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Schwarzfeld Family

Romanian intellectuals active in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beniamin Schwarzfeld (1822–1897) was a Hebrew-language writer and educator. His sons Elias (1855–1915), Wilhelm (1856–1894), and Moses (1857–1943) were writers and historians, and his daughter Adela Schwarzfeld-Wechsler (1859–1953) was the mother of the poet Beniamin Fundoianu (Fondane).

Beniamin Schwarzfeld was born in Stanisławów (now Ivano-Frankivs’k, Ukr.). He received a traditional Jewish education but also studied German and was a follower of the Haskalah movement. In 1846, he published poems and articles in the Hebrew review Kokhve Yitsḥak, published in Vienna. In 1850, he settled in Iaşi and two decades later contributed to the Hebrew publications Ha-Magid, ‘Ivri Anokhi, and the Zimrat ha-arets. In 1853, he was a founder of the first Haskalah-based Jewish elementary school in Iaşi, eventually becoming its principal. Schwarzfeld’s sons, born in Iaşi, attended that city’s Jewish elementary school and Romanian high school.

Elias Schwarzfeld was a journalist, writer, historian, and political activist. In 1878, he went to Brussels to study law and political science, defending his Ph.D. thesis in 1881. He later settled in Bucharest where he assumed the management of the Jewish newspaper Fraternitatea (The Brotherhood), which advocated the emancipation of Jews in Romania and denounced anti-Jewish persecution. His polemical articles led to his banishment from Romania in 1885, along with a group of 11 Jewish journalists who did not receive Romanian citizenship and were accused of activities against the state. Elias Schwarzfeld spent the rest of his life in Paris. He was the first writer to publish short stories on Jewish topics in the Romanian language. He also conducted research on the history of Romanian Jews, and was the earliest to publish studies in this field in French and English. When the Jewish Colonization Association was established in 1893, Schwarzfeld became its secretary, a position he held until his death.

Wilhelm Schwarzfeld, a journalist, philologist, and historian, attended the University of Iaşi in the faculty of letters and philosophy, but interrupted his studies after two years. In 1886, he, with the archaeologist Nicolae Beldiceanu and the Hebraist Menaḥem Mendel Braunstein, engaged in epigraphic research, exploring the old Jewish cemetery in Iaşi to copy and prepare texts of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century grave inscriptions for publication. Between 1888 and 1894, he conducted research on Hebrew grammar and on the history of Jews in Romania, publishing studies in Romanian on these topics.

Moses Schwarzfeld was a journalist, historian, and folklorist. In 1877 in Bacău, he edited the cultural yearbook Calendar pentru Israeliți (Calendar for Israelites), which he transferred to Bucharest in 1878 and renamed Anuar pentru Israeliți (Yearbook for Israelites; 1877–1898). In 1886, with a group of Jewish intellectuals from Bucharest, he founded the Dr. Iuliu Barasch History Society and became its first secretary (in 1919, Schwarzfeld published a biography of Barasch).

Moses Schwarzfeld also wrote texts on Jewish and Romanian folklore, assembled a collection of 9,000 Yiddish proverbs (1898), and published the book Practica şi apropourile lui Cilibi Moise vestitul din Țara Românească (The Practice and Sayings of the Renowned Cilibi Moise from Walachia; 1883), on the moralist, folk philosopher, and first Jew to have written in Romanian. In 1890, Schwarzfeld published the newspaper Egalitatea (Equality), the longest-lasting Jewish periodical in Romanian (1890–1916, 1919–1940). In 1897 he joined the Zionist movement and participated in the Second, Third, Fifth, and Ninth Congresses of the World Zionist Organization.

Suggested Reading

Israel Bar-Avi, Familia Schwarzfeld (Jerusalem, 1968/69); Lya Benjamin, Evreii din România în texte istoriografice (Bucharest, 2002), pp. 73–202, 207–314; Lucian-Zeev Herşcovici, “The Role of Historiography in the Emancipation of Romanian Jewry before World War I,” Shvut 16 (1993): 201–218; A. B. Yoffe, Be-Sadot zarim: Sofrim yehudim be-Romanyah, 1880–1940 (Tel Aviv, 1996), pp. 62–70, abstract and table of contents also in English.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea