August 24-26 – The Centenary and the Re-Opening of the Temple in Brasov
Interview with engineer Tiberiu Roth, president of the Jewish Community in Brasov
Little time has left until the temple in Brasov will celebrate one hundred years. Is it a much? Is it little? For history, it only means one second. But, for the sake of all the generations of Jews from Brasov who, within its confines, wept with pain of joy, found comfort in prayer, and, most importantly, felt they were not alone, this moment deserves to be honored in a special way. “I have been thinking about the project of renovating our synagogue for two years now”, opens his confession engineer Tiberiu Roth, president of the Jewish Community in Brasov. “A project born out of necessity. The temple’s cupola suffered serious damage in time. In order to turn this idea into a general purpose, I felt I needed to focus the energies of the entire community, and especially those of the youth.”
In fact, I had already found out about this project by the end of last year. I had taken my “graduation exam”, as a “finalist” of the “Buncher Communitary Leadership” Seminar; it was Doru Gombos (from Brasov), a “finalist” himself, who presented us the project. There were also talks about the organization of a festival of the Jewish youth countrywide, on the premises of the Temple.
The first stage was then in full progress. It was natural for Doru Gombos (our councilor for youth problems) to take the idea and popularize it.
I suppose that the next stage was obviously more difficult: getting the funds.
The money came quite difficultly, indeed. We called upon the members of our community and the Israelis born in this city – and our calls were not left unanswered. We received an important financial aid from the former US ambassador in Romania, Alfred Moses. Pianist Radu Lupu, a son of Brasov, contributed too. We were also supported by Mr. Cantor, the son of a former president of the Brasov community, settled in Israel, and Mr. Loebel (now living in the US), the great-grandson of the first president who served the community of the Jews in Brasov, between 1821 and 1870. All these names will be carved on the marble plate at the entrance of the Temple, next to the names of the first donors from a century ago. I must say that our efforts to renovate the Temple brought to light proofs of real inter-ethnicity, of genuine ecumenicism.
Like, for instance?
The Brasov City hall will finance the interior lighting of the Temple, the lighting system being connected to the public one. The Evangelical Church, who restored the Black Church, offered us the scaffolding for free. As far as the cupola is concerned, we are talking about a high-elevation work, and the building of the scaffolding would have cost a lot of money.
What is the current stage of the works?
We’re in the final stage, which is always the most difficult. And, because we are approaching the completion, I must thank the builders who worked day and night to make it possible: Mr, Bratuc, Mr. Perneaâ€¦ They contributed not only skills, but also a lot of heart to the achievement of this project.
I understand that, from the community’s point of view, this action has been and is a test for the cooperation between generations.
That is correct. I have in mind the abnegation of our secretary, Stefan Guth, of our accountant, Mihai Maimon, and of the superintendent of the ritual Restaurant, Martin Rudich; the dedication of the councilors for youth and for Jewish cult and culture, Doru Gombos and Rudy Katz; and, of course, the diligence of the OTER (The Organization of the Jewish Youth in Romania) team in Brasov – Luis Feder, Adina and Sorina Gantz, Adi and Cristina Kovacs and many others. I wouldn’t like to leave anyone out.
What are the obstacles that you encountered and what were your solutions to them?
At a certain point, we faced the danger of running out of financial sources. Thanks to the personal involvement of dr. Zvi Feine (manager of the “Joint” program for Romania), we received an aid from the New York-based “Joint”. Then came the essential support of ambassador Alfred Moses. The management of the Federation – Academy member Nicolae Cajal, counsel Iulian Sorin, Alex Sivan – gave us significant moral and material support, taking into consideration the fact that the Federation also contributed to the expenses related to the organization of the festival.
Who will be the participants?
We are counting on about 200 young Jews from all over the country. There will be concerts given by the choirs from Sighetu Marmatiei, Oradea, Timisoara, Braila, Iasi, Bucuresti, Ploiesti, Bacau, Cluj. And, of course, from Brasov. We have invited the management of the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania, community leaders from across the country, local authorities, representatives of the clergy and of the organizations of the minority groups, personalities of the public and socio-cultural life in Brasov, Jews who were born in our city and now live in Israel or in other countries of the world. For three days, between the 24th and the 26th of August, we are going to host 600-700 guests from Romania and from abroad.
And how are you going to manage this situation logistically?
As we don’t have enough room for accommodation, dr. Sergiu Chiriatescu, rector of the “Transylvania” University, has offered us a substantial help on this matter. The manager of the “Aurora” beer factory, Ion Mihaita, has provided us with a very nice tent, with benches and chairs, where the youth will have their meals. The tent will be installed in the Temple’s courtyard.
What would best describe the current state of mind of yourself and of the Jews in Brasov?
The joy of having managed to turn a dream into reality. The natural stage fright. The reassuring feeling of knowing that we have an active, enthusiastic, talented youth; that we can assert ourselves in the country’s cultural life. (Iulia Deleanu)
1901-2001. Re-Opening of the Temple in Brasov – A Celebration of the Jewish Spirituality
Hanucat Habait at the Temple in Brasov, August 24, 2001. All the threads of spirituality of the Romanian Jews, from all the generations, have been brought together here, in a sort of biography of ideas in a counterpoint style. A hundred of years ago, when this temple was erected, Romanian Judaism was cutting its way through. Today, it renews itself. The Temple in Brasov is part of a chain of re-openings: the temples in Alba-Iulia and Targu Mures, the Monument of the victims of the Holocaust in Dejâ€¦ But we are not witnessing only a renewal of the edifices (expressing the need to protect the Jewish cultural heritage – a part of the Romanian cultural heritage), but also an infusion of youth into the community life: the young generation now has an organization, with its own statute, activities, magazine; the middle generation is in a stage of searching for a way of expressing its own identity. These are all facts that lead us into the same direction: the will that the Jewish life in Romania continue, within the parameters of modernity. The re-opening has been an opportunity to reaffirm our solidarity and unity, as proven by the participation of the leaders of the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania (Academy member Nicolae Cajal, counsel Iulian Sorin, Great Rabbi Menachem Hacohen), by the presence of Rabbi Eliezer Glanz (a steady supporter, with a very important role in our religious life), and of many community presidents. A reminder of the permanent support of the “Joint”, reasserted by dr. Zvi Feine, manager of the “Joint” program for Romania. A response of a high intellectual level to anti-Semite attacks. A plea for a good inter-ethnic cohabitation and for ecumenicism. An opportunity to fasten our ties with Israel. A clear sign is the presence of some representatives of the Embassy of Israel in Romania, of the Romanian branch of the “Sohunt”, of Brasov’s brother-city, Rishon LeZion, of the ACPRI, of Itzhak Artzi, former mayor of Tel Aviv and a leader of the Romanian Zionism. An eloquent gesture – dr. Zvi Feine’s gift: the “Jerusalim 3000″ album. By honoring the president of the Jewish community in Brasov, engineer Tiberiu Roth (who was awarded the Excellence Diploma by mayor Ioan Ghise), he honored all the Jews in Brasov.
Engineer TIBERIU ROTH – “We thank you, Lord, for letting us live this day!”
The moment of this centenary is a unique moment of intense emotional value for the entire community. After a year of hard work, we came to achieve our dream: this synagogue is renovated and covered in light. Our gratitude goes to all those who contributed money, work and, especially, good heart, thus making this re-opening possible. The names of the donors are carved in marble, next to the names of those from one hundred years ago.
We thank the management of the FJCR (Academy member Nicolae Cajal, counsel Iulian Sorin, Great Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, Rabbi Eliezer Glanz), the “Joint”, and personally dr. Zvi Feine, manager of the “Joint” program for Romania, this well-known friend of our community, a man of an inexhaustible energy.
We received an unexpected donation from ambassador Alfred Moses, accompanied only by these few words: “Jews care about each other”. We also received donations from former presidents of this community, like Joseph Cantor [â€¦], or from Loebel Aronsohn, the great-grandson of the first president, Heinrich Aronsohn, who served the community between 1821 and 1870 [â€¦]. Heinrich Aronsohn wrote a log, “Brasov Chronicle”, where he described the following profession of faith: “The best way to express our will to last is to leave our successors traces of our existence [â€¦]. After they saw that Jews were useful to the economic development and the culture of the city, the inhabitants of Brasov became a little more tolerant with the new-comers.” These words were written in 1870. I would like to extend my thanks to all the fellow-citizens who supported the renovation of the temple, an event of the cultural life of this city.
Academy member NICOLAE CAJAL – “A festive event, a quadruple jubilee.”
It is with joy and pride that we are here today, together with the distinguished participants and a few members of FJCR’s Directorial Committee, in order to witness a great celebration of our brothers and sisters in Brasov, and we would like to use this opportunity to send the salute, the attachment and the congratulations of our Federation’s management for the initiative and the efforts that you deployed in organizing the re-opening and the celebration of the Brasov Synagogue’s centenary, at the end of a process of consolidation and modernization of a wonderful edifice, with a well-known tradition in Romanian Judaism. It goes without saying that the major merit belongs to the passionate president of the Jewish Community in Brasov, engineer Tiberiu Roth, who set out with his action two years ago, and, like a tireless machine, supported by loyal and competent co-workers, managed it to an end and can now take pride in a great success. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
As you have seen in the inaugural speech, the Temple in Brasov – and forgive my repeating this – was built between 1898 and 1901, after the blueprints of the Jewish-Austrian architect Leopold Braconbaur, on the initiative of and amidst a community that had been known and had been expanding since the beginning of the 19th century, a community whose president was then Heinrich Aronsohn. The first rabbi of the Temple on Scheiului Street was Pap Ludovic-Rosemberg, who shepherded it until 1918. This holy edifice was the witness and, one might say, the central place, the very heart of an activity developed before and during WW1, between the wars, during the years of the Holocaust and, later on, during the almost 50 years of the communist totalitarianism.
After 1989, it became and asserted itself as the center of an activity consisting of post-Revolution efforts and hopes of evolving in a normal direction; it continued to be a place of prayer, of cultural activities, of brotherly reunions, of community celebrations; the witness of the joys and sorrows of the members of the Brasov community. I would like to remind you that the Temple was devastated between 1940 and 1941, and that it was restored after 1944, under the coordination of president Zitron Aladar. It was greatly damaged by the earthquake in 1977 and was repaired by the FJCR, on the initiative of our late great leader, Chief Rabbi dr. Moses Rosen.
This great event that we are all witnessing today, the re-opening of the Temple, restored after 100 years, has been turned by our brothers in Brasov into a quadruple jubilee, by adding the celebration of 175 years since the official establishment of the Brasov Community (1826), of 150 years since the foundation of the “Sacra” Society (“Chevra Kadisa”), and of 125 years since the formation of the Women’s Committee. We are glad to be here in such great number, together with brothers and sisters belonging to the majority population and to other minority groups, we are glad to witness the re-opening service held by Great Rabbi Menachem Haconen, whom we gratefully thank.
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not want to retain your attention any longer. Just allow me to congratulate you on behalf of the management of the FJCR and to wish you further successes, that we are sure you will attain, under the management of president Roth. I would also like to send our warmest thanks to the “Joint” Organization, to the Jews from the Diaspora (especially to those who were born in Brasov), to ambassador Alfred Moses, to the local authorities, to all those who supported materially the efforts made by the Jewish Community in Brasov. I want to express FJCR’s satisfaction for making itself useful once again.
Allow me to assure you that our wishes are also those of the management of the “B’nai B’rith” Romania and of the “Dr. Moses Rosen Forum”, and to thank you for having listened to me.
Great Rabbi MENACHEM HACOHEN – “If you want to serve God, neither bow to any breeze, nor stay as inflexible as a rock.”
A Rabbi was once asked where God lies. “God”, he answered, “lies wherever He is allowed to enter.” So God doesn’t need a synagogue. He lies within every man’s soul. Then why is there any need for a synagogue? For a single reason: so that people can meet with each other. In Hebrew, one of the names given to the synagogue is the House of Assembly [â€¦]. In order to really be together, we need the synagogue. We cannot pray in the House of Assembly with less than 10 people [â€¦]. When they crossed the Red Sea, the Jews sang: “This is God and it is He that we shall honor!” Does God awaits to be honored? Everything we do for God we must do well and nicely. This is what honoring Him means: to pray nicely, to sing nicely. And if in Brasov there is such a synagogue, something urges us to pray nicely [â€¦]. This morning I went to Cristian and I saw young people from every corner of Romania learning what Judaism is about. It is for these young people that we need such a synagogue, for they are the future of the communities in Romania [â€¦]. “Do not seek God upward, but downward”, say our sages. Seeking God means knowing how to behave righteously with people. According to the Jewish tradition, every time a synagogue is inaugurated, a Psalm is recited [â€¦]. In this week’s “pericopa” is written: “It is after justice, after justice, that one should run!” Why is the word “justice” mentioned twice? Because there is the so-called justice and the real justice. The same “pericopa” also says: “Do not plant trees and do not erect monuments next to the altar.” What is the meaning of this phrase? The tree bows to the wind. The monument is rigid. If you want to serve God, you neither bow to any breeze, nor stay as inflexible as a rock, no matter what happens. There are orientations of thought that one should make his own, and others that one should keep away from. One must live up to one’s times, and serve God in the way required by one’s times. We thank those who contributed to this re-opening. I would add to what dr. Zvi Feine said about ambassador Alfred Moses that he is not only a real Jew and a real American patriot, but also a real Romanian patriot. This reunion is a symbolizes the rebirth and the continuity of the Jewish life in Romania.
Counsel CONSTANTIN VISINESCU, president of the ACPRI – A counterpart to today’s anti-Semite manifestations
The celebration we are attending happens to coincide with a difficult time, when the attacks against the Jews have multiplied. Are Jews the Devil’s sons? Are Jews the enemies of the Romanian people? [â€¦] Two years ago, in Targoviste, I attended another anniversary, on the occasion of the centenary of “Smaranda Braescu” High-school [â€¦], founded by a family of Jewish industrialists who wanted that the sons of the workers from the factory be able to learn. Is this an anti-national act? [â€¦] As a spiritual son of Gala Galaction, I spoke in an article published in “Diplomat Club” of what he wrote about the Jews in his six-volume “Journal”: “He who strikes the Jews ultimately strikes the religious traditions of the Romanian people, its honor, dignity and interests.” Gala Galaction’s name was given to the most important square in Tel Aviv. What Mr. Roth has accomplished is a counterpart to today’s anti-Semite manifestations. It is a thing performed with dedication and love, the way we must perform everything in life.
“We congratulate you for everything you have done so that this Temple may look like an architectural jewel”
Naturally, many inhabitants of Brasov would have liked to attend such a re-opening and, especially, such a festival. But this was not possible because, objectively speaking, there was not enough room. However, they were present symbolically, through the local officials and the journalists who came in great number to cover the event. It was not just a pro forma participation. The event had a great emotional impact on these people, and they did not hesitate to show it. “What I am witnessing here is, undoubtedly, a homage come from the heart, an uplifting moment”, said deputy prefect Iosif Ciurean. While sketching the economic prosperity of the period when the Temple was erected, at the same time with other representative edifices that make the pride of the city (The Palace of Justice, The Building of the Finances, The “Princess Ileana” High-school, The Polytechnic Institute, The Rectorate, the “Land of Barsa” cultural establishment), Aristotel Cancescu, president of the County Council, said that “the Jews are to Brasov what salt is to food” and regretted that the war and the totalitarianism made most of them leave. When visiting Israel, Mr. Cancescu was impressed to see that “almost half a million Romanian-born Jews can still speak Romanian”. “We congratulate you for everything you have done so that this Temple may look like an architectural jewel”, mayor Ioan Ghise spoke on behalf of his fellow-citizens. “The city of Brasov takes pride in all the ethic groups who inhabit it – Romanians, Germans, Jews, Hungarians – and who lived and live together in peace and understanding [â€¦]. The Jews greatly contributed to the city’s prosperity.”
The mayor expressed his thanks for the salute message sent by Meir Nitzan, mayor of Rishon LeZion, Brasov’s brother-city, and said that “what is being done in Israel sets a standard for our leaders, who should take this example and work in their turn for the good of the Romanian people”. He also reminded the audience that “the emblem of Brasov is the spirit of tolerance.” Dr. Doru Munteanu, representative of the Department of Cults, Culture and National Heritage, assessed the value of the event: “The re-opening of this synagogue, which has a great importance for our national heritage, is an act that must be recorded in the UNESCO calendar.”
Friendship and Ecumenism
As we are limited by the printing space, we are sorry we can only publish a few excerpts (impressive testimonies of friendship and ecumenicism) from the speeches of some prelates that were present at this celebration of the Romanian Judaism. Nevertheless, we will try to render a synthetic image of their ideas and feelings. Underlining the biblical origin of the love for one’s neighbor (Leviathan, 19, 18), father Ioan Tanco, “protopop”, leader of the Greco-Catholic Cult in Brasov, showed that, by his presence, he was “putting into practice God’s commandment of love”. “This community has God amidst it, it is living with God” – this is how father Coman, priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Brasov, synthesized his thoughts about the Jewish population. “I pass by this Temple, I cross myself and I know I am not mistaken, for the same God who guided the Jewish people across the desert towards the Holy Land will guide me too!” What benediction could be more imperatively topical than the one he uttered in the end, quoting a fragment from a prayer: “â€˜Peace on those nearby and peace on those far away!’ So help us God!”. “There is beauty not only in this edifice, but also within the souls of the ones that fill it”, stated Radu Jolt, leader of the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Brasov. A similar state of mind was expressed by the speeches of Antal Ferencz, head of the Reformed Church in Brasov, and of the evangelical priest Johann Dieter Krauss (the Evangelical C. A. Church in Brasov).
The Festival of the Youth Choir Ensembles. Can music open the gates of Heaven? Yes!
The first festival of the Jewish youth choirs in the country, hosted by the Temple in Brasov, gave new life to the new life of the White Synagogue. Almost 250 young Jews from all over the country, accompanied by the social volunteers of the “Joint”, Yael Stitelman and Shoshana Schechter, from the US, came to the Temple and musically increased its beauty with the morning of their youth. “He who knows the history of the Jewish people and does not believe in miracles is no realist”, said Ben Gurion. And he was right, claimed Academy member Nicolae Cajal, emphasizing the very idea of a festival of the Jewish youth, an idea that is worth perpetuating.
The festival, an extraordinary exchange of experience for all our musicians, professional or amateur, must be repeated, if not annually, at least every other year. The festival was designed as a stimulant for the young Jews in our country, in order to give revitalize the temples of the communities they belong to, to promote the Jewish culture in Romania, to cultivate the love for Israel (engineer Tiberiu Roth). It is, perhaps, the best argument in favor of those who claim that the Jewish life in Romania fully asserts itself (engineer Felix Koppelman). A gift for a new home (Mariana Marcu). A way of fueling the flame of Judaism (David Segal Iancu). An opportunity to spiritually gather all the generations (engineer Osy Lazar). A thought of Sana Tova and Heveinu Salom Alehem sent to the entire world (engineer Pincu Kaiserman). A musical token of appreciation to all those who toiled so that the Temple in Brasov may be covered in splendor today (engineer Iosif Donenfeld). A demonstration of vigor and future human resources for our community (Tova Bin Nun). An act of Judaic culture meant to strengthen our feeling of dignity for our identity (engineer Sandra Segal).
Doru Gombos, councilor for youth problems of the community in Brasov, presented each choir with a festive plate. The choir in Brasov, “B’nei Milu”, was not left out – it even had an extra reason to be among the recipients: this year, it celebrates 25 years of existence. Engineer Osy Lazar offered a symbolic blue ribbon to the FJCR leaders, our spiritual shepherds, to dr. Zvi Feine and to Itzhak Artzi. “After a Hassidic tradition”, said Itzhak Artzi, “the song can open the gates of Heaven. We are before Ros Hasana and I believe that these more than 200 young voices have opened them for us, praying for peace in Israel and all over the world.” May this prayer be fulfilled!
DOREL DORIAN – “That day will comeâ€¦”
At the very beginning, we thought that the two pages in the middle reserved for the White Temple in Brasov and to the choirs would suffice. We were mistaken. Three pages were not enough either, forewords set on the first pageâ€¦ Actually, what we would have needed is a “Cultural Note-book”. With photos, scores of them, not in black and white, but in full color (at least 9×13 centimeters), not only genuine, but also emotionally conceivedâ€¦ With full transcripts of the passionate speeches that introduced each programâ€¦ But maybe this will happen in a future not so far awayâ€¦ Why should we not hope? Setting this aside, we may say that these were beautiful days! We were often enchanted by the enthusiasm that ennobled each performance. We listened to golden voices! Real choirs! Of course, some of them still need improvementâ€¦ A meeting of the conductors would be a good idea. An endless search for new talentsâ€¦ Talks about the repertoire of these groups, with texts and partitions on the tableâ€¦ About paying homage to those who dedicate their nights and days to musicâ€¦ Finally, a film, made by a talented directorâ€¦ With systematic recordings of each group, on tapes and CD’sâ€¦ And a fast discovery – in years-months-days-seconds – of new enthusiastsâ€¦ Like Zvi Feine, maybeâ€¦ Like HACOHENâ€¦ Like younger Iancu or Kaisermanâ€¦ Like the lucid Rothâ€¦ Why should we not dream?! And what would be better than a festival every year? With a level of publicity according to the notoriety these gifted groups deserve to achieveâ€¦ Their essential merit is that they are ours and that – beyond the ecumenicism that brings together and launches talents of different ethnic affiliations – they render through art a Judaic spirituality, a communion of the year 2001, and they define, through feelings, through the friendships that are born, a future redeemed of any xenophobia. And to those who accuse me of sometimes being a pessimist, I say: that day will come!