(JTA) — Jewish groups criticized Romania’s central bank after it decided not to withdraw from circulation a newly minted coin commemorating an anti-Semitic church leader.
The coin honors the late patriarch Miron Cristea, who as prime minister from 1938 to 1939 stripped about one-third of the Romanian Jews of their citizenship before World War II. Cristea led the Romanian church from 1925 to 1939.
The coin is part of a set commemorating the five patriarchs who have led the Romanian church since 1925.
"We are shocked and disappointed that the National Bank of Romania has decided to honor Miron Cristea, even after consideration of his anti-Semitic actions and statements," Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a letter to Romanian President Traian Basescu.
"While we emphatically condemn the National Bank’s decision to persist with the Cristea coin, we hope the effort to promote Holocaust education and remembrance among the Romanian people can benefit from the National Bank’s lapse of judgment," Foxman wrote.
He called on the Romanian president to ensure that the central bank includes an educational pamphlet about Cristea and his treatment of Romania’s Jews with each coin.
“You are honoring the prime minister of a totalitarian regime who persecuted the Jews through denaturalization and anti-Semitic incitements,” wrote B’nai B’rith International’s executive vice-president, Daniel S. Mariaschin, and Rabbi Andrew Baker, American Jewish Committee’s director of international Jewish affairs, in a letter to Gov. Mugur Isarescu of the National Bank of Romania.
“Your actions are in clear contradiction not only with the Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania which was endorsed by two Romanian heads of state but also with the progress that Romania made in acknowledging its tragic past,” the letter stated.
Radu Ioanid, director of the International Archival Program at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, asked at the end of July that the coin be withdrawn from circulation, saying the minting of the coin will contradict a law prohibiting the promotion of racist or xenophobic personalities and organizations.