Our realityâ€¦ of Oradea
This is a first, more substantial, meeting of our readers with the Jewish realities in Oradea. It is just a beginningâ€¦ we will return.
Prologue to a future monograph
The cupola of the old Neologue – rite synagogue, dominating the landscape wetted on the center by the waters of Crisul Repede, was restored through the effort of F.C.E.R., with the “Joint”‘s help. In the yard, where there is the actual seat of the community, it is placed a synagogue of Orthodox – rite and a prayer house where the religious service is officiated from morning till dawn. The ritual restaurant, guided with diligence by Ludovic Schwartz, offers daily a very rich meal, and the cook deserves all the applause for that. From a community who in 1930 numbered almost 20,000 souls, meaning a quarter of the Oradea population, today in the whole county of Bihor leave a little more than 500 Jews (mostly in Oradea, of course). Its existence represent the constant preoccupation of the community leadership – Eng. Felix Kopelman, president, Lazar Freund, secretary, Korodi Stefan, chief accountant, Vilan Edith, charged with social assistance, Dr. Korodi Ana, chief of the medical cabinet, Egyed Edith, nurse. The religious life is kept alive by the efforts of Sames Carol Segal, Gerson Schwartz (assistant) etc. The cultural councilor and former president of the community, until 1993, is Dr. Kovary Peter, the father of the well-known cantor from Bucharest (who recently left for Canada), Tibi Kovary. The “dean of age” of the community is Ritter Francisc, 92 year old, who still comes to the religious prayers. Within the community are still alive – from the thousands of the deportees under the Hungarian fascist regime – 20 survivors of Auschwitz concentration camp, and one of the members of the community told me she was saved from deportation by her neighbors, Catholics, good people in bad times. About the late Dr. Stefan Zicher, talented medic and writer, we will speak on other occasion.
The “Hakeshet” choir celebrated 30 years of existence
As Dr. Peter Kovary said, those who sung, 30 years ago, in the Talmud Torah Choir of the Jewish Community in Oradea are now the parents of those who sing today, but also the parents continue to sing next to their children. Inspired is the name of this choir, because this varied repertoire – from Hassidic music to the modern one, Israelite – it is offered to us in live colors, who gives us hope of a meritorious perennially. The violinist Gavril Adalbert, the contrabass player Boros Peter and the dynamic accordionist and leader of the band, Gheorghe Vilan, support with the vibration of their musical instruments the voices of the young boys and girls Kovary Tomi and Kati, Brighitta Filip, Lavinia Iancu, Andreea Mandel, Spitzer Brighitta and Paul, Toth Eva and Ildiko, Berger Ana, Gavril and Tiberiu etc – in all, over 30 members.
On May 10, they offered a beautiful program, ended with Hava Naghila, at the Cultural House of Oradea, in the presence of the community members, of the mayor, Filip Petru, of the dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Prof. Dr. Lazar Aurel, of the representatives of other cults. The academician Nicolae Cajal, F.C.E.R. president, sent a congratulation message through engineer A. Kupferberg. During the concert, a CD and videotape have been issued. The existence of the choir is due to the enthusiasm of the members of the Jewish community, but also to the support offered by the “Joint” and F.C.E.R. The former members of the group left for other countries, but not even the choir remained standing, being invited to play in festivals in the country or in Slovakia and Hungary. In 1996, he received a reward from the Jewish Agency in Israel. The ceremony, with over 100 guests, was videotaped by PRO TV and mentioned by photojournalists of the local media.
Personalities from the first half of the 20th century
Five centuries of good neighborhood
Fragments from the volume “Evreii din Oradea” (The Jews from Oradea), by Tereza Mozes
â€¢ Oradea was known, in the chronicles and legends of the first centuries of our era, under the name of Varadinum, and not earlier from the 16th century the name of Oradea Mare and Bihar Varad appeared, with the Italians naming the town Varadino, and the Germans – Gross-Wardein. â€¢ In the archive documents Jewish names are also mentioned: Iosa de Varad (1489), the goldsmith Horvath, also called “the Jew” (Sido dictus), in 1515 â€¢ Doctor Sassa Abraham from Constantinopole made lobby, in 1627, with the prince Gabriel Bethlen in favor of the Jews living in the area â€¢ Doctor David Rebir came to Oradea in 1629, to take care of the health of the prince Bethlen the young, and in 1646 another doctor, Leo (Arieh Yehuda), came from Turkey called by the prince Gheorghe Rakoczi â€¢ In the 19th century, the Jews from the Mihelffy family occupied functions in the administration of the town (judge, mayor, councilor) â€¢ In the years of the revolution, 1848 – 1849, became notorious the doctor Grosz Fridrik (renowned in Europe) and the tradesman Brull Samu, who militated in favor of citizen rights for the Jews (â€¦). Diosy Marton, a Jew from Oradea, was the secretary of Kossuth Lajos and friend with the poet Petofi Sandor, and doctor Grosz – Csatary Lajos accompanied the general Bem.
â€¢ Some well – known Rabbis: Naftali Zvi Lipcovitz (d. 1773); Joseph Rosenfeld (1809 – 1839); doctor David Josef Wahrman (an erudite in Judaism, he knew Latin and German); Jicchak Aron Landesberg (1853 – 1878), known by Adolphe Cremieux; Mose Harsch Fuchs (1882 – 1911); Kecskemeti Lipot, Kunstadt Ignatz, Jisrael Hager (Hassid from Vijnita); and after 1944, I. Weisz, A. Pollak, Gavril Schwartz (1962) â€¢ The first organized community was registered in 1861 (president Doctor Pollak Herman) â€¢ Poet Ady Endre said: “The Jews from Oradea rose the city from its provincial state” â€¢ Between the two wars, in Oradea, functioned one of the five “B’nai B’rith” lodges from Transilvania.
The nightmare started on March 19, 1944, when Hungary was occupied by the fascist Germany, Adolf Eichmann organizing directly his activity of extermination of the Jews with the help of Hain Peter, the chief of the Hungarian political police (â€¦). The mobilizations in the force labor groups and then massive deportations led to the extermination of 90% of the Jewish population from Bihor (â€¦). On June 3, 1944, when the last transport took place, Oradea became “judenfrei” (without Jews).
Eva Heynemann, a little girl with the same age as Anna Franck, kept a journal in 1944, until her deportation from Oradea to Auschwitz, where she was killed. The journal represents a document for the historians. She wrote: “My little journal, you are the happiest, because you can’t feel and you can’t know what a calamity came upon us”.
We should not forget the Romanian diplomats who saved the lives of some Jews from Bihor in 1944 (Vespasian Pella, ambassador to Bern, Mihai Marina, consul to Oradea, lawyer Justin Filip, doctor Th. Roxin).
Born on November 6, 1919, at Simleul Silvaniei, she was interned, in the years of the Horty occupation, in death camps such as Auschwitz, Riga, Kaisserwald, Stutthof and Gutau. After her release, she took her license in the history of art, ethnography and in the French language, at the University of Cluj, then she took her doctor degree at the Institute of the History of Art in Bucharest. For a long period, she was collaborator with the Museum of the Cris Country. She wrote over 100 studies and monographs in ethnography, which have been published in the country and abroad. From 1960, she is member of the Union of the Plastic Artists (the department for the critic of art), and corresponding member with “Societas Ethnographica Hungarica”. She was rewarded by the Foundation “Atheneum” and by the Cultural Foundation “Ethnos”, in 1994.
A visit to the Mozes family
On my short stay in Oradea, I wanted to visit the renowned author of the books “Decalog insangerat” (“ARA” Publishing House) and “Evreii din Oradea” (“Hasefer” Publishing House, 1997), a person of culture, very important for our community, Mrs. Mozes Tereza, with whom I had an interesting talk, along with her husband, a reputed medic in Oradea, Dr. Mozes Carol. On this occasion, I had the opportunity to know – of course, only partially – the important contribution to the Romanian ethnography made by Mrs. Mozes Tereza, with her studies about the Cris Land, published in the publications of the Romanian Academy or abroad. About the biography of Mozes family we can write a whole book, with the sufferance endured between 1940 – 1944, losing of the closest relative, their miraculous survival after deportation, death camps, detentions in inhumane conditions. Dr. Mozes Carol, specialist in infectious pathology, now 84 – faculty colleague, in Cluj, with the president of F.C.E.R., academician Nicolae Cajal -, author of some fundamental books in the domain of taking care of the ill people; he has as professors V. Papilian, Grigore Benetato, Iuliu Hatieganu, Ioan Goia, Ioan Dragoi, and he was friend with Edmund Lutvak, dean of the Faculty of Medicine in Jerusalem and an important doctor of the Hadasa Hospital.
Legends and realities from Oradea
â€¢ A legend says that the king Decebal benefited from the support of a military unit formed by Jews from the Dan tribe, established in this period in Bihor area â€¢ At the Israelite Museum in Budapest there is a tombstone brought from Bihor, which is marked with the name of a tradesman – Iehuda, from the Roman occupation â€¢ The Magyar king Ladislau (1083 – 1095) issued an order for limiting some rights for the Jews in Bihor â€¢ At the wedding of king Mateo Corvine, in his suite was also a cavalry unit comprising Jews from Bihor (says the legend) â€¢ In 1578, the Jews were drove away from Oradea, and on the place of the old synagogue was built a Roman -Catholic church â€¢ In 1720, they called ten Jewish tradesman to revive the commerce â€¢ In 1800, the old cemetery was moved because the expansion of the town â€¢ Even from 1731, there was in Oradea a Sacred Society (“Chevra Kadisa”) which took place of the religious burring. The Jews lived in the “Subcetate” district â€¢ The first Jewish hospital was created in 1746 â€¢ The first ritual restaurant, where the poor received a free meal, was inaugurated in 1895 â€¢ The first asylum for elderly people was established 1924. In the first half of the 20th century, functioned a Jewish women committee, with charitable purposes, an Israeli orphanage for girls, a club for apprentices, an orphanage for boys, and an asylum for elderly people â€¢ The demographic evolution of the Jews: in 1785 – 209 souls; in 1890 – 10,115 (26,2%); in 1930 – 19,838 (24%) â€¢ Between May and June 1944, there were deported from Oradea and from the rural settlements near – by some 33,000 Jews, thousand others being sent in labor camps in Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia â€¢ Prayer houses: 1772, 1803, 1851 (still existing today) – of Orthodox-rite; 1868, 1878 (still existing today) – of Neologue – rite.
(Page edited by Boris Marian Mehr)