Arad JC

The Jewish Community of Arad

sentio hero

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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