Dr. Moses Rosen, the Chief Rabbi of Rumania, said today that the earthquake which devastated Bucharest March 4 and caused heavy damage throughout Rumania felt to him at the time to be more than an earthquake. He said it only lasted a minute but “it gave you the impression it was the end of the world.”
Rosen, who is also president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Rumania and a member of the Rumanian Parliament, described the quake and its aftermath to reporters at the offices of the American Joint Distribution Committee. He had high praise for the help the JDC gave immediately after the devastation as well as for its regular program which provides $3 million in aid annually for needy Rumanian Jews.
Jack Weiler, JDC president, who introduced Rosen, noted that JDC officials were on the scene in Rumania even before the International Red Cross or United Nations relief agencies.
In addition to thanking the JDC, Rosen expressed the appreciation of the Rumanian Jewish community for the help that has come in since the earthquake from Jews throughout the world. He noted that he received a check from Barbados from a group of Jews who said they numbered only 12 families but wanted to help.
DEATH TOLL AND DAMAGES
Rosen pointed out that while Jews comprise less than one percent of Bucharest’s population, they suffered nine percent of the casualties because of their heavy concentration in the center of the city where the quake hit hardest. He said about 125 Jews died in Bucharest, many of whose bodies have not been recovered. He said about a dozen other Jews are still listed as missing.
The rabbi said that the destruction and damages of synagogues, Jewish centers, restaurants and other community buildings totaled approximately $800,000. He said this did not include tombstones, of which 9200 were destroyed in Bucharest and more than 11,000 elsewhere. He said the government does not provide aid to repair the community buildings but only for individuals.
Rosen, who is in the United States to attend a meeting of the allocations committee of the Memorial Fund of which he is a member, stressed that Jewish communal activities continue among the country’s 45,000 Jews despite the earthquake’s ravage. He said that he pointed out in his sermon last Shabat that the life of Jews in “our generation is that we go from one survival to another.” Although recent official figures show there were 60,000 Jews in Rumania, Rosen said today it should be 45,000, half of them over 65.
He said that the day after the quake struck Shabat services were held in all the synagogues that were not destroyed. He said it was “mazel” that Purim fell this year on Friday night because the annual Purim festival with about 1000 attending was held Thursday night. If it had been held Friday night, many more Jews might have been killed because they would have been concentrated in one building, Rosen observed.
FREE TO BE JEWISH
The rabbi said Rumanian Jews were able to celebrate Passover normally. While the main warehouse where matzoh and wine were stored was damaged, there was enough wine and matzoh left for every Rumanian Jew who wanted them. He said 3000 people attended a community wide seder and he had 800 persons at each of the two seders he conducted.
Rosen stressed that every Jew who wants to remain a Jew can do so in Rumania whether he identifies himself as a Jew in terms of religion, culture, nationality or as a supporter of Israel. He particularly stressed the 11 community kosher kitchens throughout the country which provide meals to any Jew who wants them, most of them free of charge. Rosen said that 10,000 Jews in Rumania could not survive without JDC help.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.