Children and staff at a meal in the dining room of the summer camp sponsored by the Menorah Lodge, Piatra Neamţ Romania, 1937. (YIVO)

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Piatra Neamţ

City in the Moldavian region of Romania, at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains and on the banks of the Bistrița River. Jewish settlement in Piatra Neamț dates back as far as the eighteenth century: a wooden synagogue was built in 1766; a burial society existed by 1771, and the cemetery includes tombstones from that period as well. At the end of the eighteenth century, Jewish professional guilds were established and continued to function until 1861.

In 1803, there were 120 Jews living in Piatra Neamț, working mainly in crafts and trade. The Jewish population was 1,760 in 1838; and it rose to 3,482 in 1859; to 4,987 in 1872; to 8,361 in 1894; and to 8,489 in 1907 (representing approximately half the town’s population). A drop was experienced, however, in the interwar years: 7,595 Jews lived there in 1930, and were active in industry, timber, and cattle trading, as well as banking.

Between the wars, community leadership was contested by Zionists, representatives of the Union of Romanian Jews, and representatives of Romanian political parties. Some Jews served on the municipal council. A branch of the Înfrățirea Zion (Zion Brotherhood) association was established in 1875, forming a B’nai B’rith lodge in 1881 and founding an elementary school for boys the next year. An elementary school for girls was opened in 1899 by the Cultura association. All of the Jewish schools and the hospital (founded in 1905) were taken over by the community in 1932. In 1941, there were 19 synagogues in Piatra Neamț, one of them a modernizing temple.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the most important rabbis of Piatra Neamț were Yeḥi’el Mikhl Yosef and religious leaders from the Steinberg and Tobias families. Avraham Brandwein founded a Hasidic court there, and the Zionist movement formed a committee of the Ḥoveve Tsiyon organization in 1882. Between 1882 and 1939, several Jewish newspapers were published in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Romanian. Other notable figures included Hebrew writers Mendel Braunstein-Mibashan and Mendel P. Mendel; philosopher Eugen Relgis; Zionist leader Abraham Leib Zissu; historians Jean Juster and Mayer A. Halevy; musicologist Harry Brauner; and painters Victor Brauner and Gretty Rotman-Rubinstein.

In 1821 (during the Greek Revolution) a pogrom in Piatra Neamț was organized by Greek insurgents. In 1841, 1860, and 1891 respectively, accusations of ritual murder were made; in the first case, Moses Montefiore successfully intervened with the Ottoman sultan on behalf of 48 Jews who had been arrested. Several antisemitic demonstrations took place in the 1930s. From September 1940 to January 1941, members of the Iron Guard pillaged Jewish shops in the town. In 1941, approximately 600 Jews from neighboring villages and towns were forcibly moved to Piatra Neamț. Some 600 men aged 15 to 66 were forced to perform hard labor throughout the county; another 500 were sent off in labor detachments. When Romania joined the Allies’ side (23 August 1944), the community continued to function, but its leadership was taken over by the Jewish Democratic Committee.

In 1947, approximately 8,000 Jews remained in Piatra Neamț, but the numbers of Jewish inhabitants gradually decreased as a consequence of emigration. Its schools were nationalized in 1948. In 2003, just 153 Jews were living there, and one synagogue existed. The wooden synagogue has become a historical monument.

Suggested Reading

Ițic Kara-Schwartz (I. Kara Schwartz), “Inscripții ebraice din Piatra Neamț, 1677–1800,” Memoria antiquitatis 1 (1969): 369–373; Josef Kaufman, Cronica comunităților israelite din județul Neamțu cuprinzând hrisoave, documente, inscripții, fotografii, vol. 1 (Piatra Neamț, Rom., 1928); Theodor Lavi and Dorah Lita’ni, “Piy’atrah-Niy’amts (Piatra Neamț),” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 208–216 (Jerusalem, 1969); Pincu Pascal, Obştea evreilor din Piatra-Neamț (Piatra Neamț, Rom., 2005).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea