Thursday, October 15, 2009

Jewish Community of Moldova


Jewish Community of Moldova
Association of Jewish Communities & Organizations of Moldova
Jews have lived in Bessarabia, the territory that constitutes the bulk of what is present-day Moldova, since the 15th and 16th centuries. At that time, Bessarabia was an important transit stop for Jewish merchants from Constantinople and Poland.
On the eve of the German-Romanian invasion in WORLD WAR II, there were more than 250,000 Jews living in Bessarabia. Many of these were deported to camps in Transnistria, where tens of thousands perished at the hands of German and Romanian forces. In 1992, Moldova was torn apart by a civil war that resulted in a division of the country into the Republic of Moldova to the west of the Dniester and the secessionist Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic of Transnistria to the east of the river. In response, the Moscow-based Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Va’ad ) and Israeli organizations arranged for the evacuation of the Jewish population.
Chisinau (Chisinau) has been seared into the Jewish consciousness as the place where two of the worst pogroms in history took place. During the pogrom in 1903, 49 Jews lost their lives and 500 were injured. Seven hundred houses were looted and destroyed, as were 600 shops and businesses. In the second pogrom in 1905, 19 Jews were killed and 56 were injured. These events prompted Chaim Nachman Bialik to write his famous poem Be-Ir ha-Haregah (In the City of Slaughter), one of the classics of Hebrew literature.
The Community Today
The largest Jewish community is in Chisinau, the capital, where some 15,000 Jews reside. There are other communities in Tiraspol (2,500) and Beltsy (1,000). Smaller numbers live in Bendery, Rybnitza, Soroky, and elsewhere.

The Jewish Community of Moldova is represented by 20 organizations on different levels:
Jewish International organizations with branches in Moldova:
• The American Joint Distribution Committee;
• Sohnut, the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Religious organizations:
• Chabad Lubavitch, the Moldovan Federation of Jewish Communities;
• Agudath Israel Yeshiva.
National non-governmental organizations:
• Moldovan Jewish Congress;
• The Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations in Moldova;
• The Association of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentration Camps;
• The Jewish War Veterans Organization;
• The Jewish Refugees Organization;
• Hava National Jewish Women’s Organization;
• JUHUR (a community of Jews living in the Caucasus, Bukhara and Georgia);
• Maccabi Jewish Sport Organization.
City non-governmental organizations:
• The KEDEM Jewish Cultural Centre (Chisinau United House of Jews in Moldova), which includes: the NES Jewish Family Service, the Hesed Yehuda Jewish Welfare Centre, the Centre for Training and Professional Development.
• The Jewish library and Jewish Community Centre named after Y. Manger.
Jewish formal and informal educational institutions:
• Tikvah Zion non-government organization;
• ORT T. Herzl Jewish Lyceum;
• Rambam Jewish Lyceum;
• Jewish kindergarten;
• Hillel Jewish Students’ Organization.
The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Moldova (AJOCM) is the primary umbrella organization for the Jewish community. It runs programs such as the Moldova-Israel Friendship Association, the Moldova-Israel Foreign Trade Association, the Jewish Museum, and the monthly Nash Golos (Our Voice) Jewish newspaper.
SEVROK, the Union of Jewish Organizations of Chisinau, is a local umbrella group in Chisinau that was created on the basis of the Moldovan Cultural Centre. The capital also has a Religious Jewish Community of Moldova. Chisinau’s Jewish Community Centre, an outgrowth of SEVROK, is housed in the Manger Children’s Jewish Library. The Centre and the Library are both supported by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). There are five other JCCs in Moldova – in Beltsy, Bendery, Rybnitza, and Soroki, and a combined JCC/Hesed in Tiraspol. A Hillel chapter is based in Chisinau.
The Organization of Ghetto Survivors, 250 members strong, is headed by Shaps Roif, a Moldovan Holocaust survivor. The organization works to obtain pensions and compensation for Moldovan survivors equal to those received by Holocaust survivors in other countries.
Culture and Religious Life
There are synagogues in all major towns in Moldova. The Chabad movement plays a significant role in the religious life of Moldovan Jews. There are three Jewish day schools in Chisinau and Sunday schools in Beltsy, Bendery, and Tiraspol. Jewish themes are a frequent topic of conferences organized by Chisinau University together with the Republican Society for Jewish Culture, and some are attended by visitors from abroad. The proceedings are often published in book form, and several other Jewish books have also appeared. A Jewish music group is active, and plans are under way to organize a Jewish theatre. There are Jewish newspapers called Yistoky Zhizni and Jewish Shtetl, as well as a Jewish television program called On the Jewish Street.