. In his monograph, A. D. Birnberg writes: “The old men say that, in Bacau, in 1800, there was a steam bath belonging to the Community and another one of Ioina Beer, which he had inherited from his father”. The Community had income from the bath, leasing it; documents mention the leasing of the “Jewish public bath” in 1845. On February 26th, 1854, the tenant of the bath was complaining to the Prefecture that the Russian army had occupied the “public bath”10. In 1864, the bath was leased for 125 ROL per year11. In 1877-78, the income from the bath, together with the one from the cemetery, was of 500 ducats12. In 1882, it was mentioned that the public bath functioned, after it had been renovated in 187113.

Actually, there were more Jewish baths, probably with inappropriate draining systems, as, in 1892, the authorities invoked this reason when they decided to close the public bath in Leca Street and the ones in Pavel and Ana Cristea Street14.

Obviously, these public baths were rather primitive: an arch in the ground, a big oven and about three ranges of benches for the steam baths; baths in tubs were taken in two small rooms; the public baths also had a water system, which was always refreshing from the springs that were their sources - this was the “micva”, where the ritual baths were taken.

Seen from the perspective of our days, these baths were rudimentary. The image of the bath man, walking in the small Jewish streets, wearing a pole with straws and cloths on top, and crying “budaran, budaran” (”time for the bath, time for the bath...”), seems a picturesque weirdness to us. However, at that time, the Jewish community provided to the people means, even though rudimentary ones, to secure a minimum hygiene of the body.

In 1894, the philanthropist Faivis Klein built, on V. Alecsandri Street, a systematic bath, which he donated to the community. Afterwards he built another bath, on Post Street, for the poor to use. The Jewish baths were available to the entire population, being used by the military units in town as well.

In 1925, the committee of the F. Klein Foundation organized an auction to lease the central bath and “the small bath” in the Post Street15. After a decade, “the small bath” would be available to the City Hall for 10 years, with no rent16.

In 1940, the central bath was expropriated and taken over by the City Hall. But the legal bodies decided that this measure was illegal17. Even the National Center for Becoming a Romanian had to reject the repeated requests of the City Hall to be granted patrimony over this settlement which had been taken by the Iron Guards.

After the war, the public bath was again the property of the Jewish Community, and it functioned until the demolitions ordered by the new plan for the systematization of the town.

Throughout its entire existence, the Jewish community from Bacau took care of the ritual cutting (Kosher) of cattle and poultry. A. D. Birnberg's monograph mentions the names of the first hahams (butchers), whom the old men remembered as having functioned in the first half of the 19th century (Faivis, Haim Zeling, Ilie Elie, then Hanina and Hoisie), as well as the names of several hahams from the second half of the same century (Aron Hers, Nahman, etc.). In 1864, there were five active hahams. The numerous archive documents mention hahams' employment, their wages, the responsibilities they took in order to respect the religious rules, as well as their understandings with the administrative bodies about selling the meat.

Among the hahams who were active between the two wars, there were I. Marant, H. I. Sehter, Haim Tukerman, Buium Clejan, etc. In 1926, the Community built a slaughterhouse for poultry in the yard of the central bath.

Among the measures taken against the Jews during Antonescu's dictatorship, we should mention the interdiction of the ritual slaughtering18. Here is what the published material said related to this interdiction:

“We, the Mayor of the city of Bacau;

Considering the decision of the Sate Secretariat of the Agriculture and Estate Department, no. 12502, published in the Official Gazette, issue 162 from July 15th, 1942, we dispose:

Art. 1 - Beginning with the date of this published material, the animal and poultry ritual slaughtering is forbidden, both for public consummation and for the private one, even though with prior numbness.

Mayor, M. Vagunescu, retired Lt. Col.”.

The issue was no. 34 from July 18th, 1942.

During the years after the war, when the last Rabbis from Bacau left for Israel, the spiritual leadership of the community was left especially to the hahams and the psalm readers for a long time, until it was their turn to leave; but up to present the ritual (Kosher) nourishment is provided for by regular slaughtering and distribution of beef; at Bacau there is one of the eleven ritual restaurants in the country. The poor Jews are regularly given food secured by the concern of “Joint”.

Another issue of permanent concern for the community leadership was that of baking the unleavened bread for Pesah. The Jewish community from Bacau pays a lot of attention and appreciation to the celebration of the Jews' exit from the Egyptian slavery. At the same time, making the unleavened bread was another source of income for the needy population. The community leadership intervened to forbid the baking of the unleavened bread by private businessmen or bringing it from another locality19. Even during the last war, the Community struggled to get the quantity of flour that was necessary to bake the unleavened bread.

Many archive documents confirm the fact that, during the persecution, the Community used to send traditional unleavened bread to the Jews in prison too.

The unleavened bread factory functioned even after the Second World War for a short time; as the number of Jews decreased in Alia, the factory no longer justified its activity. But the unleavened bread is still provided for by the help of F.C.E.R., from abroad.

c. Synagogues. Cult staff. Religious education

Throughout the years, many synagogues have been founded in Bacau. Some of them belonged to certain professions or communities, others were built out of devoutness or out of the wish to relate the family name to the one of a cult house. Let's not forget that a Jewish prayer house could be a modest building, with few rooms. The officials (hazan) were very numerous and there was never a lack of believers, willing to build such a house. In some synagogues, “heider” classes were held (elementary religious schools). Usually, the synagogues were not only prayer houses, but also places for religious study, of religious initiation. Meetings for community interests were held in the synagogues too. Concerning all these aspects, there is the illustrating evocation made by A. D. Birnberg in his monograph.

Let's mention first of all some of the synagogues that functioned in the first half of the 19th century. The prayer house entitled “The Big Synagogue” was near St. Nicholas Church; a fire destroyed it in 1853. A wealthy tailor, named Moise Leib ben Iacov, founded the tailors' Synagogue in 1815. This synagogue had a wine cellar next to it, and wood was bought for poor families from its income; another fire destroyed it too, also in 1853. The Habad Synagogue was founded in 1841, in a time when this branch of the Hasidic movement was very popular among the Jewish communities of Moldova. Here are other synagogues from that period: Volf Burau Synagogue, the Furriers' Synagogue, the Tanners' Synagogue, Alter Ioines Synagogue, etc. Iedidia Hazen, Berl Hazen, Velvel Bendl and Iosef Burd are mentioned as officials of that time. The number of synagogues increased in the second half of the 19th century. There were 14 synagogues in 1864. There were 21 synagogues around the year 1890; many of them were very modest, such as the synagogues Froim Aizic, Alter Leibl, Itic Leib Bril, the Lipscans' Synagogue, etc., others were better arranged, such as the Young Tailors' Synagogue, the Cabmen's Synagogue, the Shoemakers' Synagogue, the Masons' Synagogue, the synagogues Rabi Israel, “Sion Brotherhood”, Snapic, Maria and Saim Cofler (”Mariesche”) and especially the Corn Dealers' Synagogue This last synagogue, which was founded around the middle of the century, has been destroyed many times by fires, so frequent in Bacau, and it has been rebuilt several times, eventually as a temple; people called it “Popsoinikes” (the Corn Dealers' Synagogue). Here are some of the well-known officials of that time: Rabi Israel, Solomon Rapner, Iser san Aizic. After the First World War, there were 22 synagogues20. Some of the old prayer houses had disappeared, some new houses had been founded (synagogues Weissman, Safran, Blanc, David Herscovici, Calmanovici, “The Palestine”, Filderman, etc.). During the inter-war period, between 23 and 26 synagogues functioned, some of them disappearing, others newly founded (synagogues Rabin Warman, Rabin Landman, Avram Simon21). Here are some names of officials of that time: Iosef Magulius, Pavda, Idel Orenstein, Aizic Jucovschi, etc. In 1939, there were 25 synagogues22.

The synagogues were maintained from the member' subscriptions and donations, as well as from the selling of arm chairs (lecterns), especially on important holy days. Here are the contents of the “ownership document” of the lectern at one of these synagogues (”The Palestine”):

“We, the undersigned Ioil Weissbuch, Haim Neuman, Elias Siegler and Sulim Schächter, residing in the town of Bacau, as guardians of the synagogue from 6 Prince Neagoe Street, in this town, donated for a prayer house by Mr. Michel san Mendel, a donation for which we are named Guardians and authorized representatives by the donation document authenticated by the Law Court of Bacau, registered with no. 517 from May 1896.

According to the regulation of the synagogue, we mandate Mr. Iancu Bercovici to own lectern no. 8, in part SPIGL I, together with Mr. Avram Bercovici, his father, and with Mr. Marcu san Aron, on the condition to comply with all the provisions of the synagogue, to contribute to all the expenses, to watch over the good order and respect owed to a house of prayer [...]. November 20th, 1896”.

As we can see, synagogues had a certain autonomy, the guardians administrated the funds, paid the wages to their own Rabbis, to the psalm readers and the other servants; they were supported by the community leadership only when there were problems with the public administration.

Here is an example of the way in which synagogues were organized: at the Corn Dealers' Synagogue (temple), there was a Pincas of their own, which regulated the members' rights and duties. The synagogue leadership was elected every year. Those who had the right to vote were the believers who had been members for two years and who had paid their subscription. The believers who had been members of the synagogue for four years could be elected as leaders. The leadership had the right to judge the litigation among believers. The expenses for the maintenance of the synagogue had to be approved by a collective that was especially designated for this goal. Another remarkable thing was the artistic ornamentation of the register. Beside the Pincas, there was also a minutes register for the period 1920-1937. The synagogue was self-financed from subscriptions and donations. The excess income was not donated to the community. The victims of the disaster in Buhusi received aid from this income in 1927 (Appendix VI).

During the war, the majority of the synagogues had many functioning difficulties. They hardly got the approval to perform the daily or the occasional prayers23. Some of them were arbitrarily evicted and used by the authorities for other goals. This is what happened to “Rebeca and Ozias Herscovici” Synagogue, the only one existing in the neighbourhood beyond the iron bridge24. Here are some other examples: on August 9th, 1941, the guardians of “Maria Cofler” Synagogue, on 8 Winter's Street, addressed to the president of the Community, asking him to intervene to the proper authorities so that “our synagogue, which is left for the Jews in this town to say their religious prayers, should be let free”.

The demolitions made after the war affected even more buildings where synagogues had been functioning. The Corn Dealers' Temple is the only one left upright, and “A. Rosen Synagogue”, near the office of the Community, is used for daily prayers; it is named after gaon Avram Arie Rosen, father of the much mourned Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen.

The first Rabbi whom the people of Bacau remembered was Ithac Botosaner, who had served for 55 years (1803-1858). He was known as a very educated man, who knew how to settle different civil and religious conflicts, and imposed the principles from “Sulhan Aruh” to be strictly respected. It seems his authority went beyond the believers (some of them considered him a “miracle maker”), even among authorities. He was a very temperate man, but also a very charitable person. When he got ill, he was given a daian, Moise Marcu, to help him. Rabbi Ithac Botosaner was mentioned in a trial for a house land, in 183425.

Since the middle of the 19th century, Rabbi Rahmune Derbaremdiker is mentioned, who, judging by his name, must have come from a famous family of Hasidic Rabbis. He is thought to have served at Bacau between 1825 and 1846, contributing to the spread of the Hasidism.

A document from 1859 shows that three Rabbis were exempted from recruitment; they were probably synagogue Rabbis26.

After Ithac Botosaner, one of his students served in Bacau, Rabbi Alter Ioines, who had also been brought from Botosani. He was also very well instructed in the religious literature, and he was known as a righteous man, loved by the believers. He served until 1873. He left to his successors a paper entitled “Divrei Moise” (”Moses' Words”), which was subsequently published by his sons.

Rabbi Alter Löbel, son of Haim Leib, from Botosani succeeded him. Characterized by A. D. Birnberg as a man of integrity and with no prejudice, he also had a wide rabbinical culture. In 1887, he disposed of the right to issue certificates of graduation from classes of religion to the Jewish students27. He is mentioned in the paper entitled “Sefer Divrei Haim” (”The Book of Life”), written by his son Iehuda Löbel, and published in Roman in 1891.

The great spread of Hasidism among the Jews from Bacau, made the tailors' community hire, in 1885, Rabbi Israel, from the dynasty of Israel Rijner, from Sadagura. He served as a hazan. In 1887, a synagogue named after him was built on Leca Street.

Rabbi Betalel Tva Safran was a representative image; well-known as a Talmudist, born in 1851, he was hired in Bacau in 1905. He had an intense activity as Prime-Rabbi until 1929, when he died. In 1931, his bones were taken to Israel. He drafted the paper “Seelot Utesuvot ha-Rabaz” (”Rabbis' Questions and Answers”), Talmudic commentaries that were published in Warsaw in 1930, accompanied by the notes of his son, Henoh Henih Safran.

A learned man, who was also very active both in the community life and in the Zionist movement, was Rabbi Mose Blanc. Born in Botosani, in 1850, he was hired in Bacau in 1902. He served until 1944, when he died.

Rabbi Tvi Landman also served in Bacau; he is the author of remarkable papers such as “Sefer matoca snat haoved” (”Sweet is the road of the hard worker”).

Rabbi Dr. Alex. Safran has been serving in Bacau since 1934. In 1939, when he was only 29, he was elected Chief Rabbi of the Jews in Romania. Currently, he is a Great Rabbi of Geneva, and a professor of Jewish studies at the University in this city. He is considered a great authority in the study of Cabala.

Among the Rabbis who served during the Second World War in Bacau, there were Iom-Tov Dermer, Pinhas Ghinsberg, Varman, Bahman, beside the numerous Rabbis in synagogues. The last Rabbi in Bacau was the Talmudist M. Marilus, who served here between 1950 and 1961, after which he was called as prime-Rabbi to Bucharest, where he died in 1986; his bones were taken to Israel. He published commented fragments from the works of the Rabbis in Romania in “The Magazine of the Mosaic Cult”.

The concern for children's education - which is characteristic to all the Jewish communities - has been a permanent one within the community of Bacau, too. During the first decades of the 19th century, education was merely religious, confessional, being developed in the so-called “heider”, where the teacher (”melamed”), who was usually paid by the parents, guided the children in the study of basic religious texts. Children learned how to read and speak in Hebrew, the language of the Bible, they were taught the religious norms, they discovered the meaning of the prayers, which was explained and commented in Yiddish, the current language used by the Jews in Moldova in every day life. In order to support the good functioning of these elementary schools, and to make sure that poor children got the necessary education as well, the “Talmud Tora” association was founded, in 1837, beside the Community, and from this association we still have the register with its functioning statutes (Appendix IV). The members of the association checked the heider classes, reported the way in which they activated and, in the same time, they watched over correct relationships among teachers, and between teachers and their assistants (belfers).

A. D. Birnberg, who wanted the past of the community in Bacau to be known by generations to come, sent to “'Iuliu Barasch' Historic Society” the Pincas of the association (written in Hebrew by Aser David Mordehai, from Hotim), and the statutes of the association, translated in Romanian by Lazar Casvan. In 1946, all these were in M. Scwarzfeld's archive from Bucharest, and now they are at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People from Jerusalem (R. M./269).

We do not know the activity length of this association, whose initial goal was the functioning of 13 confessional classes. However, it is certain that the support that the Community gave to the Talmud Tora activity was consistent throughout the 19th century, and it was continued in the next century, until today; this is proven by many documents in the Community archives. There has been a constant supervision of the elementary confessional classes, by means of the cult staff. The community Rabbis checked the heiders, which used to function within the synagogues. Thus, in 1934, there were 6 Talmud Tora classes, including 150 children28. The teachers that are remembered by the people from Bacau were Saie Hersel, Solomon, Bloh, Mehel, Pinhas, a.s.o. Not even during the difficult years of persecution did the material support of the Community stop for these classes29. The “Talmud Tora” classes and the choir, existed even after the last war, due to the F.C.E.R. guidance, have continued and they continue the tradition of the Jewish education.

Every year, appropriate holidays schedules were established (Hanuca, Hamisa Asar Bisvat, Purim, Pesah), under the guidance of Professor L. Iosif.

Many students who were educated at Talmud Tora left for the Holy Country.

Beside these elementary forms of education, we should mention that there have also been developed in Bacau the possibilities to study the Talmud; for example, in 1851, there was founded “Hevra Misnaiot”, an association for the study of the Talmudic “Misna” texts.

d. Social and sanitary assistance

The help for the needy - an old tradition of the Jewish population - was reflected in Bacau in the actions of the community leaderships, of the synagogue believers and of the community associations. (Some of them had a philanthropic character, other were associations of mutual help). Around the middle of the 19th century, a small night shelter for the poor (”hekdes”) was founded beside the Furriers' Synagogue.

“Ghemilat Hasadim” (”Social Assistance”) Association had the character of a mutual help society, being founded in the fourth decade of the 19th century. There is little information about the activity of this association. Nevertheless, a manuscript from 1836 has been kept, including the Pincas and the statutes of the association, written by Aser David ben Mordehai, and having beautiful ornamentation (Appendix III). As we can see from the statute, the association had circulating funds from the weekly subscriptions of its members and from donations on special occasions (wedding, circumcision, and holidays). Loans were given from this fund to the members of the association who needed them, in exchange of a pawning they had to give. The first chief (gabai) of the association was Iosef ben Meir.

“Fraterna” Society also had the character of mutual help, which was founded in 1879 and was permanently active for 62 years, until 1941.

“Materna”, an association of the Jewish women to assist poor women lately confined and to look after the suckling, had a philanthropic character. In 1934, they founded a maternity, in a place donated by the Community.

Successive community leaderships tried to contribute to fulfilling the traditional obligation of helping those who suffer. In all the balances submitted by the community leadership throughout the years, there are expenses meant to help the poor, under different forms: distributing wood, unleavened bread, monthly allowances or regular amounts of money, free drugs, rent allowances, meals for the poor children, aids for the Jewish prisoners, etc. since 1926, the Community supported by grants the alms-house for old people founded in Calea Oituz, which included several dozens of old poor Jews; the alms-house was administrated by the Association for the alms-house30.

The support from “Joint” has been and still is of considerable importance for the actions of social assistance.

Social assistance became a priority during the war.

The necessity of a hospital for the Jewish population, in parallel with the development of public medical assistance in Moldova in the 19th century, imposed for several reasons. First of all, because of the insufficient number of beds in public hospitals. There was also the problem of the ritual nourishment and of the specific prayers. There also general conditions of the environment and, not seldom, the discrimination from a part of the medical staff.

The first attempts to found a Jewish hospital dated from January 25th 1848. The document file was entitled “The Jewish Hospital that I Want to Found in this Town”31.

In 1862, the Guardianship of the Jewish Community from Bacau informed the Prefecture that the hospital is founded “with the money left by late Pincas Edelstein, and, partly, with the income from the salt tax that the Jewish inhabitants impose themselves for meat”32. These data also result from a statement submitted to the City Hall in 190133. A piece of land was bought to build the hospital, and the purchasing deed was registered at the Law Court34; doctor I. Meiseles donated 100 ducats for the acquisition of the land. In 1864, the amount of 168 ROL was spent for the maintenance of the hospital, which had at the beginning 4 beds35. In the next year, they collected the sum of 8034 ROL and 22 coins36.

The hospital maintenance had many difficulties to face. An appeal in Yiddish, launched in 1884, required the population's support for the hospital. In 1890, the unit had 12 beds and it had taken care of 160 patients; the doctor of the hospital was Dr. E. Marcovici, helped by three other doctors. Documents from the archives of the City Hall show that, in 1893, the Jewish hospital, administrated by two ephors, had been functioning with 12 beds and had been treating 113 patients, for which they needed 1007 ROL and 85 coins37. A newspaper article informs us that, in 1894, the hospital was rebuilt, as a fire had affected it. It also shows that Dr. Tr. Hilariu offered his services for free, thus money could be saved in order to help the Jews who had been chased away from villages38. In 1896, Dr. Marcovici gave free consultations to the patients of the hospital, which now had 20 beds. In 1908, although it no longer had income from the salt tax, the community secured the activity of the hospital, where 233 patients were hospitalized; out-patient consultations and free medication were also provided39. Around the First World War, a set of misunderstandings led to the closing of the hospital. At that time, Dr. Ozias Brucar, who was very popular among the poor Jews, was noticed from the medical staff.

After the brothers Schuler's donation of 150,000 ROL, in 1915, to complete the funds to re-open the hospital, the latter was restored under the name “Aizic and Anette Hospital”40. In 1923, a fence surrounded the land on which the hospital had been built. Throughout the years, the maintenance of the unit was made possible by means of the donations and the collected amounts, the students' shows, sports festivals, etc.41. Among the donors, we should mention Ilie Blumental (deceased in 1924), who left his entire fortune to the hospital.

The appreciation related to Schuler hospital is obvious, if we follow the actions developed throughout the years for its support. In 1925, Marcel Vogel deposited 11,800 ROL at he Community pay-office, an amount that had been collected by the late I. Vogel for the use of the hospital. In the same year, Leon Iacob donated 11,020 ROL on behalf of his aunt, Hava Klepper, for acquisition of surgical instruments. Still in 1925, the Opera Company conducted by S. Friedman gave a performance for the benefit of the hospital. The performance given by a “group of students and dilettantes” had the same goal. In 1932, the heirs of the late F. Klein donated an amount of money to finish the isolation ward of the hospital42. Here are the doctors who were activated in different periods: I. Marcusohn, M. Saler, I. Creter, A. Brill and S. Schwartz. Patients were hospitalized no matter what their religion was43. The City Hall subsidized the hospital too. Since 1937, the hospital had an autonomous leadership - provided by the “Fraterna” Society - and a number of doctors (Eckstein, E. Iticovici, A. Klein, I. R. Rotenberg, S. Sabat, M. Saler, I. Sarf, M. Sontag, H. Suler, L. Tecuceanu, M. Zerner). In 1940, the |Jewish Hospital ceased its activity, the building being used to accommodate the Jewish refugees from Poland and Basarabia. During the war, the Jewish hospital was taken over by the German army. At that time, the maternity was still functioning, as the Community leadership had given to the “Materna” Association the building at 9 Alex. cel Bun Street, in 193444.

e. Education

The economic-social changes which took place in Moldova during the second half of the 19th century, had a considerable influence on the mentality and the behaviour of the Jewish population. There was an increasing and developing influence of the enlightening movement named “Hascala”, which had militants (”maskilim”) who wanted the Jews to adapt to the new conditions of the historical evolution. The more and more complex relationships that the Jews had with the Romanian population and with the public administration also had a decisive influence towards the same direction. That is why, in Bacau, as well as in other urban centers, there was a need to educate children in the language of the country and in the modern spirit. It would have been normal if this education had happened in public schools, but, the discrimination that the Jewish students had to face, made the admission of the Jews' children in public schools even more difficult, as they had to pay school taxes. In some cases, there was an obvious conservative spirit of the parents, afraid their children might be estranged from the Jewish tradition by attending public schools. For these reasons, and wishing students to know the ancient traditions, the Community began to create the “Jewish-Romanian” schools, having the same training schedule as the public schools, but there were the Jewish language and the Mosaic religion as additional objects.

The first attempt to found a primary Jewish school in Bacau is dated in 1863 to1865, when such a school functioned, being conducted by teacher Iosif Haim Grimberg (father of the painter N. Vermont). An attempt to reactivate the school in 1868-1869 failed. Between 1869 and 1871, Mauriciu Schwarty (known for his pedagogical activity in Iasi and for the textbooks that he had published) administrated a Community supported primary school in Bacau. After he had left the town, the school ceased its activity, until 1873. At that time, the “Zion” section, which had been recently created, founded a primary school for the Jewish children with 250 students, which functioned until 1879, with the support of the Community.

The school could not function for the following period, because of the financial difficulties, although M. Hirschenbein had granted an interest-free loan for the school budget45. The parents who wanted to have their children educated made efforts to include them in public schools; for instance, in the school year 1878/1879, from the total of 833 students, 150 of them were Jews. The Jewish-Romanian primary school for boys was re-opened by the Community in 1890, on Bacau-Piatra Street. After three years, thanks to the final will and testament of F. Klein, the school was moved to a building on Sachelarie Street (on the place donated by S. Z. Giuvaergiu) and began to be named the “F. Klein School”, a name which was kept for decades to come. In 1896, the school had 370 students.

In 1893, the Jewish Women's Reunion founded a primary school for girls, named the “Cultura” School, for which O. Brucar, the doctor to be, made an important contribution. The school had four classes, with 150 students.

Although the traditional Talmud Tora continued to exist, the thousands of children who came and left the desks of the two primary Jewish-Romanian schools throughout the decades received a modern education here, appropriate for the time, and the necessary Jewish traditional knowledge as well. Therefore, the school committees tried to develop harmonious school programmes, excluding the excessive attitudes adopted at different times, either with conservative elements, or with assimilating elements46.

Although many times they had to face great difficulties (inappropriate places, grants that were not always enough), although the successive community leaderships did not make constant efforts to give material support to the schools, the achieved results were good. The schools had the benefit of a well-instructed and devoted didactic body. Thus, at “F. Klein” School activated, since the beginning of the century, Isidor Augenstrif, V. Holländer, M. Braunstein-Mibasan, Lazar Casvan (the last two were well-known scholars) and others, and, during the between-war period, H. Maier, Isac Sehter, sami Iticovici, Ozias Rozenberg, Vasile Irimescu and others. At “Cultura” School, which was administrated at first by teacher Catz, Roza Goldstein, Jeanette H. Maier, Eti Lepner, Aspasia Hilariu, Paula Zaharia and others activated here. Roza Grimberg (named Roza Ghita after her marriage to the Zionist Moise Ghita, the brother of Dr. Zeiling, a man of culture from Moinesti). In 1930, Jeanette and Herscu Maier, received the “Work Reward” order, class I, for the didactic activity they had performed for decades47.

The Community, which did not always have the necessary funds (especially during the First World War, as well as in 1933), awarded different grants to the schools, looked after the poor students, providing food and clothes for them48. The Community established for years a school restaurant, and it monitored the good functioning of the schools in general.

The material difficulties faced by the Community influenced the activity of the schools. For example, in 1898, the boys' school, which had 500 students, opened with after a long delay, for lack of funds. In the same year, the girls' school was menaced to be evicted because it hadn't paid the rent, which “Alinarea” (the Caress), the Young Ladies Society, finally managed to pay.

At the same time, a relatively large number of Jewish children were studying at public schools. Thus, there were 201 Jewish students in these schools in 1892-1893, and 518 in 1896-1897. During the between-war period, too, the Jewish children studied in public schools, as the Community provided classes of Mosaic religion for them.

Ever since the end of the 19th century, older children began to attend secondary schools. In 1885-1886, 35 Jewish children were registered at the secondary school, the next year 30, and in 1896-1897 23. Of course, discriminations were present here, as well. as in 1910-1914, the Jews' registration in secondary schools was forbidden, and thus the Community had to provide parallel classes.

During the between-war period, the number of secondary school students increased. For instance, in 1924-1925, there were 228 Jewish pupils at the secondary school49. The Community provided them the Mosaic religion class with Rabbi B. Safran and Rabbi M. Blanc, and with teacher I. Iticovici50.

In this chapter about education, we must also mention the kindergartens that functioned in Bacau. Ever since 1899, Haia Strul founded a kindergarten51. In 1925, the Community founded a kindergarten, which functioned for all the years to come52.

Education became a big problem during the years of persecution.


  1. Idem, Jewish Community, file 15/1937, p.1. Return

  2. Idem, Jewish Community, file 24/1922, p. 2, 2/v Return

  3. Idem, Jewish Community, file 24/1922, p. 11. Return

  4. Idem, Jewish Community, file 6/1941, p. 68. Return

  5. Idem, Jewish Community, file 12/1928, p. 1, 2, 2/v, 3, 3/v, 4. Return

  6. I. Kara, op. cit., p. 11-18. Return

  7. I. Voledi-Vardi, op. cit., p. 14-16. Return

  8. State Archives of Bacau, Jewish Community, file 23/1922, p. 14, 16. Return

  9. Idem, Jewish Community, file 1/1938, p. 11, 12. Return

  10. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, file 38-1854, p. 1. Return

  11. Idem, file 51/1864, p. 34. Return

  12. Idem, file 45/1880, p. 1, 4. Return

  13. “Fraternitatea”, 1882, p. 319. Return

  14. State Archives of Bacau, Jewish Community, file 24/1892, p. 4. 5. 19, 19/v, 24. Return

  15. Idem, Jewish Community, file 12/1925, p. 11. Return

  16. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, file 47/1934, p. 3, 3/v, 4, 5, 7. Return

  17. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, file 7/1943, p. 35-35/v. Return

  18. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, file 21/1942, p.66. Return

  19. Idem, Jewish Community, file 8/1930, p. 18 and file 2/1932, p. 5. Return

  20. Idem, Jewish Community, file 20/1922, p. 57. Return

  21. Idem, Jewish Community, file 6/1934, p. 3/v Return

  22. Idem, Jewish Community, file 5/1939, p. 13-14/v. Return

  23. Idem, Jewish Community, file 21/1940, p. 127, 133, 143. Return

  24. Idem, Jewish Community, file 21/1940, p. 152. Return

  25. State Archives of Iasi, Prefecture of Bacau, letter P, file 489. Return

  26. Idem, Tr. 1772, op. 2020, no. 31984, from May 2 1859. Return

  27. “Unirea”, year I, issue 205, October 16 1887. Return

  28. State Archives of Bacau, Jewish Community, file 27/1934. Return

  29. Idem, Jewish Community, file 27/1941, p. 5-24. Return

  30. Idem, Jewish Community, file 1/1939, p. 85. Return

  31. State Archives of Iasi, Prefecture of Bacau, Tr. 1318, op. 15, XVI, 1491. Return

  32. State Archives of Bacau, City Hall of Bacau, file 78, no. 1901. Return

  33. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, file 79/1901, p. 1-2. Return

  34. Idem, Jewish Community, file 22/1926, p. 11-12. Return

  35. P. Pruteanu, Contributions to the history of the hospitals in Moldova, Bucharest, 1959, p. 29. Return

  36. State Archives of Bacau, file39/1866, p. 45-46. Return

  37. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, file 101/1893, p. 4-7. Return

  38. “Egalitatea”, issue 7, October 1st 1894. Return

  39. “The Jewish People”, issues 2-3, January 23rd, 1909. Return

  40. “Egalitatea”, November 20th 1915. Return

  41. State Archives of Bacau, Jewish Community, file 9/1924, 4, 5/1925, 92/1926, 4 and 9/1929. Return

  42. Idem, Jewish Community, file, 1932, p. 73. Return

  43. Idem, Jewish Community, file 8/1923, p. 14-16. Return

  44. Idem, Jewish Community, file 7/1934, p. 126. Return

  45. “Fraternity”, August 3rd, 1884. Return

  46. State Archives of Bacau, Jewish Community, file 2/1896, p. 383 and file 5/1923, p. 66/67. Return

  47. “The Jewish Courier”, April 6th, 1930. Return

  48. “Egalitatea”, December 25th 1915. Return

  49. State Archives of Bacau, Jewish Community, file 18-1924, p.5 Return

  50. Idem, Jewish Community, file 5/1934 Return

  51. Idem, City Hall of Bacau, 1899, p. 1, 1/v. Return

  52. Idem, Jewish Community, file 44/1942. Return

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
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.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Bacau, Romania     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 28 July 2005 by LA