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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Cluj, Romania


Romania: Virtual Jewish World | Constanta | Sibiu


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CLUJ (Hung. Kolozsvár; Ger. Klausenburg), city in western Romania, the cultural, industrial, and political center of Transylvania; from 1790 to 1848 and 1861 to 1867 capital of Transylvania; until 1920 and between 1940 and 1944 in Hungary. Today the official name of the city is Cluj-Napoca, in commemoration of its two-thousand-year history, going back to the time it was built by the Roman occupiers of Dacia after the Roman-Dacian wars of 101–102 C.E. The earliest mention of the city under the name of Napoca also dates from the times of Roman Dacia, that is, the second century. Jews visited the Cluj fairs in the 16th and 17th centuries (but the earliest mention of a Jew there is from 1481). A Jew is also mentioned there in 1769. Eight Jewish families are recorded at Cluj in the census of 1780. In 1784 the municipal council prohibited the inhabitants from selling real estate to Jews, and Jews were forbidden to lodge temporarily in the city: a prolonged struggle on the question of Jewish rights ensued. In 1807 the Jews in Cluj opened a prayer room, and by 1818 the community, then numbering 40 persons, had a synagogue, constructed of reeds. A ḥevra kaddisha was founded in 1837. Fifteen Jewish families were permitted to remain in the city in 1839 but were debarred from accommodating additional Jews in their houses. When in 1840 the Jews applied for permission to fence in their cemetery, the request was rejected on the ground that their presence had no legal authorization. With the revolution of 1848 the prohibition on Jewish residence was abolished, and subsequently the Jewish population rapidly increased. The Jews in Cluj at first engaged mainly in commerce, trading especially in goods from the Orient, notably Turkey. They later entered the crafts and, during the 19th century, the professions. The Jewish population of Cluj in 1857 was 231.

The rabbis and dayyanim in Cluj, on whom information is available from 1812, were subject to the supervision of the chief rabbi of Transylvania, in Alba Iulia. The Great Synagogue was inaugurated in 1850. The first rabbi, Hillel *Lichtenstein , who officiated from 1851 to 1853, had to leave after opposition by a section of the community and his failure to obtain a certificate from the Transylvanian chief rabbi. Immediately after 1868, when Hungarian Jews divided into three religious groups, the majority of the Jewish inhabitants of Cluj remained Orthodox. The rabbi of Cluj from 1863 to 1877 was Abraham Glasner. He was opposed by the ḥasidic movement then gaining ground.

The first convention of Transylvanian Jewry was held at Cluj in 1886. The community was organized on an Orthodox basis in 1869. A short-lived *Reform community was then also established. Moses *Glasner , Orthodox rabbi from 1878 to 1922, took a leading role in communal affairs. The *status quo community, organized in Cluj in 1881 and affiliated to the neologist communities, built a magnificent synagogue in the principal avenue of the city (opened in 1887 and still standing in 1970). Mátyás Eisler was appointed its rabbi in 1891. The Ḥasidim established a separate communal organization in 1921. The small Neolog community in Cluj included mostly Jewish professionals assimilated to Hungarian culture. The first Neolog synagogue was built in 1867–68.

In 1910 the Jewish population of the city represented 11% of the entire population. After World War I the Jewish national movement was active in Cluj. Cluj remained the center of the Zionist movement for Transylvania, although some of its offices were later transferred to *Timisoara . By the end of 1918 *Uj Kelet , a lively Zionist weekly, later a daily, began publication in Cluj. It had a large readership and became a leading influence among the Jews of Transylvania and Romania. The newspaper was also the organ of the (principally Zionist) Jewish Party (Partidul Evreiesc), some of whose local activists were elected to the Romanian Parliament. A printing press set up in Cluj in 1910 operated until the Holocaust. After World War II the newspaper moved to Israel, where it continued to appear into the 21st century.

The schools of the Cluj community attracted pupils throughout Transylvania. The Orthodox community opened an elementary school in 1870, and the neologist community opened one in 1904. A Hebrew *Tarbut secondary school, started in 1920, took the lead in education of the youth until closed by the Romanian authorities in 1927; its director, Mark Antal, was former director general of the Ministry of Education and Culture of Hungary. After Cluj had been annexed by Hungary – in 1940, as a consequence of the Vienna award of Hitler and Mussolini – and Jewish children were prohibited from attending general schools, a Jewish secondary school for boys and girls was opened in October 1940; it remained open until both pupils and teachers were interned in the ghetto.

The Jewish population numbered 231 in 1857; 994 in 1869; 2,414 (7.4% of the total population) in 1891; 7,046 (11.6%) in 1910; 10,633 in 1920; 14,000 (13.4%) in 1927; and 13,504 in 1930. After the Hungarian annexation in 1940, anti-Jewish measures and economic restrictions were imposed, followed by physical persecution. A large number of Jewish males were drafted into forced labor and transported to the eastern front to the Nazi-occupied area of the Soviet Union, where most of them perished. In the summer of 1941, several hundred Jews who could not prove their citizenship were deported to the area of Kamenets-Podolski, where they were massacred. In May 1944, after the Germans entered Hungary, a ghetto was set up in the Iris brickyard in the northern part of the city. At its peak it contained approximately 18,000 Jews, including those brought in from Szamosújvár and from the neighboring communities in Kolozs County. The Jews were deported in six transports between May 25 and June 9. Exempted from the deportation were 388 Jews who were taken to Budapest on June 10. Their transfer to Budapest was part of a controversial agreement between Rezsö (Rudolph) *Kasztner and other leaders of the Budapest-based Relief and Rescue Committee (the Va'adah) and the SS. These Jews were included in the so-called Kasztner transport of 1,684 Jews, which left Budapest on June 30, 1944, and, after an ordeal of several months in a special camp in Bergen-Belsen, ended up in Switzerland.

The few survivors who returned to Cluj from the camps, with those who had joined them from other localities, numbered 6,500 in 1947. Community life was subsequently reorganized. A Communist-inspired local Jewish organization was also set up, principally to fight the remnants of Zionism; Zionist activities continued until 1949. By 1970 only 1,100 Jews (340 families) remained registered with the community. Prayers were held in three synagogues. The unified communal organization maintained a kosher butcher and canteen. Community life was declining, however, and Jews were leaving Cluj. At the turn of the century there were about 300 Jews in Cluj, mostly elderly and ill.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

M. Eisler, Képek a kolozsvári zsidók multjából (1924); E. Mózes and I. Szabó, A cluji orthodox chevra kadisa száz éve (1936); J.J. Cohen, in: KS, 37 (1961/62), 249–66; M. Carmilly-Weinberger, in: Yad Vashem Bulletin, 21 (Nov. 1967), 21–27; S. Zimroni (ed.), Zikkaron Neẓaḥ le-Kehillah Kedoshah Kolozsvár-Klausenburg (1968); S. Yiẓḥaki, Battei-Sefer Yehudiyyim be-Transilvanyah bein Shetei Milḥamot ha-Olam (1970). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Loewy, A teglagyartol a tehervonatig. Kolozsvar szido lakossaganak toertenete (1998).

[Yehouda Marton / Paul Schveiger and Randolph Braham (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

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