In 1944, all the Jews were shipped to Aushwitz and other concentration camps. Most perished; some came back after the war. Of those that resettled in the area, almost all emigrated to Israel. Romanian Jews make up the second largest contingent of the Israeli population. Jews were pressured to emigrate; during the Ceausescu era, Israel paid Romania $50 for every Jew who moved to Israel.
Today there are about 100 Jews in Sighet. There are also Gypsy, Hungarian and Ukranian minorities. Everyone gets along, Hari told me.
“ARE WE JEWISH?”
I remember asking my parents that. I must have been 14. It wasn’t the naive question of a kid. When I was a kid I knew we were Jewish. It was the thoughtful question of a teenager. I had been to friends’ bar mitzvahs…I knew that there was a big Jewish tradition that we had nothing to do with. No bar mitzvahs, no synagogue visits, even the meager observations we used to have for Passover and Hanukkah had disappeared from our lives. So why are we Jews?
Because, they told me, when they come to round up the Jews, they’ll take us, too. The Holocaust makes us Jews.
I can’t say I found that argument totally convincing, and I continued throughout my life as an ambivalent Jew. When people ask me “Are you Jewish?” I don’t really know how to answer.
I didn’t expect this to be an issue as I planned my Romania trip. On my initial raid on the downtown library for research materials, I avoided everything about “the Holocaust in Romania.” What I wanted at first was stuff about the Roman conquest, but I soon got hooked on the story of Ceausescu and the 1989 revolution.
And even though my mother was born in a refugee camp in what was then Romania (now the Republic of Moldova), a refugee from the anti-Semitic pogroms of the Ukraine, I didn’t have the sense that I was getting back to my own personal roots.
I REMEMBER, ON MY first trip to Mexico City, seeing Diego Rivera’s mural of La Gran Tenochtitlan, the pre-conquest city. It was a sudden opening onto a vast historical vista I had not yet seen. I had a similar experience in the Hebrew Cemetery at Sighet. A part of the past came into focus for me.
It’s not that I haven’t thought about the Holocaust; of course I have. I remember first learning about it at the age of 10, and since then, Holocaust-consciousness has permeated my thought, values and sensibilities. I didn’t think there would be anything left to think or feel about it, even in the center of it. But there was.
I don’t yet know how to describe it. I’m not done thinking about it, and I have to go back and check out those books I passed up before the trip. But I can tell you this:
I never felt more Jewish than among the neglected and overgrown graves at the Sighet Cemetery.
Fuente: The Dagger
Sephardim in Eastern Europe. The Sephardi Synagogue in Sighetu, Rumania
My good friend Ian Pomerantz directed me to this series of great photos of the Synagogue in Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania. The edifice was built between 1900 and 1904 by the Sephardic community in the city and was frequented by both the Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities of Sighetu.
It is one of the only remaining examples of a completely intact Romanian Sephardi esnoga with full Moorish architecture from the mid 19th century.
Fuente: Jewish History Channel
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