Town in northeastern Moldavia, located within 50 kilometers of Botoşani and 73 kilometers of Iaşi. A Jewish presence in Hârlău apparently existed during the reign of Stephen the Great (1475–1504), as the prince hired the Jewish doctor Şmil of Hârlău to work at his court in Suceava. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Jewish craftsmen and merchants, encouraged by Moldavian rulers, began to arrive from Poland, some settling in Hârlău.
The existence of a Jewish guild is mentioned in documents dating from 1751. In 1768, Prince Grigore Callimachi authorized a Jew, Marcovici Hețel, to build a window-glass factory and a paper mill, granting tax exemptions to him and his workers. The oldest epitaph in the Bojica cemetery is from 1775, marking the grave of Feige, the daughter of Betsal’el Barukh; a second cemetery was built in the late nineteenth century. The first synagogue, the only one still standing in 2000 (there were seven between the two world wars), was erected in 1814–1816, and its mural paintings by Shloyme Mendel date back to 1924.
The number of Jewish inhabitants increased during the nineteenth century: in 1803, there were 300, a number that increased to 525 in 1820; to 1,389 in 1859; to 2,254 in 1886 (56.6% of the general population); and to 2,718 in 1899 (59%). With an exodus of Jews during the early twentieth century—a result of an economic crisis and discriminatory laws—there was a demographic decline from 2,032 Jews in 1930 (22.3%) to just 1,717 in 1941 (45%). A Romanian Jewish school was established in 1904; by 1919 it had more than 400 students.
Jews played a significant economic role in the traditional areas of trade and craftsmanship: in 1910 were 233 merchants, 87 tailors, 49 shoemakers, 17 blacksmiths, 9 carpenters, and 191 craftsmen working in other fields. During the interwar period, the community’s religious institutions included a burial society, a matzo factory, a ritual bath, and a Talmud Torah school. Economic institutions included a bank that had been set up with support from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee; cultural institutions consisting of Yiddish literary and drama groups; and sports associations including the football teams Maccabi and Hagibor. Zionist associations were active as well.
During World War II, several Jewish notables were held hostage and maltreated, and some were killed (including the president of the community, Iosef Lozner, and his wife and daughter) by members of the Iron Guard. Men aged 16 to 60 were assigned to forced labor first in Hârlău and then in the regions of Bessarabia and Dobrogea. However, except for a few families who were deported to Botoşani and Iaşi, Hârlău was the only town in Moldavia whose population was not “evacuated,” due to the efforts of the town’s mayor, Ion Agapie, and to interventions by the boyars Constantin Ghica-Deleni and Nicolae Polizu-Micşuneşti. Jews were also helped by the priests Constantinescu and Ştefănescu.
In 1947, there were 1,936 Jews living in Hârlău, among them refugees from Ştefăneşti, Frumuşica, and Lespezi. As a result of emigration, chiefly to Israel, there were only 200 Jews remaining in 1960; 160 in 1970; 50 in 1984; 12 in 1994; and 5 in 2004 (out of a total population of 11,271).
Jewish personalities from Hârlău included Rabbi Yisra’el Isacson, who served in the country’s parliament; S. I. Stern-Kohavi, headmaster of the Cultura Romanian-Israelite school of Hârlău and a writer for the Renaşterea noastră newspaper; Michel Landau, editor of the Unzer tsayt Yiddish daily in Chişinău (Czernowitz) and a member of the Romanian parliament (he later became a high-ranking official in Israel); Horia Carp, journalist and writer, as well as his son Matatias Carp, the first historian of the Holocaust in Romania; Lucian Boz, literary critic and journalist; and Moritz Cahana (Mihail Canianu), folklorist.
Matatias Carp, Cartea neagră: Suferințele evreilor din România, 1940–1944, vol. 1 (Bucharest, 1946); Victor Eskenasy, ed., Izvoare şi mărturii referitoare la evreii din România, vol. 1, p. 35, vol. 2, pt. 2, p. 135 (Bucharest, 1986–1990), preface and summaries of the documents in English; Carol Iancu, “Un document despre înființarea şcolii ‘israelito-române’ din Hârlău, 1902,” Toladot 12–13 (1976): 24–27; Theodor Lavi, “Harlau (Hârlău),” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 112–114 (Jerusalem, 1969); Marcel Marcovici-Meridan, Hârlău, târguşorul evreiesc al tinereții mele: Oameni, credințe, obiceiuri (Tel Aviv, 1993).
Translated from French by Anca Mircea