Arad JC

The Jewish Community of Arad

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The Hebrew club moved  in the sukkah

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For eight days, starting with the evening of October 13, 2019, members of the Jewish Community of Arad celebrated the Sukkot. The feast of tabernacles or tents begins about two weeks after the Jewish New Year and falls during the harvest period in Israel. Tradition says that every Jew should sit in a sukkah, that is, a kind of tent whose roof must be made of plants. Such a tent was also built in the courtyard of the elderly home of the Jewish Community of Arad, being used for both holiday celebrations and other activities, each resident of the elderly home or community member being able to sit in the tent to read, listen to music, talk with others, etc.

Among the special moments of the sukkot period were those in which the coordinators of the Hebrew Club, Elda Botezatul and Margareta Szegő brought the children from the community to the sukkah. They told the children about the eight days of celebration, how it is celebrated, what the days of Col hamoed are, what it means and how to build a sukkah. All of these were sprinkled with a few new words in Hebrew and seasoned with some children’s songs. All of these were sprinkled with a few new words in Hebrew and seasoned with some children’s songs.

For a better understanding of all this things Elda Botezatul brought glues, cardboard boxes, acrylic brushes and other materials to build a sukkah. The skilful little hands have each found something to do, being helped by both organizers and Adriana Reckerth, one of the moms. Thus, the children managed to do the layout without getting so dirty. Sorana, one of the children, came up with a more daring idea to decorate sukkah. She took leaves from which she made stamps of all colors and together with her friend Karo created multicolored patterns. Elinor, being a few years older, revived some of the old sukkah ornaments. Even the baby of the Botezatu family came into play, wanting to take down all the wonderful brightly colored ornaments brought by his parents from Israel.

Of course, the activity also had its share of socialization in which the children talked and played freely. The warm and beautiful weather allowed the activity to last for several hours.

Text and photo: Vidorka Szegő

The feast of tabernacles between old and new

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On Sunday, October 13, 2019, the Jews of Arad gathered to enjoy one of the three pilgrimage holidays in Judaism. The Sukkot or The feast of tabernacles lasts seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora. From an agricultural point of view, it marks the end of the harvesting period in Israel, and historically it reminds us of the 40 years of pilgrimage in the desert, during which time the Jews lived in tents.

That is why, in Sukkot, a large tent is installed in the courtyard of the community’s Elderly Home, which is later decorated. This year the installation was also done by the staff of the Elderly Home, as every year, but the decoration part was more special because many of the decorations were brought by Elda Botezatul and her family directly from Israel. With the autumn holidays the activity of the Hebrew club coordinated by Margareta Szegő and Elda Botezatul also started, where the children from the community prepared beautiful colored paper garlands with which they decorated the tent. To get everything ready in time, Ionel Schlesinger, community president, Danna Kalman, community secretary, Ana Ioniță known as Aunt Ani, Raoul Vizental, together with his family, Elda Botezatu, together with her family and Margareta Szegő together with her family came faster to decorate and put the necessary things on the table. We thank them all in this way too. The tent looked wonderful being decorated with old and new elements. Of course, meanwhile, the Elderly Home’s courtyard became the playground for the children of the three families, who jumped, sang and ran.

People gathered at 6:30 pm, when the prayer of Mincha was held, after which they were invited to the table in Sukka (tent) where Ionel Schlesinger, the president of the community gave a welcoming speech and Abraham Erenfeld, the rabbi of the community presented the meaning holidays and customs related to it. Among the participants we mention Emeric Czege, Reformed priest and Gheorghe Schwartz, one of the most famous writers from Arad. The surprise of the evening was Ivan Bloch, the president of the Lugoj community, who spoke about the problems of the community he leads and the events he organizes. At the same time, he wanted to mention the new breath of the communities in Romania, namely Ery Pervulescu, one of the most active members of the small community of Caransebeș, now the director of the Jewish Programs in Romania.

The participants served sweet bread, two kinds of grapes, apples, honey and wine. The sensation of the evening was made by baby Edy, the youngest member of the Botezatu family, and children who just half an hour before had jumped through the yard. Although the cold of the evening began to feel more and more, the participants stayed at “a glass of speech” long after the official ending of the event.

 

Vidorka  M. Szegő

Foto: Danna Kalman

 

 

 

“We remember and remind”

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On October 10, 2019, the Jewish Community of Arad marked the National Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Neologue Rite Cemetery. Apart from the members of our community, the His Holiness, Timotei Seviciu, Archbishop of Arad, also participated in the event, along with Călin Bibarț, the mayor of Arad; Adelina Stoenescu, museographer; Kiraly Arpad, Roman-Catholic archpriest of Arad; Czege Emeric, Reform priest; Abraham Erenfeld, the community’s rabbi; Sorin Seviciu, honorary Greek-Catholic archpriest, priest Tiberiu Ardelean and priest Emil Roman.

Prof. Univ. Dr. Eng. Mariana Nagy, dean of the Faculty of Exact Sciences of the “Aurel Vlaicu” University of Arad, Tiberiu Dekany, former deputy mayor of Arad, prof. dr. Marius Grec, director of the Center for Jewish Studies “Academician Nicolae Cajal” at the Western University “Vasile Goldiș” Arad, Emanuel Grec, researcher in Jewish studies, at Heidelberg University, associate professor. dr. Speranţa Milancovici, dean of the Faculty of Socio Human Sciences and Physical Education and Sport, of UVVG Arad, also wanted to be with us. Along with the professors from the University “Vasile Goldiș” came also the prof. Louis Begioni, from the “Tor Vergata” University of Rome, as well as two classes of students with teachers.

“We remember and remind our missing martyrs, humiliated, mocked, killed, in what we call the Holocaust, for us the worst period in recent history. We remember and remember. It is a duty for us. As we mentioned another time, our dead do not ask for revenge, but they force us to take care that their martyrdom is not forgotten. That is why we make these commemorations year after year, ”said Ionel Schlesinger, the president of the Jewish Community of Arad at the beginning of his speech.

He drew a parallel between the case of Alexandra Măceșanu, who shocked the public opinion by arousing emotion, compassion and rebellion and the case of over 6 million people killed in the Holocaust who no longer produce the same emotions. There are people who deny that those events took place, or discuss about the number.

This is why we are obliged year after year to make these commemorations. We do not forget the past but we are not anchored in the past, ” says mister president. He also mentioned the numerous attacks against the Jews that take place on the world map, the last one being the day before the commemoration. In the city of Halle, Germany, on October 9, 2019, a terrorist attack took place at the synagogue where the service of Yom Kippur was held. The attack resulted in two dead and several injured.

“The knowledge of the past is necessary because this knowledge provides us with the necessary elements to know that in any given situation how to act efficiently to take care of such events, so to speak, will not happen now or in the future. All the more, the knowledge of the past is necessary, because we find, with concern, the recrudescence of the anti-Semitic phenomenon, the manifestations of hatred towards the Jews, which lately are more and more numerous. In many countries, Germany, Belgium, France, Holland, frequent physical attacks, not only verbal, against the Jews, be they young, old, children. The governments of these great democracies are not in a position to take effective measures to eradicate this phenomenon. In Germany, the neo-Nazis march without restrain, of course there are those who march against them. Iran, the largest funder of global terrorism, declares, openly proclaiming that they will wipe out Israel from the map. The United States is the only major power that has taken sanctions against Iran. Again, the great European democracies are campaigning to maintain good relations with Iran. This again reminds us of the period of Hitler’s ascension, when still, the great powers would have been able to stop him. Until Hitler had only deal with the Jews there was no problem, but by the time he set fire to the entire planet it was already too late. This is why we really need to be careful about such phenomena, ”explains Ionel Schlesinger.

At each commemoration, both the president and other members of our community talk about how to prevent such misfortunes and how to fight xenophobia. That is why it was an honor to see the students of Mrs. Otilia Huț, Professor of History at Pentecostal High School in Arad and those of Mrs. Ildiko Gal, Professor of History at the “Aron Cotruș” High School in Arad, both Simona Stieger’s collaborators, one of the most passionate History teacher, who participates every year in the events organized by us.

Speaking of the past, the president of the community, Ionel Schlesinger, mentioned two important and topical moments in recent history. The first refers to the Nazi period, when in all Germany it was heard and written “Juden raus, nach Palästina” meaning “Jews out, to Palestine”, and today in the same country is heard “Juden raus aus Palästina”, “Jews out of Palestine. ”

“Most often the hatred against the Jews does not manifest itself directly but manifests itself as acts of delegitimizing the Jewish state and denying the right of the Jewish people to have their own national state. To this end, we often hear from great connoisseurs who, besides football, are well versed in all the other problems of the world, the expression that the Holocaust is what the Jews do with the Palestinians, regarding the conflict in the Middle East. Of course, minimal knowledge in this area would have prevented such an approach. As I think it is known, during the period prior to the Holocaust, the Jews, where they lived, did not stab people on the street, did not set fire to them, did not detonate bombs killing innocents, did not fire rockets at others. Nowadays, in Israel, Palestinians, some, not all, randomly stab citizens in the street, drive into groups of people waiting on the bus, and fire missiles from Gaza strip over Israel. Of course, Israeli security forces, in self-defense, shoot the attackers, and when rockets are fired at Israel, after repeated warnings, the Israelis are forced to attack those targets. Unfortunately, on this occasion innocent people die and the Palestinian people suffer because of the insane leaders they have.

What was the Holocaust? It was an action organized by a state that was aiming to destroy an entire population, those who were to blame for being born Jews. In the Holocaust, half of the world’s Jewish population has died. The Palestinians, at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, were around 300 thousand. Today, there are over 2 million. Many of them, citizens of the state of Israel with all rights, with representatives in the Israeli parliament, deputies who in the parliament attack the state of Israel and do not recognize it, benefit from all the rights of the citizen, medical aid, social assistance and so on. Israel is receiving rockets from the Gaza Strip, however, delivering water, delivering electricity, medicines and aid to the Palestinian people living in the Gaza Strip. Serious patients from the Gaza Strip are treated in the top hospitals in Israel. Not long ago, the wife of the president of the Palestinian authority, the great enemy of the state of Israel, was treated in an Israeli hospital. See? And yet Jews are accused of doing the Holocaust in Palestine. Clean Holocaust! ”The president says ironically.

There was a moment of silence in the memory of the martyrs. Prayer for the deceased was made by Rabbi Abraham Erenfeld, along with cantor Moris Bor.

“In this context of the commemoration of our martyrs, we affirm that beyond our obligation to ensure that their martyrdom is not given to oblivion, we are aware that we must ensure that neither the present generation nor the next generation will suffer such misery. We never forget to pay tribute to those non-Jews who, in those times of restraint, even endangering their very existence, sought to help their fellow citizens in danger. I must emphasize and express my satisfaction and joy for the very good and warm relations with our Christian brothers in these blessed lands of Arad. We can say that we honor the memory of our martyrs by continuing to be loyal and useful citizens of Romania, while being firm supporters of Israel’s right to be the national state of the Jewish people within secure borders and living in peace with its neighbors, ”  Ionel Schlesinger tells us.

At the end of the event, the president and other members of the community thanked the participants of the other cults and ethnic groups for solidarity and exchanged certain impressions with both the officials and the students and teachers present at the event. Some of the visitors wanted to place a stone on the grave of their deceased relatives or friends.

Text and photo

    Margareta Vidorka Szegő

 

Judith Klein and David Klezmer Band concert at the Neologue Rite Synagogue

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One of the most popular and beloved Klezmer bands in Hungary, popped in on July 7, 2019 in Arad. The “Klein Judith and David Klezmer Band” concert was organized by Andrei Soreanu in collaboration with the Arad Jewish Community. Thus, Sunday afternoon, much earlier than 5 pm, the neologue synagogue in Arad, was already filled, with people from Arad. University professors, doctors, artists, librarians, programmers, journalists, architects, painters, etc., all those who love Jewish music have changed their program to arrive at this concert.

“It seems that although it is Sunday afternoon, although there is a heat-shock, although an orange weather code is announced, although there are other events in Arad, the synagogue still has been filled for this concert” says Ionel Schlesinger the President of the Jewish of Arad to the crowd of over two hundred spectators.

The concert is a special one for our city and its inhabitants, as it celebrates the 185th anniversary of the Neologue rite synagogue in Arad. “We are glad to be able to make the synagogue available to the inhabitants of Arad for cultural events,” stresses out Ionel Schlesinger.

Games and musical discussions

Klezmer music comes from Ashkenazi Jewish culture and combines songs performed at weddings, brit milah and other events in Jewish communities in central and eastern Europe. Provoking very strong emotions, the Jewish musicians, named klezmorim, were called to the events of the ethnic groups where they were influenced by Romanian folklore, Roma music, Hungarian folklore, etc., also receiving a certain Balkan spirit. The combination of all these elements gives us a unique kind of music in the world, which blend the games of the fiddlers in our area with the musical discussions of the Jazz singers, bringing in this artistic melting pot even classical music constructions.

Of course, Klezmer tells, first of all, the story of the Jewish soul, being imbibed by Jewish culture and tradition. When you listen to Klezmer you hear the sadness of thousands of years of a people who have often felt that it has is no place on Earth, that it is not wanted, although it is the people who have as an existential guide the concept of Tikkun Olam, to make a better world for all the inhabitants of the planet.

The David Klezmer Band was established in 1999 and includes Jozsef David (clarinet); Istvan Kerek (violin, viola); Adam Moser (accordion); Istvan Rozsa (tube; trumpet; bass guitar); Zoltan Varro (percussion) and Judit Klein (voice).

They sang together at several festivals and concerts in Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc. many of them being televised. In 2000, they received the Emerton Prize for the best studio concert of the year from the Hungarian Radio and Television.

 

Known to the public of Arad

They were before in Arad, in 2007, when they sang in the Neologue rite synagogue and impressed the audience. The impact was so great that in 2017, when they played in the big hall of “Ioan Slavici” State Theater of Arad they did it with full house. These events were also organized by Andrei Soreanu, together with the Jewish Community of Arad, the 2017 concert being part of a series of cultural-artistic events dedicated to the celebration of 300 years of Jewish life in the city upon Mureș.

Judith Klein along with the David Klezmer Band are the ultimate Klezmer artists. They do on stage (or in the case of this concert, at bimah) a big day show, in which they combine the acting with the play and the music as only the old klezmorim knew how to do.

The majestic music event of our klezmorim was sprinkled with many jokes, with situational humor and scenes in which an artist “does not want” to sing, “breaks” the clarinet at the end of the song, throws up the drum sticks or simply “forgets” which song was to be played and from a well known Hava Nagahila turns to the tune “If I was a rich man”, from the “Fiddler on the roof” the band doing a wonderful back and forth from the merge of the two songs.

Many of the songs are presented in the unmistakable style of Judith Klein, who asks the audience “what are most songs about? Do you have any idea? “She also gives us the answer “they are about love”. For me you are the love, for me you are the only one “and everyone starts singing “bei mir bist du shein” that catches up with the one of the famous Barry Sisters.

Yiddish language course

Usually when you go to a concert you expect to listen to the music and…. that’s about all. In no case are you prepared to learn a foreign language. But as our president says, “these Jews know how to do everything backwards.”

Therefore, Judith Klein asks the audience in the most naive way if they know Yiddish. If they don’t know, bad luck, they have to learn this in concert too. “Now you will know. I teach you”, declares the artist. Already you see those in the room a little bit cringed, some of the audience looks astonished meanwhile others are frowning and looking around, you even get the impression that some of them will rush to the exit. “The lyrics go like this. Pay attention, “continues Judith Klein.”Aiaia iai iaiai,” she begins to sing. The audience is laughing, and some sigh with relief. “Now you know Yiddish or at least you know how to wail in Yiddish.” The whole synagogue is caught in the game that continues by making them sing alternatively, gentlemen and ladies. “Pay attention to me. Now only very beautiful, lonely and rich gentlemen sing. Let’s see who you are. ” and the room bursts into laughter as they do at every other joke made by the famous Klezmer artist.

One of the songs was completed by a long, even very long duration, musical corona, Judith Klein demonstrating, again, a great technique and very strong lungs. Masters of the scene, her colleagues, pretended to be slightly outraged or bored with her performance, of course, the audience a cherished every moment. Moreover, the cheers of applause showed the peak and the joy brought to the Arad’s public.

There were times when the singers went down in public, shared the microphone with the spectators, making everyone present to be an active part of the show. What does it mean to be an artist? To bring emotions. Our klezmorim brought to the strongest emotions of astonishment, soul exaltation and joy to the Arad’s audience. We thank them from our hearts.

Text and pictures:

Margareta Szego

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

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