The Jewish Quarter

Jewish quarter

After the Armenian Quarter and Dorobanti and Cotroceni, it’s time for another historical area of Bucharest to be the subject of a blog post: The Jewish Quarter or, more accurately, what is left of the former Jewish Quarter.

First, let’s go through some facts regarding the history and life of the Romanian Jewish population:

  • Although not possible to pinpoint the beginnings of the Jewish population in the Romanian lands, we have historical data that goes back to the 15th century.
  • Not being allowed to own land, the Jewish population of Bucharest turned to liberal occupations such as doctors, bankers and even creditors to the throne and nobility. They represented the bourgeois element in an otherwise agrarian society.
  • The first discussions to grant Romanian citizenship to the Jewish population start in mid 19th century but were not materialized. It was only the 1923 Constitution that granted the citizenship.
  • In spite of not actually being Romanian citizens, Jews were supposed to pay taxes and Jewish men even fought in the 1877 Independence War and WWI.
  • The Jewish population of Bucharest grew constantly throughout the ages to arrive at a whooping 11% of the total population of the city during the interwar period and thus being Bucharest’s biggest minority.
  • The newly given constitutional rights and the financial and economical boom in the Jewish community was not left unnoticed in the interwar period. The 30’s came along with and antisemitic wave based not upon religious but business matters.
  • Successful tradesmen, merchants, bankers, shop owners, their business savvy was turned against them. Political and social propaganda deemed them as demonic and an unfair competition to the average Romanian.
  • Discrimination was followed by acts of vandalism, terror and in 1938 36,5% of the Jews were stripped of Romanian citizenship.
  • In 1940 the Romanian Jewish community counted approx. 800 000 people. The war left about 410 000 survivors. Romania was an ally to Germany until the 23rd of August 1944.
  • During communism the average fee for every person of the Jewish community that wanted to emigrate to Israel was 5000 USD. Their Romanian properties were also confiscated.
  • About 7000 Jews still live in Romania today.

The (Former) Jewish Quarter

Back in the day the Jewish Quarter had two parts. The one inhabited by the poor part was a compact area with big families cramped into small houses with living conditions far from ideal but the community was very close like one big family.

The social life in this part of Bucharest was colorful and vivid especially in the evenings, when the streets were filled with the young and the old altogether sharing a moment of joy after a full hard days work.

The situation was different at the rich end of the Jewish community were one could find houses with big gardens, beautiful architecture and a more sober atmosphere.

Unfortunately the Jewish Quarter was one of the two neighborhoods that suffered massively from the 1980s Bucharest demolitions. While Uranus neighborhood was simply wiped out to make room for the House of People and the Civic Center, the Jewish Quarter still has a few buildings and houses that remind us of what used to be Bucharest’s most vibrant part.

Jewish Quarter

Coral Temple 

It is the most beautiful temple in the city and, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful in the world. Built between 1864 and 1866, it was set on fire in 1867 by the nationalists, only to be renovated in 1877 when the interior was entirely hand painted in Moorish Byzantine style, style that was kept throughout the ages. The name, Coral, comes from the fact that the temple does have a coir and the sermon sounds a lot like an opera concert. If you want a personal input: the temple is a work of art and a must see for everyone visiting Bucharest.

Jewish quarter

The address is Sfanta Vineri Str. and the opening hours are Monday to Thursday from 9:00 to 15:00, Friday it’s from 9:00 to 13:00, Saturday is closed and Sunday it’s from 9:00 to 13:00.  Entrance fee is 10 lei and you have a guided tour of the Temple.

The Jewish Quarter

The Great Synagogue

Also known as the Polish Synagogue as it was built by the Polish Jews community in 1845.  The Great Synagogue is a survivor of the 1980s demolitions but it was surrounded by huge apartment buildings that appeared on the place of the former Jewish Quarter. Besides being a functional synagogue, it also hosts the Holocaust Museum. Address: Vasile Adamache no.11. Opening hours: Monday to Thursday from 9:00 to 15:00 and Friday and Sunday from 9:00 to 13:00.

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Theatre and The Museum of Jewish History complete the circle but these two are under complete renovations so I couldn’t take pictures or do more research for the moment. To be continued...

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