The Jewish community from Cluj

  • With the occasion of the days of diversity
  • The reality doesn’t “make” theories; the reality offers images
  • What happened with the former unleavened bred factory
  • “Life without notice”
  • Notes for later
  • Sketch
  • A question – subject for a novel

    With the occasion of the days of diversity

    CLUJ, December 14 – 16, 2001

    In the spirit of Paneth Farcas: «Condemned… to be always better»

    “I was thought not to be indifferent to the fate of my community” (Benjamin Muller)

    A winter morning at the ritual restaurant of the Cluj community, with its recently elected president, lecturer and doctor Gavrila Goldner, and the Efor of the Deportees Temple, Benjamin Muller. They seem to me closer now then when I saw them for the first time: the first – in a Judaic seminar; the second – to a commemoration of the Jews from Cluj deported to Auschwitz, in the summer of 1944. Their gestures are just a few, their words – simple, free of any ritual. We are talking about the “Poalei Tedek” synagogue, in which today it is played the performance “Carol” written by Slavomir Mrozek. “It was a ruined synagogue – says Gavrila Goldner. «Tranzit» foundation rented it and restored it. The former prayer house makes part, today, from a chain of eight such synagogues in Central and Eastern Europe used for cultural manifestations: exhibitions, art shops, performances”. “When (Ecaterina Halmos) took the reins of the choir – says Benjamin Muller – the number of the choir players was considerable low, many of them making Alia. Not even the artistic level was not as it is today. In its 15 years since she guides this choir, this exigent and auto – exigent professional, professor with the “Bathory Istvan” Music Lyceum, helped by two renowned instrumentalists, the violinist Vasile Socea and pianist Babos Iudit, the choir became one of the best in the community”. “We should recognize another encouraging reality, says Gavrila Goldner: the approaching towards the community which is in an inverse ratio with the numeric descent. This is why we have today a choir with 30 people in which, along with children, their parents come to sing. I can’t help myself to confess to you something dear to me: we are preparing a CD, with “Joint”‘s help. We offer concerts with synagogue music for our celebrations. We come every year, when we commemorate «the crystal night», at the Cluj branch of the Anti-Fascist Association in Romania. We hear, through songs, the heart beatings of the ones who didn’t forget their grandparents killed in the Holocaust”.

    “This is the way I was brought up – says Benjamin Muller, as a profession of faith, whose father was also a synagogue Efor – not to be indifferent to the fate of my community”.


    The reality doesn’t “make” theories; the reality offers images

    Visit at the Club of the middle-age generation, at the club of the elders, at the library – all open at the community seat. I am recording what the words won’t say, because the reality doesn’t “make” theories; the reality offers images. You have to see the faces of those who came to the clubs, of those who ask if “there are new books coming”, to see the bright eyes of those who are helping these people. I make a telephone call to the professor Nicolae Kallos, honorary president of the community. We are linked by many moments of community life – some special, others usual – and an epistolary confession that could serve as a starting point for a philosophy class for a time studied some day, I hope, with the same lack of opportunism as proved by the professor.


    What happened with the former unleavened bred factory

    At his office – the president Gavrila Goldner is as not ceremonial as it was when he greeted me in the railway station and accompanied me at breakfast. He turns the pages of a book with the names of the community members. He stops over some names – as many visiting cards for the many generations of Jewish intellectuals from Cluj. Some of them are familiar to me, and others are introduced to me now. “You should see what mister Suciu has done – he closes his book – with the former unleavened bred factory of the community, the present seat of “Antena 1 Transilvania”. An invitation I would sure follow.


    “Life without notice”

    Since graduating the College for tourism, meaning between 1969-1970, and until 1990, Sergiu Gavril Suciu passed through all the managerial levels: from the experience of the exchange house to the one as director of the “Cluj – Napoca” hotel complex. He was always very close to the community; from the times of Hanukiads directed by the late Chief Rabbi Rosen. He thinks the quality of being Jewish is not something to show off, but also not to hide. His grandfather, Emanuel Grossman, was co-founder of a Sil in Turda. After 1990, his vocation as investor combined with the interest towards the revitalization of the community edifices. “What I achieved from the former unleavened bred factory – he leads me, floor after floor, through all the studios of the present private TV station – can extend over many other community edifices, if there were to be rented to some serious investors”. He offers me examples from Turda, Simleul Silvaniei, and Gherla. He is not just a businessman, but also a newspaperman. He publishes the Transylvanian edition of “Jurnalul National”, he is the producer of three programs for “Antena 1…”: “Life without notice”, “Seven days – seven arts” and “The chat of the elderly”. Not a long time ago, he won the license for the broadcasting station “Romantic”, and he intends to introduce an hour program dedicated to the lyrical theater and the symphonic music. This is not a random project. His mother, Lili Grossman, was a singer with the National Opera from Cluj and canto teacher. He boasts with a library with some 6,000 volumes, including the collections “Secolul XX” and “Magazin Istoric” from the first to the last number; with the three diplomas received from “Antena 1…” in its two years of existence: diplomas for equidistant attitude, for fidelity and for merit. “Life without notice” has a weekly heading dedicated to the community activity of the Jews from Cluj. We saw together a videocassette that was filmed on the occasion of a commemoration for the Jews deported in 1944 from the Northern Transylvania. We listened a memento, warning to the contemporary denial, uttered by lawyer Iulian Sorin. (The Holocaust was prepared by the inciting to hatred and violence published in the newspapers of that time). There are interviewed two survivors: Professor Nicolae Kallos (who speaks to us about the feelings he had as a prisoner, after 30 minutes, in a death camp) and Paneth Farcas. Musical background – The choir of the slaves from Nabucco. “At my wedding, says the great sportsman, we were 68 persons. Right after the wedding, we were forced to move to the ghetto. There it was the last time when I saw my wife (…). I am the only one in the whole family who came back from the camp. I hoped that, maybe, I’m not the only one. I restored the house. But nobody came back. I taught I am sentenced to life”.


    Notes for later

    The hours spent at the Kaufmans’ home are the subject of a literary portrait written by the founder of the lymphatic studies and microsurgery in Romania, professor doctor Aurel Kaufman, about whom we will speak again.



    The Freundlichs – a page still unwritten from the post – war history of the Cluj community: co-founders of the voluntary work for social and medical assistance, and co-founders of the choir; they are among the first people who received a “Joint” delegation, more than 30 years ago, when they came back in Romania. Their children are continuing the family tradition in Canada.


    A question- subject for a novel

    Doctor in physics Andreea Ghita, the producer of the “Salom” program at TVR Cluj (until 1989, she was a teacher at the “Babes-Bolyai” University), with whom I share the profession and the generation we are born in, asks herself and me a serious question. (We are on a coffee break at the seminar “Linguistic diversity. The role of the national minority press in the Romanian mass media”). A question that preoccupies her mind for a while: are we really, all those left in the country, from the middle-age generation of the Romanian Jews, considered as such or are we just unfulfilled? There are, of course, so many answers as characters. It is not a matter of the ethnic character, and it is not a matter of age. There is also a community answer: an initiative and an appeal made by R.E. to the rediscovery and renewal of the spiritual forces existing in this generation in order to continue the Jewish life in Romania. There is, I think, tenacity in wanting to know who you are, regardless of the trend of the general opinion, to keep believing in the idea that “the man makes the place”, and also practicing this idea: without self-caution, but also without complexes.