in the community: Jewish heritage

Posted by on Jul 10, 2011 in in the community, pc-romania, veronica | No Comments

Romania used to have a rather large Jewish population and interestingly and to our surprise, our small town of Targu Neamt has both a well-preserved (and still functional) synagogue and a large old cemetery. According to online sources and local folks, the town used to have nine synagogues but during communist times, most of them were destroyed for the sake of “urban planning.” In the 1890s the Jewish population made up over 40% of the town’s residents; today there are five families (according to the woman I spoke with) and they are still trying to relocate to the US or to Israel. Between World Wars, forced labor, discrimination, and the yearning for Israel, it isn’t a surprise that the population has diminished so. But the history here is rich and I’m grateful it’s been somewhat preserved.

As David and I are wrapping up our time in Targu Neamt, we’ve been working to complete our local “must see” list. Taking in the bits of local Jewish heritage was on our list. Back in May, we meandered around town to find the synagogue; we had heard about it but weren’t sure of its actual existence. The directions we found online were quite mysterious — the synagogue is tucked between modern blocs. Well, our town is full of blocs, bunches of them. Luckily, someone gave us a clue saying that it’s near the hospital and we found it.

The Craftsmen Synagogue is a simple building, marked with the star of David. Recently, we headed back there to show our pal Melody the synagogue and were lucky enough to be invited in by the family who cares for the building. Unfortunately, we did not have our cameras. But it’s a small room, with lots of wood carvings and Old Testament stories painted on the walls. Quite lovely and simple.

We’ve known about the local Jewish cemetery for awhile but hadn’t quite found it. After a few chats with people in town, we realized that we knew exactly where it was and had actually walked past it weekly for awhile. This past Saturday, we took our morning walk to it. It’s surprisingly large, old, and well-maintained. We’ve been to Jewish cemeteries in the larger town near us, Piatra Neamt, and it is sadly behind the hospital and looks much like a dumping ground for trash and a hang out for stray dogs. The cemetery in Beius was again a trash dump and completely overgrown, damaging graves. But I was proud to see that our cemetery was a beautiful field with little trash, a cute and friendly resident dog and not too much overgrowth. The gravestones were lovely and intricate, scattered among wild flowers and wheat. There were recent graves (2009) and old old ones (1685). It was quite a lovely way to spend a Saturday morning.

More pictures of the Targu Neamt Jewish Cemetery can be found here: Jewish Cemetery

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