“Crasna”
Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 2
(Romania)

47°10' / 22°54'

Translation of “Crasnati” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1980


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania, Volume II,
pages 255-256, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1980


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[Page 255]

Crasna, Romania

(Romanian: Crasna, Hungarian: Kraszna)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 

It is a town in the district of Sălaj, about 15 kilometers
west of the district city of Zalău. Most of its residents are Hungarian..

Jewish Population

Year Population % of Jews in
the General
Population
1920 451 10.5
1930 418 9.6
1945 (Sept) 81  
1947 115  

 

Until the Outbreak of the Second World War

The first Jews settled in the town at the end of the 18th century. Local landowners leased them taverns and granted them rights to work in the export of agricultural products from their lands, and in liquor distilling. Later, the Jews leased lands and vineyards, which they worked themselves with the help of tenants. From the 1870s and onward, a sizable portion of the leased lands transferred to their ownership. We do not have exact details on the economic breakdown of the Jews of Crasna during the 20th century. It can be stated that, in general, the typical source of livelihood for the Jews of such a town – aside from the traditional sources of livelihood that were common in Transylvania – was trade in wine, wheat, and fruit. A significant portion of the Jews of the town earned their livelihoods in that manner.

The community was organized during the 1820s. A synagogue was built and a mikva [ritual bath] was set up during that period. A cemetery had been set aside already from the beginning of the century, and apparently, a Chevra Kadisha [burial society] had been organized at that time. The community maintained ledgers from 1838, in which births, marriages, and deaths of community members were recorded. New societies were added to the community at the beginning of the 20th century: for the study of Torah, for charity, and for benevolence. During the 1930s, the community was headed by Yaakov Goldstein, who had bene elected several times.

The community of Crasna was fanatically Orthodox, one of the most extreme in Transylvania. Householders whose wives did not shave their hair (and there were only a few cases of such) were not eligible to be elected to communal leadership positions. In 1935, a proposal was presented that such people, as well members of the Zionist organization, would not even have the right to vote. The proposal fell through, but it does indicate the extreme spirit that pervaded in the community. Almost all the Jews of Crasna (395 out of 418) indicated Yiddish as their mother tongue in the census of 1930.

The first rabbi of the community was Rabbi Yehuda Leib Löwinter, who was apparently accepted during the 1840s. He was a student of the Chatam Sofer and of Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Charif Heller. He left the rabbinate of Crasna at the end of the 1850s for unknown reasons and settled in the city of Baja in Hungary, where he died during the 1860s. His printed books include: “Orchot Chaim” on the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] (Vienna 5628 / 1868); and “Shaagat Aryeh,” words of moral lessons and lore, including some from his rabbi, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Charif Heller (Vienna, 5628 / 1868). Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Schwartz served after him. He was later accepted as the rabbi of the Orthodox community of Carei (see entry), where he died in 1908. The final rabbi of the community was the son-in-law of Rabbi Schwartz, Rabbi Baruch Bendet Lichtenstein (1858-1944). He served for more than 60 years in Crasna (1883-1944), and perished in the Holocaust at around the age of 90. He maintained a Yeshiva throughout most of his tenure, in which from 50-80 students studied. Almost all his sons and sons-in-law served in the rabbinate in various communities of Transylvania.

Several scholars who were known throughout the country lived in Crasna. The merchant Reb Chaim Yosef Dov Kahana-Heller, a descendent of the author of “Kuntrus Hasefeikot” of Sighet, lived there during the 1870s-1890s. He was connected by marriage with most of the great rabbis of Hungary. From the beginning of the 20th century until the Holocaust, the Bernstein family lived in Crasna: Reb Yisrael and his sons Reb Shraga Tzvi, Reb Naftali Hertzka, and Reb Shlomo Chaim Bernstein, who corresponded a great deal with the rabbis of the country. The wine merchant Reb Akiva Blau did much in this area, for many tens of responsa were addressed to him in the responsa books of most of the rabbis of the country, as well as from outside the country. According to the articles in the hand of this writer, more than 120 responsa to Reb Akiva Blau were published, from the beginning of the 20th century until the years of the Holocaust, in which he perished.

rom2_00255.jpg
Rabbi Baruch Bendet Lichtenstein

Zionist activities are barely mentioned in the town, because its fanatically Orthodox character. Even the little that took place was accompanied with incessant debates and conflict among members of the community. In 1925,

[Page 256]

Dr. Béla Löw, stood at the head of the small Zionist group. He organized the Aviva group, which numbered 21 young girls at its founding. The group disbanded after some time. The WIZO women's organization organized social events from time to time. The following facts show the extent of the Zionist activities in Crasna during the 1930s: 12 shekels [tokens of membership in the Zionist movement] were sold in 1934, 38 in 1935, 40 in 1936, 51 in 1938, and 19 (or 29 according to another source) in 1939.

 

The Holocaust

We have no detailed information about the situation of the Jews of Crasna prior to the deportation. Men were enlisted to forced labor from this town as well between the years 1942-1944. Some were sent to Ukraine, where most of them perished. At the beginning of May 1944, all the Jews of the town were gathered in the synagogue square, where they were held for five days without food. The wealthy ones were taken for interrogation, accompanied by beatings and threats, so that they would disclose the hiding places of their property and valuables. Later, all of them were transferred to the ghetto of Simleul Silvaniei (see entry), from where they were deported to Auschwitz at the beginning of June 1944.

The Holocaust survivors returned to the town after the war. Tens of Jews from the villages of the area joined them. An attempt was made to revive communal life. A communal kitchen was set up, and a synagogue was set up for worship. However, the survivors left after a brief time. Most of them went to Israel.

Today there is no Jewish community in Crasna.

YO'C


Bibliography

Yad Vashem Archives: M-1/E/348/266
Tzvi Yaakov Abraham: History of Transylvanian Jewry, Volume I, New York 5711 (1951), pp. 34, 91.
Yekutiel Yehuda Greenwald: A Thousand Years of Jewish Life in Hungary, New York 1941, p. 203.
Menachem Mendel Panet, Responsa Shaarei Tzedek, Orach Chaim, Muncacz, 1995, section 35; Yoreh Deah, Muncacz, 1994, sections 90, 138; Responsa Avnei Yitzchak, Muncacz 5645 (1886), section 18.
Avraham Karpeles, Responsa Ohel Avraham, Muncacz 5659 (1899), sections 21, 44, 46.
Amram Blum, Responsa Beit Shearim, Orach Chaim, Muncacz, 5669 (1909), sections 26, 151, 228, 372; Yoreh Deah, Groswardein, 5701 (1941), sections 58, 288, 368, 384, 389, 391, 439.
Yehoshua Aharon Tzvi Weinberger, Responsa Maharia'tz, Margareten, 5673 (1913), Orach Chaim sections 19, 22, 24, 44; Yoreh Deah sections 1, 10, 19, 94, 95.
Moshe Tzvi Fuchs, Responsa Yad Ramah, Groswardein, 5700 (194), Volume I, section 120.
Shimon Lichtenstein, Responsa Shemen Lamaor, New York 5720 (1960), section 97.
Magyar-Zsidó Lexikon, Budapest 1929, p. 545.
Stein, Artúr, A zsidók anyakönyvei és konskripciói, Budapest 1941, p 54.
Hegdüs, Márton, A Magyar hadviselt zsidók Aranyalbuma, Budapest 1941, p. 60.

 


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