The World Jewish Congress mourns the passing of Aurel Vainer, the longtime leader of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, who has died at age 89. Vainer, who served three terms in Romania’s parliament, was a gentleman in the true sense of the word. He was buried with military honors in Bucharest.
Born in Stefanesti in northeastern Romania in 1932, he survived the Holocaust as a teenager. “He got to know antisemitic persecution and the hatred of those around him,” David Saranga, Israel’s ambassador to Romania, said at Vainer;s funeral. “However, despite all the suffering, he chose to live a life in the spirit of love.”
In 1990, following the fall of the Communist Ceausescu regime, he became vice-chairman at the Romanian Chamber of Commerce. In 2004, he was elected as the representative of Romanian Jews in Parliament. A year later he was chosen to head of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, a position he held until his retirement last year.
Vainer made a significant contribution to the development of Jewish life in Romania. He insisted on the need to make massive efforts to renovate the synagogues, even in places where Jews no longer lived, insisting that the synagogues were the best statement and historical confirmation of the life of Jews in Romania. He also constantly fought against antisemitism, Holocaust denial, hatred, and discrimination.
As the representative of the Jewish community in the Chamber of Deputies, he was recognized for his humanity, intelligence, cultured nature, and strong wish to promote understanding and cooperation.
Ovidiu Gant, who represents the German minority in Romania’s parliament and was Vainer’s colleague at the Minorities Parliamentary Group for over a decade, said at the funeral that he was “profoundly impressed” by the way that Vainer, as a Holocaust survivor, showed sympathy for Germans in Romania. “The German minority is profoundly grateful to him for the singular way in which he defended us when we were subjected to coarse public attacks,” Gant said.
In an interview last year, Vainer was realistic about the future of Romanian Jewry. “The number Jews is in a continuous decline,” he said, “and demographic laws have the final say, but there will always be a kernel that will always act to preserve what we’ve had and all what it means.”
May Aurel Vainer’s memory be for a blessing.