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Jewish Families from Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania

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This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from the town of Câmpulung Moldovenesc, Romania.

Câmpulung Moldovenesc (also spelled Cîmpulung Moldovenesc, Romanian) respectively Moldvahosszúmező or Hosszúmező (Hungarian) is a city in the North Romanian Suceava County, in the historical region of Bukovina, on the banks of the Moldava river.

The Jewish Community

Jewish presence started probably at the beginning of the 15th century, when Prince Alexander the Good conveyed to Jews the right to conduct trade in his country and pass through it. A document dated 1684 confirmed the existence of a few Jews in the Câmpulung Region. It is stated there that the attitude towards Jews was good and that there was no discrimination against them. Those days the Jews were involved with agriculture, commerce, and the supplying of pub and beer services. In an additional document from the time period of the Princedom of Moldava dated 1766, the erection of an inn in Câmpulung was documented, which was supposed to serve Jewish traders passing through the town along with their merchandizes. In 1769 45 Jewish families were counted. A Jewish cemetery was established in 1775.

In 1790 Câmpulung turned again to be ruled by the Austrians, while Jews are mentioned as cattle breeders paying taxes to the authorities of the city. Subsequent to the occupation of the city by the Austrians in 1775 the situation of the Jews deteriorated and they became exposed to stringent laws imposed by General Gabriel von Splény, such as the paying a wedding tax and subsequently to severe restrictions enforced by General Karl von Enzenberg, which made them practically devoid of all rights. In 1779 a decree was published, which absolutely forbade Jews to live in Câmpulung. The regional authorities requested the harsh order to be cancelled and let the Jews stay in the city, but the Central Government in Vienna rejected the petition. Nevertheless, local officials probably became convinced to ignore the orders of the former. In March 1782 von Enzenberg deported the Jewish “beggars”, who were peddlers, cantors and rabbinical teachers as well as those whose annual tax did not reach the amount of four Florins. Eight families counting 21 souls were deported. Emperor Joseph the Second published in May 1781 a declaration, in which he recommended to make the Jews become useful citizens and keep them away from businesses involving usurious rates of interest and fraudulent transactions. The Jews had to learn German within three years and using Hebrew and Yiddish was permitted only within a synagogue.

In November 1789 the Statute of the Jews, initiated by the Emperor became effective. This statute was an attempt to make the Jews become assimilated. According to the Statute, every Jew was entitled to choose a profession preferred by him, to rent lands at his discretion (provided he cultivate them with his own hands or with the help of his family), to conduct commerce, and found factories, provided the books be kept in German, live in whatever city they wish, provided they present a certification about graduating from a German school. The yellow star on Jews’ clothes was abolished, so was the wedding tax; however, marrying persons had to present a confirmation about graduating from a German school. The status of the Jewish Community as an institution was cancelled, and it remained functioning as a religious association only. The Jews were forbidden to speak Hebrew and Yiddish in public; these languages were restricted to be used in synagogues. Inauguration of a synagogue or the opening of a grave yard was heavily taxed: (two thousand Florins to either the former or the latter); maintaining a quorum for prayers – minyan – in a private home was equally taxed.

Eventually, only two Jewish Communities remained in the whole of Bukovina: Czernowitz and Suceava – all other communities were absorbed into them. Câmpulung was attached to the Suceava Community and was forced to establish schools of which the teaching language was German. The authorities supplied teachers – assimilated Jews from Galicia and Moravia. The parents were forced to send their children – boys and girls alike – to these schools in order to learn German. Only children who visited them were entitled to learn in a Talmud Torah . They preferred to pay fines and even go to jail rather than let their children visit schools, which might – so they feared – lead them to convert to Christianity. The great turning point in favor of the Jews came along with the revolution of 1848, which made Bukovina an independent district. The Jews were granted rights and they became a significant factor in the economy: they could live everywhere, both in urban centers and on the countryside; they purchased estates and firms, founded factories and progressed in all kinds of areas. In a census carried out in 1871, 665 Jews were counted in Câmpulung, in 1890, 19 years later, their number rose to 1163 – 18,2% of the overall population. They became integrated into all branches of commerce, production and the liberal professions. Toward the end of the previous century there were already Jewish doctors, lawyers and bankers in Câmpulung. They participated in the city’s public life and until the end of the thirties, their representatives constituted a part of the local leadership, under both the Austrian and the Romanian Regimes.

In 1913 the number of the Jews reached 3,500. 1914, following the outbreak of the First World War, their number kept diminishing due to the invasion of the Cossacks, who caused a terrible destruction among the Jews. More than half of the Câmpulung’s Jews fled immediately after the occupation of the region by the Romanians, mainly to Vienna, Bohemia and Transylvania. In a census conducted by the Romanians in 1930, only 1,488 Jews were counted in Câmpulung, 14,7% of the overall population - less than half compared to 1913. In the Versaille Conference the Allies forced the Romanians to grant equal civil rights to all their citizens, including the Jews, or else they wouldn’t be allowed to annex Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania. Having no choice, the Romanians were compelled to accept the stipulation and confer these rights also to the Romanian Jews, who until then had been legally regarded as aliens. The principle of equal rights was entered into Romania’s new Constitution, which was ratified in the Romanian Parliament on March 28, 1923. Actually, however, there was a systematic effort to exclude Jews from all aspects of life. In that very year an anti-Semitic conference was convened in Câmpulung and an anti-Semitic newspaper called “Deşteaptă-te Române" (Wake Up, Romanian) started to appear. In 1926 one called Tauto Nikolai, the murderer of Abraham Falk in Czernowitz was trialed in Câmpulung. The murderer, however, was acquitted of all charges. The Câmpulung Jews, like those of all other places found ways to circumvent the dangers and learned to compromise with the existing reality.

Most of Câmpulung’s Jews were traditional and some of them were Hasidim from Vizhnitz, Sadigura and other schools. Most of the Jewish stores were closed on Sundays. The synagogues were crowded on the Sabbath and holidays. The city had a Community Committee (Hebrew: Va’ad Hakehila), and boasted five synagogues and several welfare, cultural and religious institutions. There was a comprehensive activity of all factions of the Zionist Movement: General Zionists, Hamizrakhi (Orthodox Zionists), Po’alay Zion (socialist Zionists) and the Revisionists (right-wing Zionists) as well as the youth movements: Hashomer Haza’ir (socialists), Hano’ar Hazioni (The Zionist Youth), Bnay Akiva (Orthodox) and Baitar (right wing). According to a census of the Jewish Population carried out in 1941, there were then in Câmpulung 1,681 Jews, who constituted about 15% of the overall population of the city; most of them were involved in commerce and a smaller share were craftsmen and intellectual professionals. The Holocaust

The attitude of both the German occupiers and the Romanians towards the Jews was horrible beyond conception. Based on an order published October 10, 1941, it was decided to deport all Câmpulung’s Jews to Transnistria. The synagogues were sacked, the library of the city’s rabbi, Moshe Yossef Rubin was burned, and when he refused to sign documents accusing him of collecting explosives he was assassinated. Five Jews remained in the city: one prisoner, the pharmacist Abraham Friedmann and his wife – because no substitute could be found for him – as well as two others. Eventually they were deported too. The large-scale deportation took place October 12, 1941 (Yom Kippur). The Jewish citizens were forced to report at the railway station and enter wagons designated for the transport of cattle, which went until next to the Dnieper River. Most of the Câmpulung Jews reached the Shargorod Ghetto, thanks to the initiative of Dr. Schauer and Dr. Teich, who collected money from the deportees and rented German trucks, which carried them to a Ghetto not far away from Mogilev. Some of them reached Samarinka, the Getto of Morfa, Copaigorod and Luchinch. Some remained in Mogilev Podolsk, or dispersed to other Ghettoes. People died due to starvation, diseases and epidemics, executions etc…

The Years after the War

Câmpulung was liberated on March 19, 1944. In 1945 the borders were opened and 700 out of the 1,700 Jews deported from Câmpulung came back. They received their houses again with the aid of the police. In September 1944 the Jewish High School of Suceava started to conduct exams. Students were examined in all classes they had lost during the years of the Holocaust. Two of them were admitted to the University due to the Vitec Law without having to undergo further exams. Hundreds of additional students endeavored to pass this High-School’s exams. Others passed exams conducted by Câmpulung’s Dragoş Vodă High School in the years 1945-1946. Most of the graduates emigrated to the US and Israel, while a minority among them remained in Câmpulung and the neighboring universities. In 1947 around 1,350 Jews were counted in Câmpulung, most of them came there from Northern Bukovina, hoping that from Romania they would be able to emigrate to what was then Palestine. Toward the end of 1947, many of Câmpulung’s residents emigrated to what would soon become Israel in two Jewish immigrant ships (illegal according to British Mandate’s Law): Pan Crescent and Pan York, which sailed from the Bulgarian port of Burgas. They arrived at Cyprus and from there, with the erection of the State of Israel, they reached this country. In 1949 all branches of the Zionist Organization in Câmpulung ceased to exist. Numerous Jews emigrated to this country between 1949 and 1952 – until the Romanians blocked the waves of Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel). As of 1959 the Aliya started again. In 1956/7 there were still Jewish students in the various schools. In 1998 less than a minyan of old Jews remained in Câmpulung.