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Jewish Trip Romania, Ukraine & Moldova

Jewish Trip Romania, Ukraine & Moldova


Names of some of these towns and villages evoke the memory of the great Jews who distinguished themselves for many generations by their wealth of knowledge and good deeds. Each town or village has written its own chapter in the history of the Jewish sufferings.

Day 1: Iasi

Arrival in Iasi. After check-in we start our classical city tour, visit the Metropolitan church, 3 Hierarchs Church, Palace of Culture, the National Theater (built by Eiffel at the end of 19th century) and we will continue by visiting the Jewish Community, where a local Jewish person will tell us about their life in Iasi and will show us the Jewish dedicated places. We will visit the Jewish cemetery, the Great Synagogue, we will pay a moment of remembrance next to the place where the pogrom took place and the first -ever Yiddish – language Theatre was opened. In the evening! Surprise!! In a monastery we’ll enjoy a blessed wine... and have the opportunity to listen to the Byzantine church music sang by a student’s choir from the Theological University of Iasi.

In the 19th century, Iasi was one of the great Eastern European centers of Jewish learning, famous for its scholarly rabbis, intellectuals and skilled craftsmen, as well as for its Jewish schools, hospitals, publications and various organizations. In 1855, the city was the home of the first-ever Yiddish-language newspaper, Korot Haitim, and the birthplace of the Israeli national anthem. The world’s first professional Yiddish-language theater was opened here in 1876 by Avram Goldfaden, who later founded New York‟s first Jewish Theater. From 1949 to 1964, Iaşi was also home to a second company of the State Jewish Theater.

Jewish merchants from Poland settled here in the 15th century and their numbers swelled with further waves of Russian-Jewish and Galician-Jewish immigration into Moldova. By 1930, Iasi was home to more than 30,000 Jews and some 127 synagogues. Today, only two synagogues remain open. During the early years of World War II, Iaşi was the scene of a pogrom by the Iron Guard, a nationalist Fascist organization. The majority of the city’s Jewish population was killed or deported. A monument to the victims of the 1941 pogrom stands outside the Great Synagogue.

Great Synagogue of Iasi, currently undergoing renovations, is the oldest surviving Jewish prayer house in Romania and the second oldest synagogue in Europe. It was founded in 1670, reportedly at the initiative of Rabbi Nathan (Nata) ben Moses Hannover, author of Yeven Mezulah. Located on Synagogues Street (so dubbed because of the many synagogues once found here) in the old Jewish neighborhood of Targu Cucului, the synagogue was built in an eclectic style with strong late baroque influences.

Iasi Jewish Cemetery Many of the victims of the 1941 pogroms were buried in the Jewish Cemetery, located outside the city on Dealul Munteni. Over 100,000 graves, some dating from the late 1800s, stretch across the hillside; burial records date from 1915 to the present day and are kept in the community center. Iasi’s second, smaller synagogue is also located here.

Day 2: Iasi - Podu Iloaiei-Tirgu-Frumos-Roman - Gura Humorului

Visit the Podu Iloaiei Jewish Cemetery. The Jewish community in the village of Podu Iloaiei appeared in the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th.The synagogue sadly no longer exists. Only the Jewish cemetery remains, still preserving tombstones from 1829 and 1830

Visit the Mass Grave in Tirgu-Frumos Cemetery. In the cemetery Tirgu-Frumos Cemetery is a huge common grave, created during the pogrom of Iasi. Near the common grave there is a commemorative monument, built in the communist period, with an inscription in Hebrew and Romanian: “To the 640 Jews buried here, victims of the fascist barbarism, killed in the „death train‟ on 29-30 June and 1 July 1941. Let us not forget the Fascism’s crimes!”

Visit the Tailor’s ( Poel Tzedek) Synagogue in Roman, also known as Leipziger Synagogue because of the commercial ties to the German city of Leipzig,. The Tailor‟s Synagogue is a medium type edifice erected in 1898 and features a wooden Aron ha-Kodesh, elaborately decorated with floral and animal motifs. The Jewish Community in Roman is at least four centuries old, as is shown on tombstones and documents. There were 16 synagogues in Roman at 1887 and a total of 15 synagogues and prayer houses in the 1930‟s . We will see also the Jewish cemetery on Str. Bogdan Dragos, that features laminated photographs of the deceased. Arrival in Gura Humorului. Check-in.

Day 3: Day dedicated to the painted monasteries from Bucovina

Day dedicated to the famous UNESCO painted monasteries. We will depart after breakfast to see Voronet Monastery and after that we will visit a local artist who paints the Easter eggs. She will demonstrate us the technique she uses and anyone can try its first steps in this a rt. We continue to Moldovita monastery, meet sister Tatiana who will present us the paintings, and after we will have lunch in the monastery. Afternoon we depart towards Sucevita monastery. Visit and stop at a local artist family famous for their black ceramics. We can enjoy a live demonstration, or drive further back to our Hotel. Free dinner so you have time to practice for the egg painting. Same accommodation.


Day 4: Gura Humorului - Botosani - Dorohoi - Cernauti, once the capital of Bucovina and famous Jewish center.

After breakfast departure to Botosani. Jews settled in this historic market town in northeastern Romania in the 17th century and by the 19th century, the community had become one of the largest in the province of Moldova. Approximately 11,000 Jews were living in Botosani before World War II. Most immigrated to Israel at the onset of the war, with only a few dozen remaining.
We will visit:

-   the Great Synagogue “Hoihe Sil”, the only remaining synagogue in the city and one of the oldest and most richly decorated in Moldova, the Great Synagogue of Botosani was built in 1834.


-   the Jewish Cemetery Botosani’s includes a newer section with tombstones dating from the 19th century and an original old section which has wonderfully carved tombstones. After lunch departure to Dorohoi. Only one of the two remaining synagogues is still in use in this little Moldovan town where Jews from Poland settled in the 17th century. Visit of the synagogue, the Jewish Community office and the Jewish cemetery. Today we will cross the border with Ukraine and we will spend 3 days in the Old Bucovinian part, that was taken from the body of Romania and given to Ukraine after the II World War. Arrival in the evening in Cernauti (Chernovtsy). Check-in.


Day 5: Chernivtsi

Chernivtsi is a special city in the history of the Jews. Here was formed the Jewish literary Community in German, in Yiddish and in a special German slang of the streets of Chernivtsi, named kigl-deutsch. Here lived and worked I. Burg, brothers G. and H. Sigal, I. Schwartz, H. Shraibman, M. Altman Eliezer Shteynbarg, Paul Celan, Rose Auslander, Itzik Manger. Before the war in Chernivtsi lived more than half of all Jews of the region - about 55 thousand. During the war here was created Chernivtsi ghetto. Now the vast majority of Jews fled the city. After breakfast we will start our City tour by visiting L. Kobilitsa Street Station Synagogue of "Bejt Tfila". Transfer to the Sahaydachny Street - the territory of the ghetto during World War II The Turkish Square Station Turkish well, mikvah, tailor‟s club – schneiderferein. Transfer to the Barbusse Street Station, The historical center of Old Chernivtsi, Great Synagogue-Groshil, Synagogue "Mahsike Shabbat", Synagogue "Hevra tegilim", transfer to the B. Khmelnitski street to the University. On the way will visit the Boyaner- Rabbi House, a club and a synagogue for builders -bauferein. The walls and ceiling of the synagogue are covered with amazing paintings made by an unknown artist in the prewar years, an imitation of the earlier Jewish paintings.

Museum of the History of the Jews of Bukovina. The museum exhibition covers the period from the late 18th century until the middle of the 20th century. A considerable number of exhibits are old books, documents, postcards, articles of religion and life. The religious life of the Jews of Bukovina takes a big part of local culture. The museum introduces to the Jewish cultural and political movement of the late 19 - early 20th century, the literary process in Bukovina, as well as the daily life of Jews, their professions, hobbies and spiritual needs.Dinner in a traditional Ukrainian restaurant outside the city. Return to the hotel.


Day 6: Chernivtsi

We will begin this day by visiting the Chernovtsy Jewish cemetery on the Green Street. The Jewish cemetery was established in 1866 by a decision of the municipality of the Chernivtsi. Author of the project was engineer Reli, who wanted to create from a Jewish cemetery a monument of garden culture of the city. The territory of the cemetery is divided into neighborhoods, which are planned and make a uniform closed complex. Today their number is 137. The territory of modern cemetery occupies about 14 hectares. It is estimated that in this Jewish cemetery are buried more than 100 thousand inhabitants, many of whom have played an important role in the cultural and economic development of the city.

Then we will drive to visit the Court of Raven Ruzhinski, Tzaddik Israel Friedmann in Sadgor. Sadgor became a house for the founder of the dynasty Rudzhinsky and Sadgorsky, tzaddik Hasidic Zadik Yisroel Friedman, better known as Rebe Rudzhinsky. In some years about Rudzhinsky Yard went legends. It is said that this luxurious residence of Rebbe Israel may well be compared with the palaces of the Russian Tsar. Subsequently Yisrael Friedman moved his residence to Sadgor, which was then an Austrian territory. There, in 1845, his disciples have built a huge synagogue in Moorish style, where he had preached. There are records of tens of thousands of Hassids, who came to listen to his sermon and left rich donations. Rabbi Friedman died in 1850, after this the community was headed by his descendants. Free time and traditional dinner.


Day 7: Kamenetz-Podilsky

Tour through Kamenetz - Podilsky Fortress. Kamenetz - Podilsky castle is located outside the city, and it is situated at the sole entrance to the city. The original stone buildings of the castle were built in XII-XIII centuries. In the XIV-XV centuries and XVI century it was repeatedly extended, rebuilt, his final appearance formed in the middle of the XVIth century. In 1547, Jews were forbidden to stay in Kamenetz, and they settled in the suburb Karvasary (distorted Persian "Caravanserai" - "Hotel"), under the walls of the fortress, but since the XIX century the ban has become less strict, and more Jews appear in the city limits, mostly in the area of Dolgaya street (Lange -grad).

In the city there were 2 synagogues and 21 prayer houses, 2 men and 2 private girls' schools.

Representatives of the Jewish community, lawyers, doctors, teachers make up a substantial layer of the Kamenetz - Podilsky intellectuals. History has preserved the name of Kamenetz - Podilsky Rabbi Mordehay Zeev Orinshteyn, renowned scholar and Kabbalist. In 1775 he was approved as a rabbi throughout Galicia. In the middle of the XIX century in Kamenetz struck up a friendship of two outstanding representatives of Jewish literature: Abram Gottlober and Mendel Moycher Sforim. Among high school students was a significant percentage of Jewish youth. In 1857 in Kamenetz - Podilsky was born Baron David Gienzburg Goratzievich, then outstanding scientist -orientalist, head of the Jewish community of St. Petersburg.

Visit the Synagogue that is located on a steep slope to the south of the Tower of Potters. It was built in the eclectic style in the XIX century, possible in place of an earlier one. During the war the monument was considerably damaged, and now it is used as a restaurant. Here, in this part of the town, there was another synagogue and a Jewish bath near the river.

Visit the Old Jewish cemetery. In the tradition of the past time the cemetery is located on a hill. Here are preserved burials from XVI-XVIII centuries. Gravestones and monuments are decorated with traditional ornaments, which have intertwined floral and zoomorphic motives. Here are preserved fragments of inscriptions. Kamenets gravestones are not only objects of the eschatological cult, but also pieces of art of the "matsa‟s”.

Further departure to the city of Khotyn. Tour of the Khotyn Fortress. One of the most significant monuments of architecture and military fortification art of the past in Western Europe is Khotyn Fortress. Its wall height of 30-40 m and 5-6 m thick, earthen ramparts, bastions and deep moats are of great interest to all who visit this fortress on the Dniester. In the fortress were taken popular films: “Zahar Berkut”, "Ballad of the Valiant Knight Ivanhoe, “The Three Musketeers”, “Arrows of Robin Hood”, “Taras Bulba”. In 2007, a Khotyn Fortress entered the list of “7 Wonders of Ukraine”.

Visiting the Jewish cemetery in Khotyn In the early twentieth century, Khotyn was reputed as one of the major centers of Jewish literature. In Khotyn, Jews lived mostly in the narrow crowded quarters of the Old City with the winding narrow streets, which ironically was called by his contemporaries' “the foretaste of Istanbul”. The reconstructed building of a synagogue and the Jewish cemetery with gravestones are preserved, on which the carvings are executed in original local style. Return to Chernovtsy. Free dinner and same accommodation.


Day 8: Chernivtsi - Balti - Chisinau.

Today we will drive south east to Balti city, Republic of Moldova that was founded in 1580. At present it is the biggest industrial and cultural center in the Northern part of Moldova. According to some sources, the first Jews appeared in this region of Moldova at the beginning of the 10th century. In 1580, the locality later named Balti was formed around a small Jewish tavern - korchma. During the second part of the 19th century, Jews made up more than 50% of the population in Balti and small surrounding settlements. Starting with 1989, the Balti Jewish community is the second biggest community after Kishinev as well as the regional center for 49 small towns and villages in the North of Moldova. Jewish population is 2,000 (plus about 600 from Balti periphery). Since 2000, the Balti community has a winning program with the Jewish Federation of Greensboro, NC that supports the main projects of the local Jewry. We shall visit the synagogue and the Association of the Jewish Organizations of Balti, the "Hesed Yakov" Welfare Center, JCC that serve the local community. We will visit the local synagogue, the cemetery and speak to the local Jewish community. In the evening we will stop at one of the best Moldovan wineries, Chateau Vartely, for a wine tasting and dinner. Accommodation in the hotel of Chateau Vartely 4*.


Day 9:  Chisinau

Arrival to Chisinau and check-in. Chisinau - Capital of the Republic of Moldova, became  flourishing Jewish center in the 18th century, when the growing economy presented new commercial and industrial opportunities. By the turn of the century Jews owned a score of factories employing thousands of Jewish workers; there were 16 Jewish schools with 2,100 students, and 70 synagogues. The name Chisinau, however, was thrust into the consciousness of the world on Easter Day, 1903 when 49 Jews were massacred by frenzied mobs. Hundreds more were seriously injured; thousands were left homeless and property damage was measured in millions of gold rubles. Public outrage was expressed in protests which echoed throughout every civilized capital of the world. In 1905 Chisinau was again the scene of unspeakable horror and violent death when a second pogrom claimed the lives of another 19 Jews. The Jewish community was shaken to its foundations, and a flood of emigration began, which continued through the interim war years. All the while, government endorsed anti-Semitic propaganda stirred the never extinguished members of anti-Jewish hatred.

The devastation of the Jewish community of Chisinau was completed by the bestial Nazis who annihilated 53,000 of the 65,000 Jewish inhabitants of the city. Communism brought even more difficult restrictions to the remaining Jews: In 1961 – bar mitzvahs were forbidden; 1964, all Synagogues were closed, except one - the one which is used today; Jews were harassed and imprisoned on trumped up charges. Life for the Jews of Chisinau was bleak indeed. Today, the name Chisinau conjures up entirely different images.

City tour and visit of the local synagogue, the memorial dedicated to the victims of the ghetto and meeting with the Jewish Organization “Sohnut”- In the evening we will depart by bus to have a wine tasting in the underground wine city Milestii Mici, registered in the Guinness Book of Records for being the biggest Wine Collection in the world. It contains over two million bottles of wine highly appreciated by the winemakers from all over the world. The wines lie right there, at a depth of 80 meters, in bottles covered with dust and mold, in small elegant houses which are completed every year. Return to our hotel and for those who want we can do a club tour to the most famous clubs in Chisinau.


Day 10: Transnistria

Today we invite you to discover Tiraspol and Bendery (the main cities of Transnistria) - the old USSR is still alive and well in Transnistria. It is a breakaway territory within the internationally recognized borders of Moldova. First of all we will go to visit the synagogue from Bender, speak with the local rabbi and visit the Jewish cemetery. In Tiraspol we will enjoy a brandy tasting and lunch.

The town of Bendery was founded in 1408 as a fortress Tighina (Osman Empire). Then in 1812, Bendery as part of Bessarabia joined Russia. In 1918-1940 the town found itself on the territory of Romania. In the period between 1944 and 1989 it belonged to the USSR. Beginning with 1990, Bendery is in Transnistria. It is 64 km from Chisinau. Its total population is 130,000 people. The first references to the Jewish history in Bender are dated by the early 18th century when a synagogue was built on the fortress territory. By 1930, there were 8,000 Jews in the town, while at the end of 1980s, the Jewish population counted 6,000 people. Nowadays the Jewish population of the town and two peripheral settlements is 905 people. The Jewish population of Moldova has decreased substantially since independence due to the high percentage of elderly Jews and high levels of immigration, predominately to Israel. Thousands of Transnistria’s estimated 12,000 Jews left after the outbreak of hostilities in 1991, most making aliyah; thousands more left Moldova proper at that time. Communal institutions continue to be centered in Chisinau.

Today, about 18,000 Jews live in Chisinau, 2,500 -3,000 in and around the city of Beltsy, and more than 2,000 in Tiraspol (the capital of Transnistria). Substantial communities also exist in Bender, Soroky, Rybnitsa and Orhei, with smaller communities in at least 45 villages across Moldova. One-quarter to one-half of the community is elderly, and nearly 80 percent of Moldovan Jews report significant economic hardship. Elderly Jews receive pensions of only ten dollars per month, while Jewish teachers make fifty dollars a month. One -third of Moldovan Jewish families are single -parents. The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Moldova (AJOCM) is the primary umbrella for the Jewish community; it runs programs such as the Moldova-Israel Friendship Association, the Moldova-Israel Foreign Trade Association, the Jewish Museum, and the monthly Nash Golos (“Our Voice”) Jewish newspaper. The Council of Jewish Organizations unites the main local Jewish organizations including Hesed, JCC, JAFI representation, etc. It coordinates joint city events organized by Jewish organizations. In 2004, the “Halom” Jewish Community Cultural Welfare Center was founded. Being the successor of Hesed and JCC, "Halom" is a new community structure that unites welfare, cultural and educational programs.


11 Day: Departure home