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The Jews of Romania
By Jerry Katz - June 7, 2009


Bucharest (Photo: AP)
There may have been Jewish communities in Romania as early as the 2nd century when the area was called Dacia under the rule of the Roman Empire. They were likely merchants attached to the Roman legions who were stationed in the area and inscriptions and coins have been found indicating their presence in Orsova and Sarmizegetusa. There may have also been a presence of Jews around the Black Sea including Romania since those times. There are also records of a Jewish community in Moldavia and Wallachia, both Romanian principalities in the 14th century who fled expulsion from Hungary and Poland.

Jews were harassed by the authorities in both these principalities and had their wealth and property confiscated through the 15th and 16th centuries. Jews in many areas were forced to adhere to a stringent dress code and there were several famous “blood libel” cases in which Jews were accused of the ritual killing of Christian children. During the Russo-Turkish wars Jewish children were sometimes captured and forcibly baptized and after the Russian invasion of Romania there were numerous reports of the massacres of Jews in many communities including Bucharest.

Still by 1825 there was a Jewish community in Wallachia of about 10,000 people including 7,000 in Bucharest and Moldavia was home to about 12,000 Jews. There were also sizable Jewish settlements in Bukovina and Oltenia. After the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople Moldavia became a sought after location for Jews who were being persecuted in Russia and their numbers grew rapidly to over 195,000 by 1838. These new immigrants still had their activities monitored and limited but many of them became successful tavern keepers and landlords.
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