Incursion in the life of the Jews from Ploiesti

  • Incursion in the life of the Jews from Ploiesti
  • The path toward the community – the path to self discovery
  • Four reasons for optimism
  • Music is for all the people
  • The living memory and the institutions which perpetuate it
  • A little drop from the collective biography of the Romanian Jews

    Incursion in the life of the Jews from Ploiesti

    The Jewish community from Ploiesti is one of the many community – pattern for the mutations of mentality, as a consequence of amplification, diversification of some established compartments, of appearance of new structures imposed in the general consciousness of the last years. The meetings, and discussions with some of the people close to the community offer the entire picture of this metamorphose, encouraging for the its perspectives at the global level of the Jewish community life in Romania. They constitute, together, an attack against the inertia of thinking, of the prejudice “of the places where nothing happened”. The concerns of my interlocutors represent, I think, the ways of opening towards modernity and cooperation between generations, because together they can discover the best ways to surpass the difficulties of the present.


    The path toward the community – the path to self discovery

    Interview with Gilu Iuftariu, president of the Jewish community in Ploiesti

    Have been seven years of continuous evaluation and decisions taken for every new problem. It is the unsaid, but omnipresent summary in its consistence of everything around me at the seat of the Jewish community in Ploiesti. Seven years that make part from the being of the its president, Gilu Iuftariu. There are seven years without which his being will be different.

    - When did you do the first trip to the community?

    - I was a student at the Jewish school for boys “Luca Moise”. Our religion teacher, Rabbi Mendel Safran, the cousin of Doctor Alexandru Safran, knew to be very close to our hearts, in a way only a someone gifted with pedagogic skills is capable of doing. I used to come together with him from the synagogue every Sabat.

    - And then?

    - I remember the day when I became Bar Mitva. From the pulpit of the synagogue you can see in front of us I tank the Melamed Simon, my parents and my grandparents who gave me a Jewish upbringing. I haven’t forgot the path to the community not even when I made my studies in Bucharest. I attended the synagogue from Mamulari, when the Rabbi Margulius officiated.

    There is in my interlocutor a sense of responsibility, the feeling that he doesn’t have the right to let down the ones who put trust in him. What does it mean a week in a life of the community president Gilu Iuftariu? It means a long series of things. For example, to foresee the problems and to prevent the possible shortcomings (in the life of the assisted, for whom he makes home visits, to cash the rents from the ones who take care of the community’ edifices and of its maintenance). As supporter of social prophylaxis he is on the same line with the community medic, Elena Cati Badescu, who realizes the medical prophylaxis, offering conferences on specific themes at the women’s club. The club functions every Tuesday; with anniversaries, book reviews, popularization of the Jewish traditional values. The community from Ploiesti takes good care of the little Jews who live there and of the ones who sleep the sleep of the righteous at the Targoviste cemetery, of the graves from the Jewish cemetery in Sinaia.

    - Problems?

    - I try to find out about the health of the assisted taking with the people who help them weekly at their homes. And also the good preservation of the cemeteries. The fact that, in this moment, there are not financial possibilities to restore the tombstones affected by the passing of time. The restoring of the synagogue. I know that for this we need a lot of money which, for now, we don’t have.

    Gilu Iuftariu has a profound respect for what represents the other in our world, multi-polar and multicultural, a respect coming from the understanding of the positive values existing in other cultures. And this fluid of communication make itself felt in an apparently unimportant fact, but a very relevant one. In front of the Museum of History we meet with the mayor Emil Calota. The mayor stops and shakes hand with the president of the community, with each and every one of us. He is happy that the museum will shelter in the afternoon a symposium dedicated to a page in the history of the Jewish education from Ploiesti, part of the history of the town. He is preoccupied with the organization of the third edition of the Festival for piano “Lory Wallfisch” and he asks the help of the community president. The tone of the discussion with the representative of the Jewish community shows more than politeness or high esteem; it shows friendship.


    Four reasons for optimism

    The responsibility for tomorrow

    At Henriette Alsec (Pusi as her friends call her), tonic is the rapidity with which she knows how to combine the dissonance of life in such a way as to sound good. Maybe this is something inherited from her father, the well-known actor Zephi Alsec, who is for her, in a way, a visiting card. She puts in front of my eyes, first of all, the photographs from movies made by her father, together with Dina Cocea, Fory Eterle, Toma Caragiu, Gina Patrichi, Ion Dichiseanu, Cezara Dafinescu, Stela Popescu… Few know that Zephi Alsec, since his death have passed ten years, was one of the founders of the Town Theater in Ploiesti, he played in the first performance of his theater and he loved in a very special way Caragiale, Sebastian and Musatescu. It seems that the exuberance, sensitivity and the easiness in talking to people were passed to her daughter Henriette, representative of the Club for the middle generation. Her grandfather, the doctor Poldi Emanuel, was president of the community between 1948-1950. And the granddaughter enjoys “to resume the family wire” in the community life. She’s back with her “batteries reloaded” from the Buncher Seminar for Leadership in Busteni and she has faith she will be selected for the superior levels. She believes in the future of the Ploiesti community. Perspective linked, first of all, with the existence of young people, chapter where she makes a tender parenthesis: she talks about her son, student with the Faculty of Political Sciences in Bucharest. Second of all, she speaks about the obvious need for continuity to the generation she is part of. And third, about a sense of getting out of the ghetto: the interest manifested by the local press for the Jewish life, the politic of “open doors” adopted by the leadership of the town.

    Fighting indifference

    “We are too few to step aside”, this is, on short, the reason invoked of Eng. Adrian Paraschivescu when he decided to join the Club, and he is now the leader of a office for selection, training of human resources, and marketing consulting. In the Paraschivescu family people from different generations row the boat in the same direction, reasserting that not the age, but the concerns are important in the dialogue between generations. Adrian’s mother, Sonia Paraschivescu, a discreet and polite woman, is for years the accountant of the community. A short time before speaking with Adrian, he introduced to me his nephew, Andra, a young girl also interested in Judaism. Adrian was present at the great manifestation that took place in Brussels, against anti-Semitism and terrorism, a meeting of solidarity with Israel. “I felt good – he says – that I could show the representatives of the European Judaism that the Romanian Jews have a middle-aged and a young generation”.

    To be ourselves, to be together with the Other

    “We didn’t have a very clear idea about ethnicity” – estimates the jurist Marian Moscovici. “The Club is our modality to try to do this”. Marian is the son of a former president of the community, in the interim period after the leaving of engineer Nilu Aronovici. “We cannot speak about a intercultural dialogue without understanding that we have the right to be ourselves and also the right to be together with the Other. I think we find ourselves in such a favorable moment”.

    The interest in Judaism

    “Despite the fact that the year 1948 represented the end of the Jewish education in Romania, the Jewish education didn’t stop to exist in our community”. The economist Max Kurzberg, an Israelite originated from Romania, who is today an investor in Ploiesti, has uttered this phrase. Max agreed to become member of the community and to join the Club for the middle – aged generation. Last year he offered a cycle of Judaic conferences, very appreciated by the audience. In March, this year, he will support conferences again. The theme – “Who are we, the Jews” -, an invitation to know, in which the spirit of the real – Semitism is obvious, was inspired by the presence to the Judaic celebrations of many representatives of the majority population. This is his answer to this interest.


    Music is for all the people

    About the promoter and organizer of a choir which musically illustrates the biblical verse “How good and beautiful it is when brothers gather together” – the choir of the Art Lyceum in Ploiesti -, I found out, first of all, from another Ploiesti inhabitant, engineer Nilu Aronovici, president of D.A.S.M., ex-president of this community. I listened not once with great pleasure this choir singing with remarkable professionalism, Jewish songs, from the pulpit of the synagogue from Ploiesti.

    The well – known instrumentalist professor Iancu Munteanu Groisman offered me the opportunity of knowing some things about the biography of its creator this time. His parents were deported and they died in Transdniester when he was only a few years old. He grew up at the orphanage for Jewish children, in Iasi. His vocation discovered when he was only a child guided his steps towards the school of music, then – towards the Conservator. He played with the Iasi Philharmonic under the guidance of Ion Baciu. He was admitted, after a contest, to the Ploiesti Philharmonic. He started a family. In the same time, he was, for 35 years, professor at the Art Lyceum in town. He got close to the community in 1970, a period in which many Jewish intellectuals avoided such a contact, but professor Groisman did it in a moment in which he had much to lose by doing such a gesture, if we take into account his international tours, especially in the West, made with his orchestra.

    He is proud of the performances of this choir that, “in a year – he says -, won an international reputation. The children played twice at the Strasbourg Parliament, some of the songs in the program being Jewish. A CD with the repertoire of the choir, realized in cooperation with the Israel Embassy in Bucharest, was presented at the Romania Stand within the International Fair for Books – Geneva, 2002″. The creation of the choir received the support of the city hall. The choir took part at an interethnic show organized, not so long ago, under its aegis, at the City Theater in Ploiesti.

    But professor Groisman is not just the spiritual father of the choir. He also created a group of corn players that I admired in this year’s Hanukiada. He is preparing – for the first Purim coming soon – a string quartet formed with some of his former pupils who in the present are students at the Bucharest Conservator. He is working for two music manuals.

    He believes that the long time future of the community is linked with the knowledge to act such as the “Romanian intellectuals close to our community to be interested in what we are doing”.


    The living memory and the institutions which perpetuate it

    The memories of Clarisa Goldenberg, teacher, the last headmaster of the “Ana si Baruh Cahane” school for girls, are the bridge between two “soul spaces”, the living memory and the institutions which perpetuate this memory. How far do we descent in the will of time? Turning the pages that sum up the history of the community, realized by Gilu Iuftariu, I see that, looking from outside, the forms of the time seem pure abstractions. Statistics: the community is three centuries old; before the war, there were 10,000 people; between 1940 -1944, Alia, the biological limits reduce it to 115 people. Organizational: the landmark year is 1906; there were six synagogues functioning, two primary schools, a Mikva, a ritual slaughterhouse, two cemeteries; various charity and cultural societies, “Hevra Kadisa”, mutual help societies for the craftsmen guilds. The retrospective gets even more interesting when we “enter” in the things we know: names of savants, writers, musicians, Rabbis, painters, diplomats and linguists. Or when we discover the sketches of some great philanthropists on the background of their social activity. It is the premise of a monograph investigation that, I hope, will be considered interesting by researchers.


    A little drop from the collective biography of the Romanian Jews

    There is an accent that should never miss from the actual strategy of perpetuating the Jewish life in Romania: communication, cooperation between generations. Aron family is illustrative for this purpose. The father, economist Lazar Aron, who was for years the accountant of the community, still keeps going daily, at his 87 years old, to the synagogue. His son, engineer Cristian Aron, authorized expert with the Institute of Projection in Prahova, member of the Club for middle-age generation, donated a library for the seat of this club. The nephew, Amelia Maria, a IX grade student, takes part in every Judaic festivities. Lazar Aron was also a pupil of the “Luca Moise” school. He lived – as all the people in his generation – the nightmare of the years 1940-1944: he lost his job, he endured the deplorable conditions of living in the Ploiesti ghetto, then in the Teis camp, only to be evacuated to Braila (the Jews were banned to live in Ploiesti because the town was considered a strategic objective), to work in the force labor camps from Doaga, Vrancea County. He saw people dying of a terrible death under his own eyes: crushed, burn alive… After 1944, Lazar Aron was the one who established the import-export service within the Ministry of Chemical Industry, when the problem of modernizing the oil distilleries was discussed.
    An individual biography, a little drop from the collective biography of the Romanian Jews in the 20th century, continuing in the 21st

    (Page edited by Iulia Deleanu)