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Town in northeastern Romania at the confluence of the Siret and Moldova Rivers. Oral tradition claims a Jewish presence there from the late fifteenth century, but the first documentary reference dates to 1709, the oldest tomb inscription to 1724, and the record book of the burial society to 1773. Throughout the nineteenth century the Jewish community, integrated in the fields of commerce and crafts, recorded continuous demographic growth: from 288 Jews in 1803, to 1,200 in 1831, to 1,936 in 1838, to 3,290 in 1859, and to 6,432 in 1899 (then representing 39% of the total population). In 1910, there were 322 merchants, 55 shoemakers, 52 tailors, 20 carpenters, 18 blacksmiths, and 305 other craftsmen. As a result of emigration in the early twentieth century, the number of Jews dropped before World War I but eventually rose again during the interwar period: to 4,728 in 1910 and to 5,963 in 1930 (totaling 28%).

The community of Roman had religious, educational, and cultural institutions. Beside the Great Synagogue (Sinagoga Mare) erected in 1830 on the spot of an older building that had burned down, in 1938 there were 16 other places of Jewish worship, most of them erected in the nineteenth century. Their names reveal religious divisions—the Study House of the Kosov Hasidim, the Magid Study House; or professional divisions—the Tailors’ Synagogue, the Shoemakers’ Synagogue, and so on. The first known rabbi was Yitsḥak ben Yehudah Leib (as of 1792), followed by Ya‘akov Beriş (1825–1840), known as “the Romaner Ruv,” who eventually settled in Safed; and David Isacsohn (1839–1907), followed by his nephew Solomon Isacsohn (1910–1947).

The first modern school for boys was authorized in 1866; a Jewish Romanian school for boys was founded in 1893 (with 211 pupils in 1933); and one for girls was established in 1899 (with 136 pupils in 1933) with the support of the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA). The Union of Native Jews, an organization that worked at enabling Romanian-born Jews to obtain civil and political rights, had an active branch as of 1891, and there was a Ḥoveve Tsiyon organization as of 1893. The town’s Zionists elected the writer and journalist Horia Carp as a delegate to the Fifth Zionist Congress, and Zionist activities, especially fund-raising for the Keren Kayemet (National Jewish Fund), continued after World War I.

During the interwar period, Jews were elected to the local council on the lists of various Romanian political parties. In 1930, Alexandru C. Cuza, the leader of an antisemitic nationalist movement, was elected to parliament as representative of Roman. Jewish natives of the town included the writer M. Blecher and the journalist M. H. Bady (Laivandman); the latter served as editor of the magazines Hasmonaea and Copilul evreu (The Jewish Child) and founded the newspaper Viața evreiască (Jewish Life; 1944–1948).

Jews were subjected to discrimination and persecution from the beginning of World War II. After Jewish teachers and students were expelled from public schools, the community established a mixed Jewish high school with 180 boys and girls. On the eve of the German–Romanian war against the Soviet Union (21 June 1941), 800 Jews were driven out of neighboring villages and small towns and were transferred to Roman by force. On 1 July 1941, 160 notables and leaders of the community, including Rabbi Isacsohn, were imprisoned for three months in the main synagogue. On 2 July, after the Iaşi pogrom, the “death train” from Iaşi to Călăraşi stopped in Roman. Viorica Agarici, president of the local Red Cross, defied the interdictions; she had the cars opened and brought water and food to the survivors. The dead from the train were buried in the local Jewish cemetery. Agarici was subsequently awarded the title of Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem for her bravery.

Almost 1,000 Jews from Roman were sent into forced labor in remote towns. Some 250 went to Floreşti (Bessarabia), 200 to Sihna (Botoşani county), 100 to Predeal (southern Transylvania), 93 to Măcin (Dobrogea), and 75 to Baldovineşti (Brăila county). In April 1944, as the Soviet army approached, 1,000 Jewish refugees from Paşcani and 1,400 from Târgu Frumos arrived in Roman. Jewish deportees from Transnistria who could not return to their towns also arrived. In 1947, there were 7,900 Jews living in Roman, but their numbers dropped as a result of emigration, mainly to Israel. The Jewish population was 4,500 in 1950, 750 in 1969, and just 62 in 2005.

Suggested Reading

Theodor Lavi and Dorah Lita’ni, “Roma’n / Roman,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 246–253 (Jerusalem, 1969); Pincu Pascal, Obştea evreiască din Roman (Bucharest, 2001); M. Schwarzfeld, ed., Anuar pentru israeliți, vol. 13 (Bucharest, 1890–1891); Sami Wechsler, Contribuție la monografia Comunității evreieşti din Roman (Roman, 1929).



Translated from French by Anca Mircea