The Jewish Community Of Resita

The collective memory cries today for a maxi-monograph

The Jewish community in Resita is an integral part of the evolution of the Jews from Banat. As all the Jewish population of this region, except the Nazi persecution, the population lived in friendship with the rest of the local community, composed by Romanians, Germans, Magyars, Roma population and Bulgarians. First cantor Iosif Shateles was the co-ordinator of the religious life during the two wars, when in this town lived almost 400 Jews. The members of the Jewish community took the trade of the locals and integrated very well within the general preoccupations, especially oriented towards the industry. Together with Timisoara and Lugoj, Resita was a strong Zion centre, the Jews in the region being strongly influenced by the ideas of Zeev Jabotinski and Yosef Trumpeldor.

In that time, the Resita Metallurgical Factories were in the ownership of one of the most important businessmen of Romania, Max Auschnit. After the nationalisation, they were divided in the plants where the majority of the population of Resita worked until the 1989 Revolution. Including the collective memory of the community links itself to the evolution of the Assembling and Metallurgic Factory and the Still Plant from Resita. For example, Sigismund Horvath, ex-president of the Jewish Community of Resita for 11 years, was I.C.M.M.R. manager until 1974. Among the graduates of the Israeli College from Timisoara, some of them returned to their hometown of Resita and settled in the city standing on the mountain plains. Among these, Iuliu Lowenfeld, athletic champion that made his debut within the “Kadima” Jewish sports association.


The space of pain

We are looking towards the hill standing behind the community. There is the cemetery. The distance doesn’t allow you to see the silhouettes very well. The Jewish cemetery is “glued” with the Orthodox one. The shape of the Jewish cemetery can not be described in words. The pain is too great! “How did it happen?” “The animals small enough to pass through the opening of the weak wall and – ads with sadness the president Beniamin Aspis – the human animals!” Might seem incredible but, during the years, some people made this mess. Some tried to protect the cemetery, a few times it was in part rebuild. The costs for rebuilding this wall would be of some tens of thousand of dollars. I am passing by the stones lying on the soil… there were lawyers, medics and traders. People came here following the historical events in this completely industrial town. Some came from Poland, others from Ukraine and most of them, “due to job related motives”, from various places of Romania. The history of this community, a history much more individual than collective, has been hidden forever beneath those funeral stones.


The perpetual fight with the destiny

The glasses of the synagogue sadly watch towards a row of now useless market halls, with scratched walls, with traces of windows, from were you can see a fragment hanging proudly, forgotten by the occasional vandals… The tick fog, apparently not noticed by the natives, is drowning the city. A white slime desperately covers everything. It is not bad, this means that the factory is still working. Clearly, at minimum capacity. In this hallucinating atmosphere, the Jewish community from Resita keeps on living. Without any exaggeration, between the heroic acts mentioned in the history book could be also mentioned this fact (of popular interest)! The community has always been a heterogeneous one, some spoke Hebrew, some Hungarian and others German. During the blossoming of the “working class spirit”, being a Jew was not simple.

There were no few people that were frightened to enter the beautiful city synagogue. The Jewish community didn’t remark itself through spectacular personalities but through loyal citizens, organisers that lead big factories and commercial firms from Resita and countless doctors, among them doctor Epstein, community president for many years. Also in Resita, the writer and publicist Toma George Maiorescu was born, who turned back to his native city for conferences and book releasing. During the war, the Jewish families had been dislocated and moved to Oravita, then the capital of Caras. Forced to hard and sometime useless work, especially at stone pits, they put up with the hard times of shortages and sufferance. At the end of the war, most of them came back to Resita.


The fear of tomorrow

One single word hangs menacingly over the people that form the active population of Resita – “discharge”. Retired very young from his job as technician planner, Beniamin Aspis, is taking care of the daily problems of the community. His main help is the administrator Octavian Golopenta who’s showing me in the way to the community centre urbanisation works made by him. Of course, as almost all the people over 45 years old, he was recently discharged to make room for the young generation. The assisted members of the community are the ones that receive the biggest help. The help received from F.C.E.R. and JOINT represents for them a vital support in their fight with daily hardships. There are 12 persons receiving assistance, they benefit from the help of physician Iosif Burlica, who are visiting them and taking care of their needs. The same physician offers medical assistance to all the 82 members of the community.

I have the courage to affirm that the surroundings of Resita are among the most beautiful landscapes of Europe. The city could be a jewel standing at the foot of some incredible mountains, very close to Semenic, Secu and Valiug spas. Let’s hope that, when an open-minded person will come with the material and intellectual resources for this area, there would still be the little Jewish community!


In search of some hope

“Do you remember a Jewish wedding of a Bar Mitzva?” My companions, Beniamin Aspis and Octavian Golopenta, are looking at me with a rather confused expression on their faces… The sad answer (almost ironically sad) comes after a long break. “No… no way”. Every Sabbath, at the service held in the synagogue, over 25 persons are coming. It is the right moment to talk about the local, national or international events. Of course, those present are mostly elderly. The religious service, as the Seder for Pesah, the occasional Oneg Sabbath or the funerals are held by mister Mauritiu Schwartz, one of the few that still knows to read the letters printed in the prayer book.

First Rabbi Doctor Ernest Neumann z.l. stood in the middle of the Resita community during every celebration of Hanuca. On those occasions, at the light of the candles, the parishioners listened carefully the history of the courageous and wise Macabbis. During the big celebrations, all the members of the community are present. During the Pesah, for example, there were 70 persons. The community members learnt to be a family, and now I know that only in this way the present community could stand in time. “Do you have guests? From the local authorities do you usually have some presence during the celebrations?” They told me no and no one knows the reason for this situation.

The synagogue, built in 1907, seems to be in a good condition although, as the administrators told us, the passing of time didn’t spare its structures. The local people consider it an architectonic piece of reference of this city. The president Aspis even told us a story linked with the admiration rose by this religious site. The family that built the near-by edifice wanted to copy in detail the beautiful synagogue, clearly with the purpose of making it liveable. Even if that wasn’t possible, the rainbow arches of the near-by house remind us of the original.

The community club is very nice adorned, and a television set and a video stand at the disposition of those interested. Really, the president Aspis told us that the community members would like to see as much materials as possible about the Jewish life, the celebrations and about Israel. The club was very active during the period when Mister Ivan Shnabel took care of the programs, but recently he made Alia. On the table, dispersed, are lying the bulletins of Sohnut, not red for a long time, but which they were in trend among the people that left Resita for Israel.

Mini-monograph edited by LUCIANA FRIEDMANN