Category: Post

A shalosh regalim in the former community canteen

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The Jewish Community of Arad celebrated on the end of the week, on 8-9 June 2019 the Shavuot, that is, receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. One of the most important celebrations of the Jews has at its center the Torah, which Christians call the Old Testament. According to the Jewish religion, all Jews of all time, whether they were born Jews or converted to Judaism, participated in this event. Thus, we realize the grandeur of the event by which the Divine gives the holy book to the Jewish people.

The members of the Jewish Community of Arad gathered together from small to big, in numbers that honor a community of the size we have in our city. Families have come even with small children as 3 or 4 years olds, the former canteen’s hall gathering members of the community of all ages. Of course the little ones hardly have resisted at the event that lasted more than three hours.

Three pilgrimages

The Shavuot is counted alongside Pesach and Sukkot among the “shalosh regalim”, the three pilgrimage celebrations of Judaism, when the Jews used to go to the Temple in Jerusalem. After the destruction of the second temple, in the year 70 our era, the Jews were no longer required to go on pilgrimages. This derogation is in force until the construction of the third temple and the coming of the Meshiah, who will bring Olam Haba, “the world to come.”

The essence of Judaism is related to the three temples in Jerusalem, the two destroyed and the one to be built, because during the pilgrimage to the temple in the holy city the Jew presented himself to the Divine as instructed the day after the reception of the Torah. The passage describing the pilgrimages is also read on Shavuot and is in Devarim (Deuteronomy, in English). Also, the ten commandments are read which, if respected, would be the basis of the world to come, Olam Haba, with no crime, wars or other acts of violence.

As it is customary for celebrations, the Jews of Arad have brought out two Torah scrolls to which Boris Mor, the cult official, called the Halachi Jews to read brief passages. The scrolls were carried by Ionel Schlesinger, the president of the Jewish Community of Arad and Silard Pusztai among the participants so that everyone could touch them.

An important part of the Shavuot ritual is when Izkor is made, on the second day of the celebration. Jews are not allowed to go to cemeteries in the first week after burial, on Shabbat days, or religious holidays, but Izkor (memorial) is made four times a year. Izkor is a memorial service for first-degree relatives. It is held on Pesach, Shavuot, Shemini Atzeret and Yom Kippur. In Ashkenazi communities in Romania, those who have both parents alive are asked to leave the room during this memorial process, often being told that they are not allowed to hear this prayer. But those who remain are recalling, among tears, the dear person they have lost. “Iosef ben Efraim” whispers, between sighs, someone who has recently lost her father. May his memory be blessed, זיכרונו לברכה. After Izkor ended, those who have waited outside can enter. The atmosphere is a little heavier, sad. Slowly things seem to resume their normal course, but one can read the pain of those who have a recent wound in the soul.

Songs, prayers, whisperings, Kadish, all said in a homelike, familylike, and holidaylike atmosphere created by this small community whose members are mostly elderly.

To the event’s logistics contributed Ani (Ana Ioniţă), who, among other things, decorated the Bimah with green plants and flowers and Danna Kalman, the community secretary, who takes care of the dissemination of the information about our events. The cheese cakes along with all the dairy foods are specific to the Shavuot feast.

Aunt Ani together with the community’s president and several other members have dealt with the distribution of cheese cakes, halach, mineral water, wine and coffee, each participant being served with something. During this time, Boris Mor held a speech about the event of receiving the Torah by the Jewish people, its importance and the duty to hold this celebration, also speaking of the Shavuot traditions. There have been discussions between members of the community sprinkled with jokes and reports about recent events and all sorts of stories.

Margareta Szegő

PS: in memory of the one who was Ioan Szegő     

Brit milah after several decades

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After World War II and the difficulties encountered in the communist regime, many Romanians of Jewish origin fled the country to find a better living. But wherever they and their children were, they missed Romania. Some have not come back here, others come to visit relatives or friends. There are some who can not separate for a long time from the country where they were born and grew up, and then they make long and difficult trips to be both in Israel and in Romania.

 

On the other hand, although the Jewish population in our country, and even more so in Arad, has declined steadily over the last decades, JDC along with the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania and implicitly the Arad Jewish Community, have made a constant effort to maintain Jewish cultural and religious life in our lands.

 

The biggest issues related to the religious aspect for Jewish families in Romania were and are related to kosher food, the rabbinical presence, the presence of a mohel, the gathering of a miniam, etc. Thus, although there have been births among the Jews in Arad in the last decades, the brit milahs were missing.

 

Brit milah is the connection between the Jewish people and God, which traditionally takes place on the eighth day of life. Also called the Abrahamic covenant, it represents the seal of agreement between the Divinity and the chosen people.

 

Most famous

 

The Brit Milah, best known by the Christian population in Romania and around the world, is that of Jesus Christ, which took place according to the Jewish tradition. It is celebrated on January 1st by the Romanian Orthodox Church and Catholic  Church and on 14 January by the Old Rite Orthodox Church under the name of “circumcision,” but Christians no longer practice it.

 

Between Israel and Romania

 

One of the most active families in the Arad community also divides its existence between the Middle East and Europe. In the Botezatu family, the first two children, Elinor and Emanuel, had performed their religious rites in Israel. However, the parents decided that the youngest child of the family should also  bring joy to the community in which they have their roots. That is, Edmond ben Călin (“ben” = son of) was circumcised in Arad after the family and the community had a real organizational periplus.

The orchestration of Edmond’s birt milah had to take into account the finding of the mohel, the waiting for the rabbi (because he was at a conference), the arrival of the grandparents from Israel, and many more. That’s why the brit was delayed a few days.

 

So, on November 12, 2018, everything was prepared, and the small group of participants, made up of grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins ​​and close friends, could be alongside the wonderful family.

 

Rabbi Zvika Kfir held a beautiful speech about what does the brit mean for the young family and child, after which he did the ritual along with the two mohels.

 

The event was intertwined with the special vocal contribution of songs by cantor Emanuel Pusztai, the mother’s first cousin.

 

A river of blessings

 

The greatest honour on this occasion is to be sandek, that is the child’s companion. Usually it is reserved for a grandfather or another family member or a very close friend.

 

The role of sandwich is to keep the child throughout the ceremony, then speak with each participant and bless him in a personalized way.

Shlomo Pendus, the grandfather from the mother’s side, was given this ” mitzva ghedola”, that is, honour and great responsibility, which fit him like a  glove. He stood patiently on the small bimah bank asking each one  something about his personal life and what he wanted. To be healthy, happiness, peace, wisdom and love for him and all his family, friends and acquaintances, or maybe just a small blessing to help someone in trouble or overcome a bigger obstacle, each received a good thought from a great soul.

At the steps of the bimah there was a long line of people, like a river. Younger or older, Jewish or Christian, everyone was waiting patiently for their turn. Kol hakavod Shlomo for the mitzvah ghedola.

 

Seudat mitzvah

It is a compulsory festive mass that celebrates the fulfilment of a mitzvah, such as a wedding, a bar mitzva or a brit milah.

The Botezatu family managed to surpass itself, being already known for its chefs. The guests were able to taste Elda and Elinor’s famous falafel, the wonderful humus and other specific Jewish dishes. Of course, the question was “how do you do this?” and the recipe migrated from the host to the guest.

 

 

A special birkat hamazon

 

A difference in the ritual for this event is the fact that to the gratitude that is said after a meal to a Brit Milah some introductory words are added, called Nodeh Leshimcha. Here, the one who says prayer glorifies God, then asks mercy for the family and those present. Also a special prayer named Rachaman is said.

Dances, jokes, good will, prayers, and the joy of being together have made us all happy for the Botezatu family’s happiness and  we wish all the members of the family peace, love, happiness and as many fulfillments as possible. And to the little Edi, a whole community wants you to grow big, healthy and strong, to be called to the Torah, to make many mitzvots and necessarily Tikkun Olam, a better world for all those who live their lives on this tiny planet. Welcome to a peace and teaching loving people, little boy.

 

Margareta Szegő

“The man as the tree”

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On January 21st, 2019, the Jews from Arad gathered together, small and big, to celebrate the trees. The new year of trees, in Hebrew Tu Bishvat, is the first celebration, except the Shabbat, which is held in a Gregorian calendar year.

Though considered a minor feast, it is loved by Jews all over the world because it celebrates life and, as we know, the Jewish religion respects, protects and sustains life. In the panoply of Jewish thinking and culture of making Tikkun Olam, a better world for all the inhabitants of the Earth, life and nature have a special place. This is why trees, that support life on earth, have a feast of their own. Near Tu Bishvat, Jews from all over the world, but especially in Israel, begin to prepare seeds, saplings and all they need to plant something in the ground. In fact, in Israel, Tu Bishvat represents a massive and voluntary mobilization of the population to plant, regardless of the age.

The small meeting of the Arad community on Tu Bishvat began with the speech of the President of the Jewish Community of Arad, Ionel Schlesinger, who made a presentation of what would happen.

“In the first part we enter the Tu Bishvat subject and Mrs. Dana Stana will read a story about this celebration. And because Mrs. Stana speaks a lot (laughter), we will project a two-minute clip that summarizes what Mrs. Stana said”, informs us the president. Of course everyone has tasted the joke, including Mrs. Stana, who read a brief description of the holiday. Then Danna Kalman, the secretary of the community, who usually facilitates the viewing and the translating from Hebrew (if it is necessary) of the movies to such events, came into action.

Combating desertification

The most relevant video was the one that showed the massive plantations that took place all over Israel during this period. For those who do not speak neither Hebrew nor English, the community’s president explained certain moments while viewing. “After the fires in Haifa, they replant. Again a forest that was burned. Forests are being planted to prevent desertification. Arabs plant together with the Jews. Eliat, a place where birds are being watched. What is to be remembered is that there is an extraordinary mobilization throughout the country around this holiday to plant trees. Tu Bishvat Sameach! says Ionel Schlesinger. “

The leitmotif of the encounter was the similarity between the man and the tree, beautifully described by Ionel Schlesinger. “Like the tree, we, most of us here, have our roots in the ground. Our roots are in Israel, and the crown of trees is the essence of life itself. Miss Danna shows us a movie subtitled in both Hebrew and Romanian where the man is presented like a tree” says the president.

Songs and work

Like any Jewish holiday, the Tu Bishvat too got a bunch of songs, poems and dances.     The president of the community chose few less-known videos describing on musical notes the joy felt on the new year of the trees. Perhaps the most famous song of Tu Bishvat is “Hashkediah porachat” (Blooming almond), which speaks of the shining sun and the birds announcing the arrival of the feast. The song describes the earth that shouts that the time has come for planting, each man having this duty.

To honor the celebration according to the Jewish tradition, the participants were served with fruits and nuts of all kinds, representing, in different interpretations, the seasons, life, the earth of Israel, and the tree of life. The Tu Bishvat seder, thus, invokes the Kabbalistic themes of restoring the cosmic blessing by strengthening and repairing the tree of life.

To the joy of the children but not only, the event included two animations as a visual part of some wonderful musical works. The first was the “Blue Rhapsody” by the famous American composer of Jewish origin, George Gershwin, with the illustrations of Disney studios for the Fantasia 2000 project.

The second one presented the story of Noah and the creatures on the ark. “Our ancestor Noah, who, with his tiny boat, made the imprudence to save us,” jokes again the president.

The icing on the cake was the well-known movie clip in the musical “The Fiddler on the Roof,” during which the whole room hummed the song, sometimes even before the appropriate musical notes. The participants thus entered the world of the Russian Jew Tevie, the milkman, ironically asking the deity if it “would spoil some vast eternal plan to be a rich man.”

The celebration continued well after the formal conclusion of the meeting, through discussions between members of the community and the cheerfulness of the children who participated.

Margareta Vidorka Szegő

Historical personalities at the feast of chance and happening

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On Friday, March 22, 2019, a few hours before entering Shabbat, members of the Jewish community in Arad met for the most cheerful Jewish festivity. Thus, the large hall of the community’s Old Age Home was filled with children and adults dressed in cartoon characters, wild west bandits, musketeers, cats, mice, kings, princes and princesses.

Ionel Schlesinger, the president of the community, greeted everyone with good words from the doorstep, making everyone feel honored, then began to present the event and the traditions related to it.

“Purim is said to be the prayer celebration of an event in our history. Purim means chances, dice. There are many translations that refer to the lottery organized by Haman that wanted to set the date for the extermination of the Jewish people. The brief story of these events is found in Esther’s book, Meghilat Ester, which will be read by Boris Mor as soon as you can get rid of me,” jokes Ionel Schlesinger.

Specific for Purim

The Jews are celebrating by remembering, so by tradition, the book of Esther is read, carnivals  are organized where the participants are masked. Also, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and families send each other cakes or other sweets. The food specific to this holiday is a special cake called Humăntaș, made from a dough with a composition similar to cornulețe (Romanian pastry), but in the form of a triangle, with a filling of jam.

The Humăntaș is done so that people are saying in the many Jewish variants and traditions, that it would be Hamantaschen in Yddish, that is, the pockets of Hamman, Haman’s handbags, or that it would resemble the hat in three corners of the same villain. In Israel, Humăntaș is also called oznei haman, meaning Haman’s ears.

“It is a custom to drink a glass of wine. Only a glass of wine. Whoever wants two will ask. Being a cheerful celebration, we try to make ourselves happy. It is one of the few cheerful feasts of the Jews, “adds the president of the community.

From local history

Purim is the feast of opportunity and chance, because precisely on the day when it was designated for the Jews to killed by Haman, their fate turned around and were saved.

The main characters of the event are the heroes Estera and Mordechai, reflected in the costumes of Sorana Szegő and Charles de Vegvar. Besides, not only the characters they have embodied are historical, Charles de Vegvar representing himself a part of national and local history. He is the nephew of the well-known Jewish aristocrat of Arad, Francis von Neuman, the baron of Végvár, whose family has significantly contributed to the socio-economic development of our city.

 

Charles de Vegvar’s visit was of great importance to the community. The president of the community has personally thanked him for attending the event, while praising his special costume of Mordechai.

Three blessings

Like any moment of a Jew’s life, all the more a feast, thi one too was blessed three times. The first one was for reading the Meghilat Ester, the second for the miracles our forefathers lived, and the third because we came to live this day. The blessings were said by Boris Mor, the cult official of the Jewish Community of Arad, who also read Meghilat Ester.

“We know very well that many times throughout the history the Jewish people were in danger, suffered many persecutions. The Jewish people have always managed to move on. We are convinced that this time too, and from now on, the Jewish people will survive, with all the Hamans who want to exterminate us. said Ionel Schlesinger, after which he uttered the third blessing and wished “Happy Holidays” to the public.

“Ideally, reading Meghilat is done on the first day and the next day of Purim and today we are already on the third day. That’s why I’m going to read with three blessings, but not as they are normally said, you know, so the name of God is not said anymore. In fact, today, Meghilat is no longer read, but for us to hear it too”, explains Boris Mohr before he begins to read the blessings.

 

According to tradition, every time the name of Haman was spoken, the hall made a tremendous noise.

 

Those who best respected this custom were, of course, the children, whom the habit made them cheer up. This reaction dictated by the Jewish tradition shows contempt for the negative character.

Children’s show

Slowly, it began to become a tradition as the group of children participating in the activities of the two volunteers of the Hebrew Club, Elda Botezatu and Margareta Szegő, to delight the audience with a Purim show. This time, the favorite song of the youngsters was Leitzan katan nehmad, in English the little and cute Clown, which they sang in several versions.

 

The greatest sensation was the appearance of Miss Elinor Botezatu in a superb clown suit that fits perfectly with the song and the atmosphere. In the song Leitzan katan nechmad, the cute clown is dancing around and somebody asks “my little clown, are you going to dance with me too?”

As in the song, in our show too, all children wanted to dance with the clown, so that, to the delight of the audience, parents and grandparents, a true Jewish hora dance began.

At the end each costumed participant was asked what his costume represents. The cutest conversation was made behind the scenes, between a cat, Karoline Reckerth (9 years old) and a mouse, Ariela Szegő (5 years old).  Karo tells Ari that she is a cat, and Ariela declares a “squeak-squeak”, then mimics a scare and an escape.

Awarded with sweets

Danna Kalman, secretary of the Jewish Community of Arad, surpassed herself and prepared, from the community, candy-filled packages for each participating child. Both the volunteers Margareta Szegő and Elda Botezatu, as well as the parents, grandparents and children, wanted to thank her for the wonderful gifts and support she  provides with such affection every time.

As the community’s president mentioned, Danna Kalman was also the one who tried to find and order the most beautiful and tasty Purim cakes from a local producer. Cakes, which were appreciated by young people as “mega good”, arrived to each participant.

The organization of the event was done, as usual, by the president of the community, Ionel Schlesinger. At the smooth running of the event has helped Mrs Ana Ioniță, aunt Ani, as we call her. Here is a handful of people who created one of the most successful events in our community so that both community members and grandparents from the community’s Elderly Home to have a great celebration.

Kabalat and Oneg Shabat

The event ended with the divine service of the cult official. The Kabbalah Shabbat Prayer is the one where the participants welcome the Shabbat, the day of rest for the Jews. Immediately followed Kidush, with the blessings for wine and Challah, the braided bread, served on Shabbat. Oneg Shabbat, the joy of Shabbat, consisted mainly of the encounter between people and the discussions that were formed.

Though the evening had come, people did not want to leave even after exiting  the community’s building, and the conversation continued for another hour, at the gate of the Elderly Home.

Mishloach manot

The Jewish community in Arad has not forgotten the grandparents, who for various reasons, whether because of poor health or due to travel problems, could not come to Purim. So, Danna Kalman organized over 20 volunteers aged between 5 and 50 to go to the elderly and bring them to the famous Mishloach Manot sent this year too by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, helped by the Jewish Distribution Committee. Through the service of our volunteers, the small packages with a few cakes and a Meghilat Ester, have reached 25 grandparents who are helped by the Arad community.

Vidorka M. Szegő

People from Arad, victims of the European Holocaust

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Two days before the international commemoration of the Holocaust victims, historians and Arad personalities gathered for a few hours remembrance  at a round table with the theme “People from Arad – victims of the European Holocaust”.

The event was organized by the Jewish Studies Center “Academician Nicolae Cajal” of the “Vasile Goldiş”  Western University of Arad, in collaboration with the “A. D. Xenopol” library and the Jewish Community of Arad. The meeting was held at the UVVG University and Students House on January 25, 2019.

Prof. univ. Marius Grec, the director of the Jewish Studies Center, began the debate, noting that the Jews who lived at that time in Arad were not deported to concentration camps but suffered greatly because of racial laws, confiscation of wealth, social isolation, rapid impoverishment due to these phenomena, or of forced labor camps

In our area, Jews were kicked out of work, Jewish pupils were kicked out of school; in the county, people of Jewish origin had to leave their homes and were displaced to Arad. Some of them found shelter at relatives and friends, Jews and non-Jews, others were helped by the Jewish community. On the other hand, there were Jews from Arad that events had caught in other parts of the country or Europe wherefrom they were deported to concentration camps.

The good part, the bad part

When it comes to the Holocaust, and beyond, there are people who, for various reasons, want to diminish the significance of the events. Whether they totally deny  it, or they say “they have died only that much,” or they do not want to take into account the suffering of a population that has contributed to building society no matter  in which country it was. To illustrate how an evil event can be described from a many perspectives, Ionel Schlesinger, president of the Jewish Community of Arad, said a joke, for as he says, “these Jews are joking even when they have their worse times”. So, he tells how elder Gheorghe fell from the roof. The good part was that he caught the gutter, the bad part was that the gutter broke, the good part that there was a haystack, the bad part was… and so on, a story that can be extended a great deal until we find out that our man has suffered a lot. By extrapolation, we see that the Jews who were in Arad were not gassed, but all the mockery, hatred or indifference, all the laws that led them to the brink of human existence became  a nightmare for them, that otherwise would have been hard to imagine but was even harder to live.

President, Ionel Schlesinger remembers how his family, hidden in the cellar of the house, was rescued by the fact that the portrayer, asked by the Hungarian gendarmes, csendőrők, if they were Jewish in the house, replied that no. Although she was of Hungarian origin, she chose to be, first of all, human. Unfortunately, there are fewer people who can testify to the events of that time. The president’s thoughts have gone to radical Islam, attention, not Islamic religion, which jeopardizes Judeo-Christian civilization and beyond. An example was the situation of Israel, which has been sanctioned by the United Nations 84 times in the last two years, while states that practice mass executions have not been sanctioned.

Refugees from Sighet, arrived in Arad

Doctor Alexandru Dumnici, the author of “The History of Jewish Medicine in Arad”, mentions some aspects of the situation of Jewish doctors in our city. It is known that due to racial laws, Jewish doctors could not have non-Jewish patients, nor were Jewish patients allowed to be consulted by other ethnic doctors. Dr. Alexandru Dumnici wanted to mention the deprecating name “jizi” used in the documents he researched. Originally from Sighetul Marmatiei, Dr. Dumnici spoke about 40 Jewish refugees from Sighet who came to Arad to find shelter at their relatives. Thus, he says, the Holocaust has made its mark on Jews all over the country. Silence fell for a moment over the round table after some of the participants wondered how it was possible. Those who visited the museum in Auschwitz tried to understand how a cultured people who gave mankind so many personalities, such as the German people, could generate such horrors.

“The Holocaust did not make it cars but the words”

Ionel Schlesinger answered with the words heard from one of the Transnistrian deportations survivors, dr. Liviu Beriș, who spoke to the people in Arad several times about the horrors he passed through. He has the habit of saying that “the Holocaust was not made by machines but by words.”  In Mr. Schlesinger’s opinion, they can also have an antisemitic religious character. “For example, the Jews killed Jesus. Jesus was born a Jew and died a Jew. In fact, they murdered the Romans, and even if they were Jews, you can not judge for 100 generations. In fact, he was murdered by the Romans, and even if they were Jews, you can not judge after 100 generations. The first apostles of Jesus were also Jews. Then which of these Jews were those who killed him? “asked Ionel Schlesinger.  Mr Grec continued the idea by giving a definition of antisemitism in which he mentioned that it is also directed against non-Jews. He gives the example personally when, due to being the director of the Jewish Studies Center in Arad and writing and speaking a great deal about the Jews, someone thought he was a Jew. He gave his personal  example when, due to being the director of the Jewish Studies Center in Arad and writing and speaking a great deal about the Jews, someone thought he was a Jew. That person, of course, denied his antisemitism. But the question and attitude “that is Jew” leads to negative attitudes and masked anti-Semitism. But the question and attitude “that is Jew” leads to negative attitudes and masked antisemitism.

Between Holocaust and Shoah

Starting from the definition of antisemitism, other terms have been analyzed. In the opinion of the historians at this meeting, the word Holocaust, which means completely burned, from the Greek Holos, “whole” and kaustos, “burned” does not adequately describe the suffering of the time, although it is the most known. A more appropriate term is the Jewish word Shoah, which means “calamity”, “great misfortune” because not all who suffered were burned, whether Jews or non-Jews. A salutary intervention was given by Adelina Stoenescu, a curator at the Arad’s Museum Complex and a brilliant teacher. She spoke about the project she coordinated “In the Shadow of the Shoah”, which took place between 2008-2010. Thanks to it, Arad pupils and teachers could study the twentieth century Jewish life in  Arad. Thus, the students participated in the activities of the Jewish Community of Arad, met with members of the community and listened to the testimonies of the Holocaust survivors. The project with high impact on high school students is detailed on the Romanian page of the Yad Vashem Museum in  Israel.

Ioan Boia Stelean, University Lecturer, who came to the debate although on January 25th celebrated his birthday, talked about possible new collaborations with the AJC. He thinks there are many things that have not been written about the history of theArad Jews, and it would be a shame to lose them.

Short interventions had Ioan Cuzman, university professor; Horia Truță, the owner of the Arad Water Tower and drd. Radu Hord, who studies the history of the Jewish community in the Arad area. Among the participants we can mention Maria Pantea, historian at UVVG; Deputy Glad Varga and Conf. Sorin Bulboacă.

Margareta Szegő

 

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