The Great Synagogue, built in 1670, and believed to be t…

Modern Romania was formed by the union of the principalities of Moldavia and Walachia in the 1860s; prior to that, the region had been under Ottoman control, but somewhat autonomous. The country was enlarged following World War I when, with the collapse of the Habsburg Empire and defeat of Russia, the provinces of Bucovina, Transylvania, Banat, and Bessarabia were awarded to it. Bessarabia, retaken by the Soviet Union in World War II, is now largely coextensive with the Republic of Moldova.

As a result of Ottoman domination, the region had a significant population of Sephardim, in contrast to the rest of Eastern Europe. When Transylvania was under Ottoman rule in the mid-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, many Jews settled in Alba Iulia, the only town where Jewish residence was permitted. Sephardic Jews are also credited with introducing glass manufacture in southern Transylvania near Făgăraş by the late seventeenth century. In the early twentieth century, the Sephardic community was concentrated particularly in the capital, Bucharest, as well as in the town of Craiova and the Black Sea port city of Constanţa.

In Moldavia, Jews were concentrated in the capital city, Iaşi (Jassy). Its Great Synagogue (pictured above), built in 1670, is considered to be the oldest extant synagogue building in Romania. Many Jews from neighboring Ukraine settled there after the pogrom known as gzeyres takh vetat; the well-known Jewish chronicler of that event, Natan Note Hannover, lived there in the 1660s. Iaşi is perhaps best known as the location, in 1876, of the first performance of Yiddish theater. The productions were the creation of Avrom Goldfadn, who had moved to Iaşi only that year. Well-known religious leaders include members of the Taubes family as well as Iacob Isac Niemirower, who later became chief rabbi of Romania, and Josef Şafran, whose brother Alexandru played a leading role in efforts to save Romanian Jews during the Holocaust. Although born in Hârlău, the writer and journalist Horia Carp settled in Iaşi; the physician, writer, and Zionist activist Karpel Lippe lived there as well.

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SLIDESHOW: A Tour of Poland

Tour the cities of Poland, including Warsaw, Łódź, and Kraków.

SLIDESHOW: A Tour of Polish Cities


Passover Seder for members of the MIKEFE Association, fo…

From the late seventeenth century until the end of World War I, Hungary was part of the Habsburg Empire, first under Austrian rule and, from 1867, winning a degree of autonomy as part of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. It was only with the Habsburg reconquest and the end of Ottoman occupation that the modern Jewish community of Hungary was established. Numbering just a few thousand in 1700, by the first decades of the twentieth century it approached one million.

Jewish settlement in the eighteenth century was concentrated in market towns such as Eisenstadt, Pápa, and Pressburg (then in Hungary; now Bratislava, Slovakia) in the northwest, Óbuda (later incorporated into Budapest) in central Hungary, and Munkács (now Mukacheve, Ukraine) in the northeast. Jews in these towns played a leading role in trade. Leaseholding, tavernkeeping, and distilling were common professions; artisans—butchers, tailors, shoemakers, and practioners of similar crafts—formed the last significant occupational group.

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