The Jewish community, initially known as the “Jewish guild” (breasla jidovească), had the role of organizing the spiritual and economical life of its members. This also had a political role, the guild being the legal representative of the Jewish citizens.
The Jewish population was organized in guilds, according to their trades. The rich ones started having connections to princes or boyars to whom they used to lend money. In 1666 the position of Haham Basa appeared, him being the spiritual leader of the community (abolished in 1834), the secular leader being the Great Master, Rosh Medina (“the head of the city”). The Rabbi was at forefront of the community, being a judge and supervisor of the House of Marriages. The taxation policy, the gabela, appears, from which the debts to the Rulers were paid, and the rest was used for the maintenance of institutions and for helping the poor. In 1859, the Jewish community of Iași reached almost 50% of the city’s population. The modern hospital, schools and institutions to help the poor were founded. In 1863, gabela was abolished, schools were closed and the community duties and the institutions were all transferred to the Israeli hospital, which was a separate legal entity. After 1919, due to the difficulties in which the community’s institutions were, its reorganization was decided. The Jewish Community in Romania was recognized as a public organization only in 1927, after the Constitution of 1923 was put in action, which gave citizenship rights to all ethnicities in Romania.
The inauguration of a museum dedicated to the contributions of the Jews to the life of Iași took place in 1986, in the Grand Synagogue. The synagogue’s restoration determined the moving of the museum in 2011 in the today’s Community Center, also called “The five roads house”. The museum is exhibiting Judaic religious objects, typical to the rituals of the main holidays in the Jewish calendar: Shabbat (each Saturday), Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year, September – October), Simchat Torah (The Joy of receiving the Torah, October), Hanukah (The Holiday of Light, November – December), Purim (the freeing of the Jewish people from the Persian-Babylonian empire in 427 B.C., March) and Pesach (Jewish Easter – the holiday of the freeing of Jewish people from the Egyptian ruling, March – April). An adorned canopy, placed in the center, reminds us of the Jewish marriages. The exhibition regroups articles, magazines, old photographs, posters and books of Jewish authors from Iași.
Since 2002, the Center hosts a club which coordinates the Ritual restaurant, with kosher foods, according to the kashrut norms, the choir and a traditional music band. It is actively involved in the cultural life of the city, it organizes shows, conferences, commemorations and film watching. Today, the Jewish community of Iași consists of only 300 people, most of them coming from mixt families.
Visiting hours for the museum: 09:00-14:00 (the identity card is required).
Cătălin Mihuleac – “Fondane’s Last Cigarette”
The contemporary writer Cătălin Mihuleac, born in Iași, remarked himself through novels, theatre plays and a prodigious publicist activity. In 2014, he publishes the novel “America after the Pogrom”, an important book in the Romanian literature, which treats without dodging, the infamous Pogrom of Iași in June 1941. The next volume, “Fondane’s Last Cigarette” (2016) invokes the life of Benjamin Fondane, a remarkable Jewish writer and poet (Romanian-French), born in Iași and exterminated in Auschwitz. This volume of micro-novels was played on stage in 2015, during an experimental theatre play, where the video projections, the music of that period and the unconventional space with a symbolic meaning (the Tramway Depot in Iași), recreated his tragic moment.