Prime Rabbi Dr. ERNEST NEUMANN – honorary citizen of Timisoara Municipality

The full image of a great personality

“I have been very close to Prime Rabbi Dr. Ernest Neumann for almost 40 years and I could seize the full image of this great personality: an erudite of the Judaic spirituality with a vast universal culture; a warm man, always ready to help his brother; a man of great charisma who can easily reach the hearts and consciences of his brothers, whom he wins over and who surround him with their love and respect. He is a modern rabbi, opened towards the relations with other cults, an active participant in the ecumenical life of a multi-ethnic and multicultural Timisoara. Reviewing the proceedings of the celebrations, I would like to underline in the first place the rightful orientation of the City Council that decided to present Prime Rabbi Dr. Ernest Neumann with the title of honorary citizen. Secondly, I would like to point out the massive attendance by Jewish and non-Jewish personalities, the wonderful, uplifting speech of His Holiness Dr. Nicolae Corneanu, Metropolitan of Banat, the festive atmosphere that reigned over the entire ceremony.”

Counsel Iulian Sorin, secretary general of the FJCR

“What was acknowledged here is not the merit of one man, but the merit of all the Jews of Timisoara”

(interview with Prime Rabbi Ernest Neumann)

More than three year ago I wrote about the social work of Prime Rabbi Dr. Ernest Neumann, about his entire life as an emblematic intellectual of Timisoara, about the rightful authority he enjoys in society.

- What does Timisoara mean for you?

- I arrived in Timisoara – “little Venice”, how they called it – on April 3, 1941. Times of great hardships followed. Jews were enrolled in forced labor detachments, the threat of the deportation to Transnistria was ever-present, Jewish students and teachers were expelled from schools and deprived of any rights. I taught religion at the “Fabric” Synagogue and I endeavored to inspire children and grown-ups with the power to hope for the dawn of a decent life. After 1944, Timisoara was the first city in the country to become an example of ecumenicism, of genuine inter-ethnicity; and I took and still take a part in this. This is where I should mention the friendship that has been tying me to Metropolitan Nicolae Corneanu since 1949, of the esteem I enjoy in the eyes of Bishop Laszlo Tökes, and of all the others cult representatives in the city. I have excellent relations of co-operation with the local State authorities. I am invited to virtually all the cultural or academic events. The honor that is bestowed upon me – I am a honorary member of the Writers’ Union, of the Philharmonic and a newly invested honorary citizen of Timisoara – gives me the power to say ‘I’ at more than 83 years old. Because it is not the merit of one individual that is acknowledged here, but the merit of all the Jews of Timisoara in helping to enhance this city.”

- What is the quintessence of a rabbi’s mission today?

- Preserving the Jewish spiritual life; being close to people – “love the other” is written in the Torah 36 times; emphasizing the “Thou shall not kill” commandment of the Decalogue; keeping a Romanian patriot’s conscience not affecting his attachment to the Holy Torah, born anew.

- You are not only the spiritual leader of the community, but also its president (vividly combating all anti-Semitic manifestations, when necessary), the teacher of the Talmud Torah students, the one to which the coreligionists come first when facing difficult life situations. How do you manage to cope with all these problems?

- In the past, I had the fortune to work with a leader as prestigious as Chief Rabbi Rosen. Nowadays, I co-operate with Academy member Nicolae Cajal, an illustrious scientist loved by all the Romanian citizens, assisted by counsel Iulian Sorin, an exceptional man who gives the best of him for the Federation’s sake. They are the guiding examples that give me the strength to keep the flame of Judaism alive and proud in the community of Timisoara.

- What is the most important thing of your life experience that you would pass on to the future generations?

- I believe we must have the sense of a higher purpose of the human existence, that we shouldn’t be governed by “carpe diem”, that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the confines of a narrow, selfish life. Wherever there are tears, we should seek to dry them, we should try to put a smile on our brother’s face. We shouldn’t take revenge. We should forgive, but never forget the injustices that were inflicted upon us.

E. Suhor

60 years of rabbinic activity

Prime Rabbi Dr., entering his 60th year of rabbinic activity in Timisoara, was awarded the title of honorary citizen of the city on the Bega River. This important title stands for a recognition of not only his exceptional social, ecumenical and didactic work, but also of the consistent dedication of the Jewish community in Timisoara to the welfare of the City they live in. The attendance of the festivity by local officials, high representatives of the clergy, personalities of the cultural life, many members of the community he shepherds, gives the spiritual-emotional dimension of the event. By honoring Prime Rabbi Dr. Ernest Neumann, the City Council honored the entire Jewish community of Timisoara. In a world facing so many inter-ethnic, inter-religious conflicts, his example is a guide for the 21st century. The “Laudatio”, presented by Mayor Gheorghe Ciuhandu, as well as the significant speech of His Holiness Nicolae Corneanu, Metropolitan of Banat, made it clear that the laureate was truly endowed with such virtues. “There couldn’t have been a more moving eulogy than the one uttered by counsel Iulian Sorin, secretary general of the FJCR, on behalf of the Federation’s management and of its president, Academy member Nicolae Cajal”, said Prime Rabbi Dr. Ernest Neumann little time after the celebration. He pointed out the contribution of his parishioners to the development of the city, despite the oppression and the marginalization they went through during the totalitarian regimes. He also expressed his hope for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision, “when swords will be turned into ploughs”, for a world of peace and universal harmony.