Ohio Jewish Chronicle, 1994-06-02, page 01
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JlU , m> "st-* FEATURE Shabbat in Bucharest — A portrait of a unique community iMtOtA Series • By Deborah Kazis Crossing the border into Romania from Bulgaria on an overnight train! there's a loud knock on my door in the middle ofthe night. A uniformed border guard loudly demands $100 for a stamp. His English is good enough to threaten to throw me and my bags off the train. $20 later, all is forgiven. The 200 mile train ride takes 13 hours, but I made to to Bucharest, Romania's capital, just in time for Shabbat. Bulgaria aiid Romania are: neighbors, but they are worlds apart. It seems that the temperature plummets and the snow begins to fall as we cross the border. Bulgaria has a warm* Mediterranean feel but. Romania is bitter cold, and the military seems to be everywhere. People are bundled Russian-like in fur'-hats and coats. Friday night almost 100 people come to Bucharest's magnificent Choral Synagogue which dates to 1866. As soon as I enter the wife ofthe s/io- c/ief (who ensures that there is kosher meat in Romania) is at my side. "Where are you from?" "What are you doing here?" "Do you have kids?" "Why not, how old are you?" Well I'..." As I start to mutter something about my career she interjects with a broad, knowing, smile —- "Don't worry you will!" I feel like I'm back in New York. I sit next to Rosa Epstein, an elderly heavy-set woman with . a pink round friendly face. She's dressed in many layers of thin clothing, and thick green rubber boots and keeps talking to' me in Yiddish. She is so delighted to have someone listening that I don't have the heart to tell her that my Yiddish is limited to five words. She tells me how proud she is of the beautiful synagogue and hushes me to be quiet when Rabbi Rosen enters wearing his deep purple yar- mulke and sash and large Star of David. It is warm and glowing inside as Romania's Chief Rabbi leads a traditional service while music from the choir three balconies up fills the enormous sanctuary; v The shochet's wife reappears and steers me to a seat in the front ofthe balcony in the section reserved for the rabbi's wife. I try to resist but quickly realize it's pointless. Formality is not to be taken lightly in Romania! It's impossible to fade into the beautiful woodwork. As Mrs. Rosen-enters, an attendant puts a large cushion on her chair before she sits, She greets me and inquires whether I'd prefer to speak in Hebrew, English or French. During the Holocaust n BeforeWorld War II almost a million Jews were living in Romanian Jewish students of all ages sing traditional Jewish songs hi Yiddish and Hebrew for a Saturday night concert In the Jewish Community Center in Bucharest, Roinanla. Photo by Deborah Kazis. Romania. Only half survived the Holocaust, and most ofthe survivors went to Israel. Although a shadow of what they once were, the 18,000 Jews in Romania today are a true community. Throughout Eastern Europe Jewish life was almost completely decimated, first by Hitler and then by Communist policies of forced assimilation and complete isolation from the outside Jewish world. Not in Romania. Through his sheer determination and strength of personality, Chief Rabbi Rosen has been able to help his community to survive and to survive,as Jews. Communism in Romania was brutal, but the Jews were allowed, for a price, to emigrate to Israel, and to live as Jews.-They could study Hebrew and run Jewish schools and welfare programs, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was allowed to provide support. Romania's Jews were never completely cut off from their Jewishness. Romanian Jewry Today Today the community is anxious for visitors, for connections with Jews from other countries. Mr. Diamant, the community's Protocol Director yearns for busier days. see BUCHAREST pg. 4 --if,' ■U I .'il fl e3t-Ma-rt-yttV -« -,."■"
|Title||Ohio Jewish Chronicle, 1994-06-02|
|Subject||Jews -- Ohio -- Periodicals|
|Place||Columbus (Ohio); Franklin County (Ohio)|
|Creator||Ohio Jewish Chronicle|
|Collection||Ohio Jewish Chronicle|
|Submitting Institution||Columbus Jewish Historical Society|
|Rights||This item may have copyright restrictions. Online access is provided for research purposes only. For rights and reproduction requests or more information, go to http://www.ohiohistory.org/images/information|
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