The Jewish Community In Lugoj



    Friday morning, the headquarters of the Jewish community in Lugoj are animated as a PR service that is working non-stop. Consultations, receipts, administrative problems, the need for information and many other objectives suffering no delay are the reasons that lead the parishioners’ steps to the community headquarters on Cuza Voda Street. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are the days when the “team”, meaning the president engineer IVAN BLOCH, the secretary IOSIF SINGER and the physician EVA REISZ put themselves at the disposal of all those that come to the community centre.

    The community, with only 56 members, is alive. How hard it is to maintain a minian in those conditions only knows the one that faces such a problem… How hard it is to celebrate, especially Purim, Ros Hasana or Sucot – happy celebrations for the little ones – without having many children in the community is also an obvious fact. “We are, unfortunately, the last generation of Jews from Lugoj” – confessed, with pain in his voice, the president Ivan Bloch. Precisely for this cause he is aware of the necessity of a strong bond with the Jews from Timisoara, a relationship that he always promotes.

    The perennial trait of the community is given only by its historical goals that turned out to be tourist attractions, left in this city situated on both sides of the Timis River. The community close-by synagogue is one of the most impressive edifices of cult in the Banat zone.

    The biggest figure of the Jewish population reached 2,000 souls during the times when the city population was 20,000. The city accommodated numerous Jewish refugees from Cernauti, settled during the persecutions that took place in this little city of Banat. In their great majority, the 56 Jews that are living today in Lugoj belong to the middle-aged and old generation. Miriam and Max Bloch, of 14 and 16 years old, represent the “youth “. Among the community members, 13 are socially assisted.



    The pride of the community, the Synagogue from Lugoj was inaugurated in May 1843. Only the deep cracks in the wall shattered daily by the big tonnage vehicles going on this street betrays the age of 161 old of the “old lady “. Still, a very attentive look is needed to discover them because the conquering beauty of the synagogue captures the eyes. The synagogue was built on the location of a Jewish cult site erected in 1793. Burnt by the flames of a devastating fire in 1842, that was the foundation of the present synagogue.

    Not only the stained-glass windows, the lamp posts, the organ or the ark still endure not touch by the wing of the time, but even the colours that are lighting this building bear the same freshness. The organ we talked about dates back from 1903, and around it has created a choral group where had played Jews but also non-Jews, among them the master Traian Grozavescu. In this location many concerts have been taking place, with the participation of the representatives of all the cults from the Banat region. Entering the synagogue, one can not ignore a “kior”, a washstand that bears the time signs, and it is a donation made in 1903 by Roza and Rezso Brauch.

    The synagogue is still used today in cult services. Of course, the little group of those that pass its threshold gets lost in the immensity of the hall of prayer. The old sidur, turned yellow by the time, is waiting for hands to open it. Some will never be touched again by a Jew from Lugoj. The voice of Victor Lowenfeld makes itself heard in the big hall of the synagogue. He is accompanied by other voices that make in some cases a minian. In the winter, the prayer is held in the prayer room improvised in the community building. Of course, even this one proves to be too big for the number of parishioners that still live in Lugoj.



    Following the groundbreaking path of the reformatory Rabbi of Arad, Aaron Chorin, Lugoj community leadership created in 1833 an elementary school. In the times when this Banat town numbered only 5,000 souls, the pupils were both Jews and non-Jews. In the beginning, the teaching language was German, but, in 1860, the Hungarian language had been introduced as the main language. Doctor Fülop Neumann introduced numerous reforms within the institution. As president of the school committee, he organised a library for the students and created the first school in the town.

    Between 1909-1910, under the lead of First Rabbi doctor Emanuel Lenke, had been created mixed classes with boys and girls, and the education became more liberal, also by introducing Romanian language in teaching some classes. After the unification of Banat with Romania, in 1919, the school adopts the Romanian language teaching, but the Hebrew religion and language still are compulsive classes. In that period, the institution receives the name of Israeli Primary School.

    In 1940, the anti-Semite legislation imposed the requisition of the school building. The educational problem was “solved” through renting some apartments in different parts of the city in order to continue the classes. For the kids that could not learn in public schools, has been established a college, functioning in a private home, but not recognised by the authorities.

    After 1944, the Jewish students from Lugoj were able to come back to their old school. The “Heder” from Lugoj had the fate of all Jewish education institutions, being closed, after 115 years of life, on the accounts of the legislation that prohibited the ethnical criteria separation of the education.



    In Lugoj, there were Rabbis that remarked themselves through their cultural activity in the whole country and some of them even in the entire Europe:

  • LEWI ZWI (HIRSCH) OPPENHEIMER was born in 1784, in Timisoara. He was the first Rabbi of Lugoj, where he was in service during the first part of the 19th century. In short time, he became the First Rabbi of the entire Banat region and left to his successors numerous theological writings, which are studied even today
  • Doctor LAJOS VENETIANER, born in 1867, he was Rabbi of Lugoj. He became the First Rabbi of Budapest, where, from 1910, he held the charge as president of Rabbinical Institute “Franz Josef”. His most important work is “The history of the Magyar Jews “.

    Other Rabbis present among the great theological personalities of their time :

  • doctor SIMON HANDLER HEVESI and his son, FERENC HEVESI (who were the authors of a series of Torah interpretations in that time)
  • doctor EMANUEL LENKE

    they lead the community in this part of Banat.



    …so they told me both the president IVAN BLOCH, and the secretary IOSIF SINGER. The great sorrow of the community representatives is that, except mister Lowenfeld, no one else knows to hold the religious service. Iosif Singer knows many things of the community course, of its life during various times. It is very normal, because he was born within this community. His father was “sames”, and his mother was the community cook. Born in 1936, he is well remembering the times when this community was very numerous. The synagogue proved to be too small, and the Heder he followed still had some one to teach. Former co-ordinator of the financial service within the town hall, today Iosif Singer takes care of almost all the community data.



    The Jews from Lugoj were active during the 1848 Revolution. They understood the need for political and national emancipation and joined the revolutionary committee. The then community president, SIMON DEUTSCH, joined EFTIMIE MURGU on the Liberty Plain, May 3rd, 1848. For his revolutionary activity, Eftimie Murgu was arrested. The German-language Jewish gazette “Der Ungarishe Izraelit”, under the leadership of J. Einhorn, showed that among those that liberated the courageous revolutionary from the jail in Pest, were young Jews. The citizens of mosaic religion stood by him, during his entire revolutionary activity.

    The father of hydrogen bomb, EDUARD TELLER, grew up in Lugoj. After short periods spent in Germany and England, he emigrated in the United States, at Princetown. He was part of the team lead by Enrico Fermi, who made the first controlled chain reaction, being one of the personalities surrounded by controversy that, through his innovations, irrevocably changed the fate of the world. The famous composer GHEORGHE KURTAG, laureate of “Herder” and “Siemens” prizes, was also born in Lugoj.

    He is followed by an impressive line of musicians that activated in the city of Timisoara. We must also remember the cantor and tenor GEZA CZITROM (cantor in Lugoj and, latter, soloist of the Opera of Cluj), tenor CAROL NEUMANN, baritone OSZKAR KALMAN, pianist MARIA SCHWARTZ, piano professor CLARA LOCKSPEISER, music professor NICOLAE SCHWARTZ. Professor, director and composer TOBIAS TUVIA SCHWAGER directed various Romanian orchestras and had a prodigious activity in Israel. The musician is also author of a documented monograph of the Jewish community from Arad. He left us in 2002, but he left to the community, by will, a donation of 25,000 US dollars, money that the community leadership intents to spend in various restoration projects.

    Also, Lugoj is the birthplace of the reputed historian doctor VICTOR NEUMANN and to the writer GHEORGHE SCHWARTZ. Engineer GHEORGHE REISZ was a personality of the town and he left us too soon. Specialised in clinical biochemistry, he published numerous scientific works in specialised magazines in the country and abroad. Gheorghe Reisz made himself known in graphic arts, showing works of modern painting in exhibitions in Timisoara, Lugoj, Varset (Yugoslavia) and Budapest. Doctor TIBERIU GERO GORUN, also born in Lugoj, is well known in United States in the field of organ transplants.



    The house of Mrs. ELISABETA BOJA is sparkling of cleanliness. President Bloch tells me that, two years ago, when he entered the threshold, asked her how she was doing. She answered, imperturbably, that she is cleaning the floors… At that time, auntie Boja was 94 years old. Now, when I paid her a visit – together with the community president, the doctor of Mrs. Boja and the assistance representative of Timis county, Mrs. Aurora Constantinescu -, she is 96. She received us with great warmth. She doesn’t see to well, nor she hears the sounds very well, but her memory works without problems. She knows very well the present events and, especially, the past ones. She was born in Orsova Veche, city now lying under the Danube waters. “It was beautiful, we used to walk down the coast. We bath in the sun, we walked on the cliff “, she tells us and she is deeply absorbed in thoughts. “Do you have pictures?” “I used to have one, a little one, but I don’t know where it is. I looked for it”. “Do you watch television?” “I don’t have a television set… if I had, I would turn it too loud and upset my neighbours “. The loneliness is a burden she hardly tolerates. A neighbour is with her every day, and this constant help is also doubled by the community support.

    Mini-monograph edited by LUCIANA FRIEDMANN