TURDA (Ger. Thorenburg; Hung. Torda), town in Transylvania, N.W. Romania; until the end of World War I within Hungary. Jews began to settle there at the close of the 18th century although individual Jews had visited the locality earlier. A document of 1669 mentions a Jew of *Alba Iulia who had stayed in Turda in order to sign an agreement with the local inhabitants. A community was organized between 1830 and 1840. There were already houses of prayer during that period. The community remained Orthodox throughout its existence, but there were also many maskilim in Turda who had an affinity for the Western trends promoted by the Neolog communities in Hungarian-speaking Transylvania. The Jewish population numbered 48 families (175 persons) in 1866; 203 (2.1 percent of the total) in 1870; 326 (3.5 percent) in 1900; 482 (3.5 percent) in 1910; and 852 (4.2 percent) in 1930.
The community, which was wealthy and well organized, employed some distinguished rabbis, among them Ben-Zion Albert Wesel (1900–38) and Joseph Adler (1938–44). For most of the period between the two world wars these two rabbis also held the position of president of the central office of the organization of Orthodox communities of Transylvania, and the community thus played a leading role among Orthodox Jewry in Transylvania. An Orthodox Hungarian-language weekly, Hoemesz, was published in Turda from 1933 to 1940. A large synagogue was erected in 1932. Zionist activities were also organized, and there was a group of Jews which supported the Hungarian minority movement in Romania; a Jewish club, established in 1936, played an important part in Jewish life.
Holocaust and Contemporary Periods
There were 726 Jews in Turda (2.2 percent of the total population) in 1940. Their numbers increased to 1,805 in 1942 after Jews from the surrounding areas were concentrated in Turda by the Romanian Fascist authorities. From 1940 to 1944, because of the location of Turda near the Romanian-Hungarian border and within 18 mi. (approx. 30 km.) of *Cluj, the capital of northern Transylvania, Jews of Turda played an important role in underground rescue activities among the Jewish population. Members of the community collaborated with the representatives of the Zionist youth movements in contact with the rescue centers in Bucharest and Budapest and rescue workers in Palestine through their center in Istanbul. They organized secret routes for the transfer of refugees from neighboring Hungary to Romania, where the situation of the Jews was less dangerous, subsequently directing the refugees toward Bucharest, from where most of them reached Palestine. Hundreds of refugees passed along this escape route, most of them from Hungary, some from Slovakia, and even a number from Poland. In the fall of 1944, the town was taken by Hungarian forces. However, they were defeated by the Russians about five weeks later before they had succeeded in organizing the deportation of the local Jews.
After World War II the community continued activities but its institutions lost their importance with the decline of the Jewish population as a result of emigration to Israel and elsewhere. There were about 150 Jews living in Turda in 1971, and their numbers continue to dwindle into the 21st century. Prayers were still held in the Great Synagogue on Jewish festivals.
MHJ, 5 (1959), 380–1; A.D. Finkelstein, Fénysugár a borzalmak éjszákajában (Tel Aviv, 1958); PK Romanyah, 304–7.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.