Old Bucharest Jewish neighbourhood

Jews played an important role in the history and development of Bucharest.
So their legacy can still be seen here and there despite the not at all friendly period.
Skilled merchants and craftsmen, and innovative artists once developed a good share of the city.
This stretched from Dristor (the crossing of Camil Ressu and Mihai Bravu Streets) to Piata Unirii.
Given the once extensive Jewish population in Bucharest, their neighborhood used to be quite large.

Vitan, Dudesti, Nerva Traian and their whereabouts hosted many Jews.
Lots of them established in the neighbourhood of Dudesti, the very rich boyars of the 18th century.
These had big houses, a pond and a famous garden set on an English park pattern.
The picturesque Jewish houses set here opened to small patio-like inner courtyards.
The crafting and trading life of former Jewish District was thriving.
In 1940 Calea Dudesti – Calea Vacaresti area counted:
* 47 delikatessen and spice shops, 33 haberdashers, 25 tailors,
* 20 haircutters, 12 butchers, 8 grocers, 8 technical painters, 7 shoemakers,
* 4 glassware shops, 4 hat makers, 4 tinsmiths and
* 7 different other craftsmen.
During the 1980s systematization program of the communist regime an extensive part of the former Jewish district totally disappeared.
But the heritage of the Jewish community in Bucharest is still impressive.

COMMUNIST REGIME’S INFLUENCE

Calea Dudesti used to stretch farther West, meeting Mircea Voda close to Calea Vacaresti, getting not far from Piata Unirii.
That old part of town, including the stretch of the old Calea Vacaresti would totally disappear in  the ’80s.
Part of Jewish heritage was demolished, together with churches, residences and other historic monuments during the aforementioned 1980s.
This happened because President Ceausescu wanted to develop his urban systematization project.
Area between Piata Unirii (W), Mircea Voda Avenue (E), present Unirea Avenue (S) and Calea Calarasilor once hosted 20 synagogues.
Of these, only 2 still exist today.

Communists did not like any religious or art monument.
So they demolished synagogues together with churches and all other material values of past centuries.
Among demolished Jewish settlements, there were also:
* Cahal Grande Great Spanish Temple (built in 1814, plundered by Legionaries in 1941, demolished by Reds in 1955),
* Malbim Synagogue (built by Orthodox Jews in 1848, repaired after 1977 earthquake, disappeared in 1986 when they demolished the neighbourhood),
* Baron Moritz de Hirsch Temple (built in 1887, demolished at its centenary, in 1987 together with nearby early 19th century Bradu Staicu and St. Trinity-Dudesti Orthodox churches).
Some old Jewish neighborhood remains can still be seen in Unirii area.
Among city’s Jewish jewels still standing there are few synagogues (some hosting museums) and a theater.

First city’s synagogue, built during the 17th century, was demolished in 18th century at Voievode Stefan Cantacuzino’s order.
They replaced it with two new synagogues belonging to the Ashkenazim Jews.
Population increase arose the need for more prayer places.
Synagogues still standing nowadays bring to our days Sephardic and Ashkenazim architectural and decoration features bearing a local touch.
These are just another history lesson Bucharest is teaching its visitors.
A brief reminder of a glorious but nevertheless typically Romanian period of time.

Jewish District sightseeing

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Warm regards,
Kryss

 

 

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