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Jewish Families of Arad, Romania

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This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from Arad, Romania.


ARAD, city in Transylvania, western Romania; until 1918 within the borders of Hungary. Jews are first recorded there in 1717. Regulations for the burial society were drawn up in 1750. Jewish occupations during this early period were mainly connected with producing and selling alcoholic beverages and the grain trade. In 1742 the leadership of the local community requested the intervention of the district authorities in order to improve its situation. The small community became important after 1789 with the election as rabbi of Aaron Chorin, who officiated until his death in 1844. Chorin was born and educated in the Czech provinces of Austria, one of the more prosperous and emancipated regions of the country. He soon came into conflicts with the rabbis of Hungary, who preferred a more conservative and traditional way of life and behavior. Under his leadership, Arad became a center of the nascent *Reform movement in Judaism. He initiated the construction of a synagogue in 1828, established a small yeshivah, and set up an elementary school. He also encouraged Jewish youth to enter productive occupations. Due to his efforts, there were about 100 highly skilled Jewish artisans in Arad in 1841. In 1832, on Chorin's initiative, the first Jewish school was built in Arad, where study of the Hungarian language became compulsory. It was one of the first Jewish schools officially recognized by the Hungarian authorities. Even after Chorin's death, the community in Arad long remained a bastion of extreme Reform. The emancipation of the Jews in 1867 attracted many Jews to take active part in Hungarian economic, political, and cultural life, considering themselves Hungarians of Mosaic religion. The Jews of Arad took an active part in Hungarian public life (one of them, Dr. Ferenc Sarkany, becoming mayor of the city, even volunteered for the army during the World War I). At the end of World War I, however, a considerable number of Orthodox Jews settled there, and established a community. The Neolog rabbis in Arad were early supporters of Magyarization among the Jews; already in 1845 R. Jacob Steinhart delivered a sermon in Hungarian. The Zionist movement found support in Arad, and the "Jewish Party," after Transylvania became a part of Romania in 1919, also obtained many votes in the elections for the Romanian parliament.

Arad Jews shared the fate of the Jewry of Romania between the two world wars, suffering from increasing antisemitism. In the years of the Antonescu government the two Jewish communities – the Orthodox and the Neolog – united to be able to work better for the interests of their membership. The Jewish population numbered 812 in 1839; 4,795 in 1891; 6,430 in 1920; 7,835 in 1941; and 9,402 in 1942 (this last increase was due to the enforced concentration in Arad of Jews from the villages and country towns of the area by the Romanian Fascist authorities in 1941–42). The Jews from the Arad district together with those of the district of Timisoara were slated to be deported to the Belzec extermination camp in 1942, at the very beginning of a massive joint Romanian-German operation which targeted all the Jews from Regat and Southern Transylvania. On October 11, 1942, the order to deport the Jews of Arad was rescinded. Together with the majority of the Jews of Regat and Southern Transylvania the Jews of Arad survived the war.

The Jewish community of Arad numbered 13,200 in 1947. Subsequently, there was a progressive decrease due to emigration from the country, mainly to Israel. In 1969 the Jewish population numbered 4,000. At the outset of the 21st century it numbered a few hundred and continued to decline numerically.


MHJ, 3 (1937), 180; 7 (1963), 116, 226–31, 694; 11 (1968); 1038, 13 (1970), 193; L. Rosenberg, in: Jahrbuch fuer die israelitischen Cultusgemeinden (Arad, 1860), 32–59, 144–52; M. Carp, Cartea Neagraˇ, 2 (Rom., 1946), 55, 106, 115, 121, 200, 241–42, 363, 368; 3 (1947), 237, 341; Vágvölgyi, in: Múlt és Jövö (Hung., 1917), 296–305; PK Romanyah, 279–85. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Ancel, Documents Concerning the Fate of Romanian Jewry during the Holocaust, 4, 104–5; R. Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania (1999), 244.

[Yehouda Marton / Paul Schveiger and Radu Ioanid (2nd ed.)]




Town in western Romania, in the Arad Plain on the Mureş River. From 1552 to 1687, Arad was claimed by the Turkish pashalik of Timişoara, and between 1687 and 1918 it was part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Habsburg Empire and then of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The first documented indication of a Jewish presence in Arad dates from 1717 when the commander of the town’s citadel, Baron Ştefan Cosa, agreed to allow two Jewish families to settle there. In 1743, there were 6 Jewish families; in 1754 there were 24; in 1767, 17 families with 71 people; and in 1784–1785, 30 families with 152 people.

A formal Jewish community was established around 1740, and the first statutes of the burial society (which had functioned since 1729) date from 1750. The first wooden synagogue was built in 1759; its earliest rabbis were Yoḥanan (1764), Broda Leb (1770–1786), and Hirsh Stemnitz (1786–1789). Demographic growth was swift in the nineteenth century: some 750 Jews were recorded in the 1822 census, and the Austrian census of 1850 indicated the presence of 3,418 Jews (15.2% of the total population); subsequent censuses showed the following figures: 1869: 3,710 (11% of the population); 1880: 4,415 (12%); 1890: 4,795 (11.4%); and 1900: 5,962 (11.1%). In 1910, Arad’s 6,295 Jews accounted for 10 percent of the town’s population.

Under the guidance of rabbis such as Aharon Chorin (1766–1844; a figure known throughout Europe for promoting reform in Jewish religious, educational, social, and economic life), Iacob Steinhardt (1845–1885), and Sándor Rosenberg (1885–1909), the community developed a strong Jewish institutional and economic presence. Jews played a significant role as craftsmen (in 1848 they were active in 21 crafts), trade (cereals, tobacco, wool, cattle, manufactured goods, banking, insurance), and leasing. In 1848, Arad was home to 10 Jewish physicians and 7 other professionals.

After the civil emancipation (1867) and the Congress of Jews of Hungary and Transylvania (1868–1869), Jews in Arad affiliated as a Neolog community. In the twentieth century, Arad’s Neolog rabbis were Lajos Vágvölgyi (1909–1940), who looked favorably upon Zionism, and Nicolae Schőnfeld (1941–1961), who held a doctorate. In 1904, an Orthodox community was established as well, with a synagogue that opened in 1930. Its rabbis were Yehudah Sofer (1909–1912) and Yoakhim Schreiber (1913–1949).

The number of Jews in Arad increased from 7,811 in 1930 to 9,472 in 1942, and their presence in the economic life of the city remained significant in industry (textiles, machine tools, chemicals, paper, timber, liquor, oil, milling, tanning) as well as in trade, banking, and insurance. Major figures involved in the city’s cultural life included György Szántó (1897–1961), a novelist and editor of the cultural journal Periszkop (1925–1927); Ádám Raffi (1898–1961), novelist, translator, and editor; Sándor Károly (1894–1964), novelist and playwright; Izidor Kaufmann (1853–1921), an artist who had a fine reputation in Vienna; Jakub Guttman (1815–1861), a sculptor who created, among other works, a funerary bust of Aharon Chorin.

The Jewish Filharmonia music society was established in 1890. A newsletter of the Neolog community was published in 1939–1940, and beginning in 1933 a center supporting Jewish refugees was active in the town. During the Holocaust, Arad was part of the south of Transylvania that remained in Romania after Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy divided the region between Hungary and Romania. When Jewish students were excluded from public education, a separate Jewish high school was set up; it functioned until 1945. The expropriation of Jewish property, hard labor, and the concentration of Jews from surrounding rural areas to Arad culminated in 1942 with apparent preparations for a massive deportation of Jews to Auschwitz. Romanian authorities abandoned this plan, however, thus enabling the community to survive. In 1969, approximately 4,000 Jews lived in the town. As a result of emigration in the final decades of the twentieth century, just 500 Jews still lived there in 1993, and in 2000 the local community had about 380 members. Suggested Reading

“Arad,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 279–285 (Jerusalem, 1970); Istoria evreimii arădene, ed. Iosif Schőnfeld and Eugen Glück (Tel Aviv, 1996); Izvoare si mărturii referitoare la evreii din România, vol. 3, pt. 2 (Bucharest, 1999), pp. 241–243.

Author: Ladislau Gyémánt
Translation: Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea


Chapter 8: Details from the History of the Autonomous Orthodox Community in Arad (1904-1940)

In the year 1904, a small group of devout people decided to split from the confinement of the neologue rites Jewish community, in order to establish an autonomous community of the orthodox rites. A delegation was dispatched to the orthodox chief-rabbi of Budapest, Koppel Reich, asking for his assistance in accomplishing this separation, and winning his approval.

The community succeeded in getting to Arad an extremely learned rabbi, Jehuda Szofer, the son of the rabbi Eliezer Szofer from Paks, and he was installed on the occasion of a communal assembly on July 25, 1909. Unfortunately, his blessed activity lasted for only three years, he passed away on the 6-th day of Pesach, 1912. The leaderless community, decided unanimously to bring around a young rabbi, who should marry the orphaned daughter of the defunct rabbi, Rozalia Szofer. The choice was Joachim Schreiber, the son of the worthy Jakob Shalom Schreiber from Budapest. He was born in 1887, and studied at the Bratislava yeshiva. The community had in the meantime grown furthermore, and they tenured Joachim Schreiber as “chief rabbi and executive of the registry” on the occasion of a special meeting (October 19,1913).

From the initial moment of accepting the rabbinical seat, Joachim Schreiber set for himself the goal of getting involved in all matters pertaining to the community, as well as in the problems of the individual members. Through sermons and writings, he guided the young people to the study of the Torah, drawing them to the faith, the fear of God, and the enjoyment of the Torah. He convinced the young to study in the yeshiva. Within a short time period, the tally (originally small) of the community grew and gradually it became level with other well established, famous Transylvanian communities.

Joachim Schreiber was especially active in the fields of Tzedaka and Ghemiluth Chasadim. He believed in epitomizing the teachings of a passage of the Vajikra: “If your brother in faith impoverishes, don’t let him slump, lift him by his armpits, because if you let him fall, straightening him up will be tougher”.