According to the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova, Moldova is home to about 20,000 Jews, while Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated that there were between 3,500 and 7,500 Jews in the country as of 2004. Historically devastated by the Shoah and a brutal civil war, the Moldovan Jewish community today is largely revived and is spread throughout the republic. There has been a widespread development of a national self-consciousness and a return to their roots by the Jews of Moldova, with Jewish identity and culture being celebrated in a number of forms – including literature, musical composition, and theatre. The Moldovan Jewish community is represented by the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova – the Moldovan affiliate of the World Jewish Congress.
Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova
President: Mr. Alexandar Bilinkis
The first Jews appeared on the territory of the modern Moldova in the 1st century with the Roman legions. Since the 15th century, it was an important transit stop for Jewish merchants from Constantinople and Poland. By the 18th century, several permanent Jewish communities had been established in urban developments. The 1803 census indicates that there were Jews living in all 24 Moldovan cities, as well as in many villages and towns.
With Russian rule in 1812, there was a permanent, and steadily increasing, Jewish presence in Moldova.
The Draconian anti-Jewish decrees in Russia did not initially affect the Jews of Bessarabia during this period, but the full loss of autonomy in Bessarabia to Russia saw these laws equally applied in the region. Various decrees of expulsion were issued, and for some Jews in Bessarabia, these measures sparked in interest in Zionism. The First Zionist Congress in 1897, for example, saw many Jews in the region represented by Jacob Bernstein-Kogan from Kishinev – the modern capital of Moldova.
By this time, the Jewish population continued to grow and constituted almost half of the entire population of Kishinev. However, tension with Moldova’s population coincided with this continued communal growth. Pogroms, such as the one in 1903 (which was facilitated by the accusations of a Russian-language newspaper called the “Bessarabian”) saw manifestations of familiar charges of “blood-libel” kill hundreds of innocent people. Moreover, thousands were left homeless after the violence, which was conducted by both Russians and Romanians. The 1903 Pogrom was particularly notable, as it caused international outrage. Thousands of Moldovan Jews emigrated, and the United States publically condemned the massacre and imposed trade restrictions against Russia. Despite this, more violence in 1905 saw the deaths of countless Jews across Moldova.
In 1917, Bessarabia became part of aa territory controlled by the Soviet Union, and in 1918 it became a part of Romania within the “Union.” The Jewish community in the area was given Romanian citizenship and was able to open Jewish day schools with instruction in Yiddish and Hebrew. Manifestations of anti-Semitism and violence continued to reveal themselves, despite promises from the Russian Revolution of some sort of civic equality for Jews in the Soviet Union.
Over 350,000 Jews perished in Bessarabia and Transnistria in ghettos, concentration camps, during the deportations and because of mass executions during the Holocaust.
Following the Holocaust and World War II, much of the Moldovan Jewish community faced numerous hardships – including being forbidden to practice many Jewish traditions. This was largely due to the Soviet Union’s imposition of a strict Communism on its satellites that aimed at forcing some semblance of a shared culture on many different communities, Jewish ones included. The 1961 banning of celebrating Bar and Bat Mitzvahs further reinforces this.
In 1992 Moldova was torn apart by a civil war that resulted in a division of the country into two separate parts: The Republic of Moldova to the west of the Dniester, and the self-styled Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic of Transnistria to the east of the river. In response, the Federation of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Va’ad) in Moscow and Israeli organizations arranged for the evacuation of the Jewish population. In the aftermath of all the violence and turmoil, the fall of communism and establishment of democracy in Moldova, allowed Jewish life to begin to flourish again.
Notwithstanding these events, the Jewish regional communities on both sides of Nistru river are closely cooperating and form a single national organization.
Today, Moldovan Jewry is largely elderly and spread throughout the country – though the majority of Jews in Moldovia live in the capital of Chisinau (Kishinev). Since independence, the Jewish community in Moldova has significantly decreased due to high levels of immigration and the largely elderly population.
Despite this, the community actively supports and promotes Jewish live, values and education.
In the years preceding World War II and the Holocaust, the Jewish community in Moldova had reached a peak in population, and were a large community within the country (despite inflammations of anti-Semitism throughout the early half of the 20th century).
The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 saw the Jewish population of Moldova completely banished from the territory of Bessarabia. Many Jews were murdered during the fighting, while even more were deported to camps in Transnistria - tens of thousands perished at the hands of German and Romanian forces. Mass shootings, ghettos, and other instances of extreme violence also befell Jews in the area during Nazi-occupation, as the Jewish community of Kishinev was nearly annihilated.
The aftermath of the Holocaust in Bessarabia saw many Jews emigrate to Israel. Overall, more than 100,000 Jews from Bessarabia perished during World War II and the Holocaust.
According to the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova, Moldova is home to about 20,000 Jews, while Hebrew University demographer Sergio DellaPergola estimated the Moldovan Jewish community to number between 3,500 and 7,500 as of 2004. The largest community is in Chisinau, with smaller communities in Tiraspol, Beltsy, Bendery, Rybnitza, Soroky, and elsewhere.
The Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova is a national umbrella association, which consists of 12 municipal organizations and 9 regional communities in the cities of Balti, Soroca, Orhei, Cahul, Ribnita, Dubasari, Bender, Tiraspol, Grigoriopol.
The president of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova is Mr Alexander Bilinkis, a successful businessman, prominent public and diplomatic figure, philanthropist.
In addition to educational schools and programs (see below), the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova also provides charity and social welfare services to low-income groups of Moldova's Jewish population.
The Jewish Community has also installed monuments to Holocaust victims throughout Moldova and restored monuments and cemeteries destroyed by the Nazis.
It further focuses on combating anti-Semitism, by monitoring, organizing conferences and publishing articles in mass-media, and works to protect the interests of Moldavian Jews in all aspects.
Significant attention is dedicated to improve Moldovan legislation. At the initiative of the Jewish Community January 27th was officially recognized as the National Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2015. The Parliament of Moldova endorsed in 2016 the Final Report of the International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania which was headed by the Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel. Changes have been operated in the legislation on counteracting extremist activity, while efforts are continuously undertaken to criminalize the denial of the Holocaust and prohibit the glorification of fascism.
The creativity of Jewish writers and poets, journalists, composers and professional performers, musicians, producers and artists in Moldova continues to advance. Jewish clubs (by interests), and children’s drama schools also exist. Books are being published in history, linguistics and literature.
There are a few synagogues in Chisinau and some in other cities and towns throughout the country.
Rabbi Shimshon Daniel Izakson serves as the community’s spiritual leader.
Chabad Lubavitch maintains a synagogue in Chisinau and Tiraspol, and Agudath Israel is active in Moldova as well.
Kosher food is provided and imported in Moldova.
The Jewish Community offers educational activities for the Jewish students. There is one Jewish kindergarten in Chisinau, two Jewish schools and a municipal Jewish library named after I. Manger. This infrastructure supports the development of programs aimed at promoting Jewish tradition, history and religion, as well as the Holocaust studies for Jewish and non-Jewish educational institutions.
A Jewish newspaper, Nash Golos (“Our Voice”), is published twice a month by the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova.
The Jewish Community in cooperation with its national and international partners organizes and sponsors various complex programs, such as the Jewish heritage in Moldova museum’s concept design; fostering the restitution of the Jewish communal property; the reconstruction of the former Tsirelson Yeshiva and Synagogue in Chisinau; strenghening the security of Jewish sites as well as the edification of memorials and monuments to the victis of the Holocaust all over the country.
There are numbers of Jewish sites in Moldova, including the Jewish Cultural Center in Chisinau. Numerous architectural and religious sites can be visited during guided and free tours throughout the capital сity and other regional locations. Memorials to the Kishinev ghetto, to the Victims of Fascism, to the Victims of Chisinau Pogrom are sites for remembrance in Chisinau.
Israel and Moldova have enjoyed diplomatic relations since 1992.
Israeli Consulate is located in Chisinau
Chancellery: 4, Albisoara str., Chisinau, Moldova
Consular issues: Embassy of Israel in Romania 1, Dimitrie Cantemir, Tronson 2+3, Sector 4, Piata Unirii Square, Bucharest