In ancient times, the “Region of Arad” was the territory located north of the river Mureș, between Romania’s current western border to Zam and White Criș basin to Hălmagiu.
There are already indications that in the Middle Ages the Jews were conducting in this area salt trade and other products using the river Mures as means of transport. The information are more accurate about the presence of Jews in the towns of Ineu and Lipova, beginning with the Turkish period (between XVI-XVII centuries).
Through the “letter of protection” dated May the 1st, 1717, Lieutenant General Baron Stefan Cosa, commander of the fortress of Arad and Mures area, allows the first two Jew to settle and reside legally in Arad. Once settled, at least the first 40-50 years they were prevented from any kind of productive activity, except production and sale of spirit drinks.
Trying to practice some trades, the Jews from Arad were rejected by the craft guilds, which opposed not only accepting them as members of guilds but refusing to prepare Jew apprentices for the different trades.
Crossing these particularly difficult times in a hostile environment, was possible largely thanks to the cohesion of community members, to their attachment to the moral commandments of Judaism, to religion and, not least to education.
At the initiative of the judge Hirschl Moses and the reformist Rabbi Aron Chorin, they’ve developed several variants of action to build a larger synagogue. The main idea was to erect a complete Community building, encompassing the synagogue (which, for security reasons would not be seen from outside), school, housing for students, housing for rabbi and cantor as well as commercial spaces at street level.
On the 13th of June, 1828, the foundation stone was placed, and in 1834 the Neolog Synagogue was finished. The pipe organ was commissioned during the year 1841.
Later in 1912, another synagogue was constructed by the orthodox Jews.
If the census of 1851 recorded 3,418 Jews in Arad, in 1900 there were nearly 10,000. This number then decreased in 1911 to 7811. The Jewish population’s numerical growth was faster in Arad, their share in the city being relatively constant, between 10 and 11%.
In the 2nd World War, between 1940-1944, the persecution of Jewish population led, amongst other things, to their total removal from all areas of public life and also of economic life.
After the war, the Jew population Arad numbered approx. 12,000 souls. Following the creation of the state of Israel, on the territory of ancient Jew people, and also due to unsuitable and stiffness of the Romanian communist regime, the vast majority of Jews left the country.
Although numerically drastically reduced, the community seeks to contribute as far as possible to a series of actions aimed at achieving a more rapid socio-economic development of Arad and the continuous improvement of inter-ethnic relations, often taking the initiative to organize them.
Source: The Jewish People of Arad – Life and History – September 2000 – Printers: M. Lachmann Ltd.
The whole book can be downloaded from here: The History of the Jews in Arad
In order to read more about Aaron Chorin, read this article: Aaron Chorin – A rabbi ahead of his time
In order to see more about our community, watch this video:
You can also see the president of the Jewish Community of Arad in a talk show from October 5th, 2016: