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Rosen, Mozes

(1912–1994), Romanian rabbi and community leader. Mozes Rosen was born in Moineşti, Moldavia, to an Orthodox rabbinical family from Galicia. His father, Avram Rosen, was the rabbi of the community of Fălticeni. Rosen studied at the yeshiva of Vienna but was forced to leave when the Nazis occupied Austria in 1938. He also studied law at the University of Bucharest.

During World War II, Rosen taught Hebrew at the Cultura Jewish School in Bucharest. He was then deported to concentration camp in Târgu Jiu, where he associated with Communist prisoners, some of whom ultimately became Romanian political leaders. After the war, Rosen was widely known for his initiatives to rehabilitate the authority of Bucharest’s Jewish community, which had declined significantly during the war. He was in charge of the community’s religious affairs and served as rabbi of the Malbim Synagogue, and eventually of the city’s Great Synagogue.

In May 1948 Rosen was chosen to be Romania’s chief rabbi, and from 1964 he served as president of the Federation of the Jewish Communities from Romania. In these two roles, he was in effect the sole spokesperson for Jews of that country. As a rabbi and communal leader, he was forced to practice a very complex diplomacy, combining obedience with truly bold action. He succeeded in preserving the minimal level of traditional Jewish life in Romania—a nearly unique achievement in the Communist world, although his leadership verged on the autocratic. He developed a network of Jewish schools, provided for the functioning of several kosher canteens, and issued a community newspaper, Revista cultului mozaic din R.P.R. (Periodical of the Jewish Religion in the Romanian People’s Republic). Rosen also pressured the government to release arrested rabbis, ensured that kosher food was provided to Jewish soldiers and prisoners, and responded to antisemitic acts.

Following Stalin’s death, Rosen gradually reconnected with international Jewish organizations such as the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Agency. He played a key role in promoting relations between Israel and Romania, made repeated trips to Israel from 1964, and met with Israeli leaders. Moreover, he also served Romanian state interests as he facilitated its relations with Western Europe and the United States; due in large part to Rosen’s intervention, Romania was granted most favored nation status by the U.S. Congress. Although other factors were involved, Rosen’s efforts spurred Romania to adopt a generally favorable attitude toward Jewish emigration to Israel. As Romania became increasingly eager to strengthen its relations with the Western world, Rosen’s position grew stronger. Over the years, he even encouraged the development of an overt cult of his personality. Thus, for example, celebrations were organized on his birthdays as well as upon his reelection as chief rabbi.

After 1985, during glasnost and in concert with Israeli authorities, Rosen encouraged Soviet Jewish emigration and obtained the authorities’ approval for immigrants from the USSR to stop in Bucharest on their way to Israel. In initiating programs to prepare Soviet Jews for immigration, he introduced them to the basic concepts of Judaism.

In the 1980s, the dictatorial regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu permitted overt expressions of antisemitism, many of which were aimed at Rosen. The Săptămâna newspaper published vitriolic attacks on him, and authorities prevented him from responding in writing. However, Rosen organized protest meetings of Jewish intellectuals, and several Romanian intellectuals indirectly expressed their solidarity with him and the Jewish community. Beginning in 1986, Ceauşescu undertook a megalomaniacal plan to restructure the capital, demolishing numerous churches and several synagogues in Bucharest, among them the impressive Spanish Temple. Rosen protested both directly by means of memoranda to the government and by raising awareness in the Western world. His initiatives compelled Ceauşescu to abandon a project to tear down the Choral Temple, the spiritual center of the Romanian Jewish community.

After the fall of the Communist regime in December 1989, Rosen continued to lead the Federation of Jewish Communities, although his age and accustomed methods for acting under dictatorship conditions seemed to sap his confidence and prevented him from taking full advantage of the democratic system. Nevertheless, he responded sharply to new manifestations of antisemitism that developed in postcommunist Romania. According to his wishes, Rosen was buried in Jerusalem.

Suggested Reading

Moses Rosen, Dangers, Tests and Miracles: The Remarkable Life Story of Chief Rabbi Rosen of Romania, as told to Joseph Finklestone (London, 1990); Liviu Rotman, “Romanian Jewry: The First Decade after the Holocaust,” in The Tragedy of Romanian Jewry, ed. Randolph L. Braham, pp. 287–331 (New York and Boulder, 1994); Leon Volovici, “National Communism and Jewish Politics: Romanian Chief Rabbi Rosen’s Miracles and Dilemmas,” in Jewish Centers and Peripheries: Europe between America and Israel Fifty Years after World War II, ed. Ilan Troen, pp. 85–98 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1999); Leon Volovici, “Romanian Jewry under Rabbi Moses Rosen during the Ceauşescu Regime,” Studies in Contemporary Jewry 19 (2003): 181–192.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea