Since Jews played an important role in the history and development of Bucharest, 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: 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, with the poorer located farther from the Targ.
Dudesti, Vitan, Nerva Traian and their whereabouts hosted many Jews. Many of them set their houses in the neighbourhood of very rich boyars of the 18th century, the Dudesti which had big houses, a famous garden set on an English park pattern and a pond. In this area the Jews set picturesque houses that opened to small patio-like inner yards. The trading and crafting life of the former Jewish District was thriving: in 1940 the 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.
Calea Dudesti used to stretch farther West, meeting the Mircea Voda Close to the Calea Vacaresti, getting not far from the Piata Unirii.; that old part of town, including the stretch of the old Calea Vacaresti would totally disappear in the 1980s. A part of the Jewish heritage was demolished, together with churches, residences and other historic monuments during the aforementioned 1980s, as President Ceausescu wanted to develop his urban systematization project. Just a mere example, the area between Piata Unirii (W), Mircea Voda Avenue (E), the actual Unirea Avenue (S) and Calea Calarasilor once hosted 20 synagogues, of which only 2 still stand nowadays.
As communists did not like any religious or art monument, they demolished synagogues together with churches and all other material values of past centuries; among the demolished Jewish settlements, we can list here 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, rebuilt in 1928, repaired after the 1977 earthquake, demolished in 1986 together with the whole neighborhood around it), Baron Moritz de Hirsch Temple (built in 1887, demolished at its centenary, in 1987 together with the early 19th century Orthodox churches of Bradu Staicu and St. Trinity-Dudesti nearby).
Some remains of the old Jewish neighborhood can still be seen in Unirii area, among the Jewish jewels of the city still standing being several synagogues (some hosting museums) and a theatre. The first synagogue in the city, built during the 17th century, was demolished in 18th century at Voievode Stefan Cantacuzino’s order, to be replaced with two new synagogues belonging to the Ashkenazim Jews. The increase of the population arose the need for more prayer places. Bringing to our days the Sephardic and Ashkenazim architectural and decoration features and also bearing a local touch, the synagogues we can still see today are just another history lesson Bucharest is teaching its visitors, a brief reminder of a glorious but nevertheless typically Romanian too short period of time.
Main piece of the Jewish District: Str Strehaia (Jewish Theatre) – Str Olteni (The Great Synagogue – museum within) – Str Mamulari (Holy Union Synagogue – museum within and fine cluster of old houses) – Str Sf. Vineri (the Choral Temple)
The Jewish Inn (19th century), raised by Jeweler Haim Ioines, burnt down during the fire that desolated Bucharest on an Easter Sunday in 19th century.
The inn contained the Old Beyth Hornidrash Synagogue, also known as the Synagogue from Saint George, referring to nearby Saint George neighbourhood. Restored in 1947, the synagogue received a much simpler facade. Repaired again in 1955, it was used by Jewish community for service until 1978 when it was turned into a warehouse. If looking carefully you can locate it on 78 Calea Mosilor (Old Men Avenue). It lies between the bookshop and car service, on the Southern side of the street, just off the small square with the tramway junction.
A little farther NE from the synagogue, along Calea Mosilor, there is the 1867 Hristo Georgiev House (set by a Bulgarian merchant). Right after it, the building with arched patterns above windows is what still stands of the former Jewish Inn. (The ground floor of the former inn hosts a naturist shop with a purple facade, a mountaineering gear shop, a florist and a double pane glasses shop.
State Jewish Theatre
The first Jewish theater worldwide was founded in Iasi in 1876 by Avram Goldfaden.
One of the first chronicles to his stage plays was signed by the foremost Romanian poet, Mihai Eminescu, who appreciated the performance as “very good”.
The theater in Bucharest was built towards the end of the 19th century, by Doctor Iuliu Barasch.
Initially it was meant as a clinic, but became a cultural house for the community.
During the WW2 the Jewish actors were not allowed to act in Yiddish nor on Romanian theater stages.
So the Barascheum Theater was founded where they acted in Romanian, mostly revue performances.
Like all private business in the country, the theater was nationalized in 1948, while the building was restored in 1954-1955.
It is still interesting to attend one of their excellent performances, featuring Maia Morgenstern, Rudy Rosenfeld or Leonie Waldman-Eliad.
Performances held in Yiddish are translated in Romanian through earphones.
In the latest 25 years they had several international tours.
They organized and hosted in 1991 and 1996 the international Festival of Yiddish Theater.
And in 2003 they were the co-organizer and host of the first Festival of Yiddish Culture in Europe.
Great Synagogue = Holly Union Temple = Jewish History Museum = Holocaust Museum
Also known as Ahdut Kodesh, this is the former Tailors' Synagogue.
It was raised in 1845-50 by a Lech (Polish) Jews Community: the Jewish Tailors’ Guild of Bucharest. The structure is sustained by steel columns and the facade is decorated with alternative layers of bricks and white plaster. The whole composition gathers Moorish, Romanesque and Byzantine elements, with obvious influences from the religious and laic Wallachian architecture.
First restored in 1865, it was adapted to electric lighting in 1915.
Its actual looks are a result of the multiple changes and restorations over the years: it was repaired in 1865, redesigned in 1903 and 1909, repainted in Rococo style in 1936 by Ghershon Horowitz (coming from a painters’ family of Focsani). It survived both World War II and Nicolae Ceausescu unscathed. (scapat cu bine). The synagogue was restored once again in 1945, as it had been devastated by the extreme right Legionaries.
It is one of the largest synagogues in the country and possibly the one with the most beautiful interior.
For all these, it was included by the Romanian Academy on the list of the historic monuments, fact that probably saved it from the demolition that covered most of the area around in the late 1980s. It functioned as place of worship until 1968.
“The Museum of the History of the Romanian Jews was founded in 1978, at the initiative of Moses Rosen (back then, chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Romania), in a building declared a historical monument in 2004. We speak of the former Temple of the Holy Union, built in 1836 as a place of worship for the local tailors’ craft union. The edifice was restored and underwent substantial architectural modifications in 1910, but it finally lost its original function in 1968. Since 1978, it has been sheltering the Romanian Jewish History Museum. We welcome visitors ofering them the opportunity to learn about the history of the Jewish communities in Romania, about its origins, growth, contribution and influence to the Romanian culture, economy and political life. The Museum is currently under repair and can temporarily visited within the Holocaust Museum, at the Great Synagogue, Vasile Adamache street no 11.” http://www.museum.jewishfed.ro/
In 1978-80 it became the Romanian Jewish History Museum at the initiative of Chief Rabbi Dr. Moses Rosen. It has been hosting, ever since 1992, an exhibition entitled the Memorial of Jewish Martyrs “Chief Rabbi Dr. Mozes Rosen” (open 10.00-13.00, Closed on Saturday and Monday, ask the guard in the little kiosk opposite the gate for directions or, if there is nobody, ask in the above-mentioned Holy Union Temple for directions to get inside).
Inside, ask for Mr. Aristide Streja, for a tour; there is no entrance charge, but donations are appreciated.
Just like Mihai Voda Church, this synagogue has been virtually fenced off with concrete buildings, so as to hide it from public sight.
Muzeul de Istorie a Evreilor din Romania “Dr. Moses Rosen” Str. Mamulari, Nr.3, Sector 3, Bucuresti 021-311.08.70 – e str Paralela cu cea de la I sediu Litexco zona Sf. Vineri http://www.seebucharest.ro/obiectiv/muzeul-de-istorie-a-evreilor-din-romania-dr-moses-rosen
L – Mc 09:00 – 13:00 J 09:00 – 12:30 15:00 – 18:00 Closed on Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays
Ring the bell on the gate and wait for someone to come open it, have your ID or passport in hand
The name has several variants, including Museum of the History of the Romanian Jewish Community. Presents the history of the the Jews on the Romanian teritory since 2nd century until nowadays. It contains religious objects, paintings by Jewish painters, replicas of synagogues in the country, collections representative for the Romanian Jewish history, items representative for the creation and culture of the Romanian Jews, Yiddish theater history. Exhibits proof of the once large Jewish community existence, as well as a memorial for the deportation and extermination years. The museum gives broad coverage to the history of the Jews in Romania. Displays include an enormous collection of books written, published, illustrated or translated by Romanian Jews; a serious archive of the history of Romania and collection of paintings of and by Romanian Jews.
Those interested in the study of the Jewish community even further can go to the Jewish History Institute nearby (ask the museum caretaker for directions).
The Choral Temple
This is the best known monument of Jewish heritage in Bucharest.