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Jewish Heritage Bucharest
Jewish Heritage and General Bucharest
Excursion to Brasov & Bran Castle
Wide, tree-lined boulevards, Belle Époque buildings, fashionable parks and its own Arc de Triomphe – Bucharest, capital of Romania, is situated on the Damboviţa River, a tributary of the Danube. Relatively unscathed by the war, the city boasts many impressive buildings. The Romanian Athenaeum, home of the Philharmonic Orchestra, is absolutely stunning with its high dome, Doric marble columns and ceiling decorated in gold leaf. The magnificent Choral Temple (1857), with its Moorish turrets, is a must see!
Jewish merchants traveled the commercial roads through Bucharest as early as the 1400s. Sephardic Jews arrived in the 16th century. With the Cossack uprising in the 17th century, Ashkenazi refugees arrived. Unlike in much of Europe, Jews in Romania were allowed to buy houses and therefore settled throughout the city. During the 1848 Revolution and the Romanian War of Independence in 1877–78, many Jewish intellectuals and craftspeople fought for the rights of all Romanians. By the early 20th century there was a Jewish population of 70,000 served by 70 temples and synagogues. Only a few survived fascism and communism. Elie Wiesel (born in Sighet, Romania) is perhaps the most prominent Romanian Jewish survivor.
Bucharest has a complex WWII history. In 1941 Romania joined Nazi Germany in the war against the Soviet Union, and yet a Yiddish theater performed throughout the Nazi period! Jews were not allowed to perform in state theaters, but here a Romanian audience still came to see their favorite actors. An active underground Jewish Council led by Chief Rabbi Alexander Safran worked to prevent mass deportations, in part successfully. During the communist period, Rabbi Moses Rosen led the community for nearly 50 years. Under his influence the Jewish Museum was opened in 1978 in the Holy Union Temple. Today’s bi-weekly Jewish newspaper Jewish Reality speaks to the 4,000 community members in Bucharest.
Today, one can visit the Choral Temple, the Jewish Museum, Jewish cemetery, the Holocaust Museum and Jewish Community Center. You can hear stories of the famous “Junk Market” in Vacaresti quarter and about the Jewish teahouses where religious songs were played on gramophones. For those especially interested in architecture, we are happy to include a look at buildings designed by Jewish architects…traditionalists like Hermann Clejann, Leon Silion or modernists like Marcel Iancu, Jean Monda, Harry Stern or Marcel Lorcar. Attend a play at the world-famous Jewish State Theater and discover that the spirit of Jewish Bucharest lives on.
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