Jewish journeys

Short history of the Jews in Romania

Romania has a rich Jewish heritage. The first Jews arrived as part of the Roman legions that invaded Dacia in the 2nd century AD. From the 14th century, Jewish immigrants began settling in Wallachia and Moldavia.  Their numbers increased Jews at the end of the 15th century after they were expelled from Spain. In the early 16th century, more Jews came to Romania from Poland and Ukraine. Romania’s Jews traced their origins to many different sources and they created a diverse and colourful culture. The Jews may initially have come as merchants, opening storehouses and trading posts.  They exported leather, cattle and corn, and they also established themselves as furriers, tailors, boot makers, tinsmiths, and watchmakers. They formed two distinct communities: the Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazim, and the Ladino-speaking Sephardim. During the following centuries Romania’s Jewish community established itself as a prosperous middle class. The Jews suffered horrific persecution in the Second World War: thousands were deported to concentration and death camps in Germany, Poland and Transnistria. Out of 800.000 Jews who lived in Romania before the Holocaust, about half survived.   Romania had the third largest Jewish community in Europe and the fourth in the world, after the Soviet Union, Poland and USA.

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