Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry

Moldova

Еврейская Община Республики Молдова / The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova

 



 

 

Demography

There are approximately 20,000 Jews in the Republic of Moldova today. The largest community is in the capital city Kishinev, with nearly 13,000. There are other communities in Tiraspol (2,500) and Beltsy (2,500-3,000). Smaller numbers live in Bendery, Rybnitza, One-quarter to one-half of the community is elderly and nearly 80% of Moldovan Jews report significant economic hardship.

History

JJews have lived in Bessarabia - the territory that constitutes the bulk of present-day Moldova-since the 15th and 16th centuries. At that time, it was an important transit stop for Jewish merchants from Constantinople and Poland. By the 18th century, several permanent Jewish communities had been established in urban developments.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Moldova's Jews were very involved with local trading and liquor distilling. By the end of the 18th century, Hassidic sects of Jews began establishing small congregations. By the time of Russian rule in 1812, there was a permanent Jewish presence in Moldova, with an estimated 20,000 Jews living in the area. There were 16 Jewish schools and 70 synagogues. The region became a center for both Yiddish and Hebrew literature. In 1836, the Jewish population had grown to 94,000.

In contrast to Russia itself, Czarist governments encouraged the establishment of Jewish communities in Bessarabia during the 19th century. As a result of this, between 1836 and 1853, a vast number of Jews worked in the field of agriculture and 17 Jewish agricultural settlements were formed. However, after several years of farming crises in Russia, the economic situation of the Jews began to deteriorate, Orly By 1897, there were 228,600 (11.8% of the population) Jews living in Bessarabia - the majority of whom were once again involved in commerce and industry.

By the end of the 19th century, Jews comprised nearly half of its capital city Kishinev's population of 125,000. The population continued to grow as tensions with Moldova's populace mounted, culminating in massacres of Jews in 1903 and 1905. At this point, most Moldovan Jews lived in poverty, working as cobblers, watchmakers, peddlers and outside the cities, farmers.

On the eve of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, there were some 350,000 Jews in Bessarabia. More than 20,000 fled the country before the Russian army's retreat, but approximately 300,000 Jews were deported to camps in Transnistria, where tens of thousands perished at the hands of German and Romanian forces.

In August 1944, the Russians reoccupied the region. This land became the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic with the capital in Kishinev. Following the Holocaust, much of the Jewish community of Moldova met with increasing hardships and was forbidden to practice many Jewish traditions under Communist rule. In 1961, Jews were prohibited by the government from celebrating Bar/Bat mitzvahs and in 1964 all synagogues were closed except for one in Kishinev.

The rebirth process of Jewish life, traditions and customs became possible after the declaration of Moldova's independence in 1991. The Society of Jewish Culture played the main role in the revival. The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova (JCRM) emerged in the wake of these developments.

The Jewish population of Moldova has decreased substantially since independence due to the high percentage of elderly Jews and high levels of immigration, predominantly to Israel.

In 1992 Moldova was torn apart by a civil war that resulted in the division of the country into two separate parts: the Republic of Moldova to the west of the Dniester, and the self-styled Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic of Transnistria to the east of the river. In response, the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Va’ad) in Moscow and Israeli organizations arranged for the evacuation of the Jewish population. Following the fall of Communism, Jewish life in Moldova began to flourish again with the emerging democratic society.

Community

The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova is the umbrella organization for both parts of the divided country. Moldovan Jewry, for the most part Russian-speaking, is particularly concerned about new laws that require the use of the Moldovan language.

The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova (JCRM), restructured in 2008, is the umbrella organization for both parts of the divided country. The JCRM has 9 branches in the republic and is comprised of 12 organizations, including: The Union of Jews-veterans of the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945; Association of Jews-refugees of II World War; Association of Jews – former prisoners of Nazism; Student Organization “Hillel”; Organization of Jewish Women “Hava”; Synagogue “Chabad Lubavitch”; Jewish Newspaper “Jewish shtetl”; Technological Lyceum ORT of B. Z. Herzl ; Theoretical Lyceum of Rambam; Kindergarten ?68; Jewish Radio “Yiddish Leben.”

The JCRM offers educational activities for Jewish students and supports the development of programs aimed at promoting Jewish tradition, history and religion, as well as Holocaust studies for Jewish and non-Jewish educational institutions. It also provides charity and social welfare services to low-income groups of Moldova's Jewish population. The JCRM has also installed monuments to Holocaust victims throughout Moldova and restored monuments and cemeteries destroyed by the Nazis. It further focuses on reducing anti-Semitism, by organizing conferences and publishing articles in mass-media, and works to protect the interests of Moldavian Jews in all aspects.

Culture and Religious Life

There are synagogues in all major towns in Moldova, as well as three Jewish day schools in Kishinev and Sunday schools in Beltsy, Bendery, and Tiraspol. Jewish themes are a frequent topic of conferences organized by the Kishinev University together with the Republican Society for Jewish Culture. The proceedings are often published in book form, and several other Jewish books have also appeared. The community also publishes a Jewish newspaper, Yistoky.

The Chabad Hassidic movement plays a significant role in the religious life of Moldovan Jews and Moldova's Chief Rabbi, Zalman Abelsky, is a member of the movement. The JCRM celebrates all Jewish holidays. Every year the Jewish Community takes part in ethno-cultural festival “Unity through diversity”. Kosher food and a Mikvah are available.

Contact

Еврейская Община Республики Молдова / The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova
Co-chairmen: Aleksandr BILINKIS Alexandr PINCHEVSKY
Executive director:Marina LECARTEVA
Email : office@jcm.md
Web site: www.jcm.md