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Alba Iulia, Romania

ALBA IULIA (in the Roman period Apulum; Hung. Gyulafehérvár; medieval Latin Alba Carolina; Ger. Karlsburg, also Weyssenburg; referred to in Yiddish and Hebrew sources by the German name Karlsburg; in Ladino sources Carlosburg), city in Transylvania. Alba Iulia was the seat of residence of the princes of Transylvania in the 16th and 17th centuries; for several centuries it was administered by Hungary but was incorporated into Romania after World War I. The Jews there, originally Sephardim, benefited from the patronage of the princes of Transylvania. A Hebrew document of 1591 mentions a bet din there. In 1623 Prince Bethlen Gábor granted the Jews of Alba Iulia a liberal charter of residential and commercial privileges, framed at the insistence of Abraham Szasza, a Jewish physician from Constantinople, who had been invited to settle there. The privileges were endorsed by the National Assembly in 1627. However in the code Approbatae Constitutiones passed by the National Assembly in 1653, Jewish residence in Transylvania remained restricted to Alba Iulia. Prince Apaffi Mihñly I reaffirmed Jewish privileges in 1673 after anti-Jewish outbreaks had occurred. The charter was renewed a number of times. The Christian Hebraist, János Apáczai Csere (1625–1659), was active in Alba Iulia and recommended the inclusion of Hebrew in the senior school curriculum. Data in a census of 1735 show that the Jews then living in Alba Iulia originated from Poland, Turkey, Moldavia, Wallachia, Hungary, Moravia, and Belgrade. But during the 18th century the number of Jews living there decreased very sharply as a result of Rakoczi's rebellion; only after the return of the region to peaceful conditions did the number of Jews begin to increase again. From that period the Ashkenazi element became increasingly predominant. Alba Iulia was regarded as the Jewish "capital" of Transylvania. The shofet (judge) of the community was styled the "head of the Jewish people of the region." Between 1754 and 1868 the rabbi of the congregation held the title "rabbi of Karlsburg and chief rabbi of the state." The first known chief rabbi was the Sephardi ḥakham Abraham Isaac Russo (d. 1738). Best known was Ezekiel *Panet, who officiated in Alba Iulia between 1823 and 1845. The last chief rabbi to officiate was Abraham Friedman (1879). Until the emancipation of the Jews in Austria-Hungary in 1867 their entire religious life developed under the strict control and censorship of the Roman-Catholic bishop of the region. After the religious schism in Hungarian Jewry in 1867 the Alba Iulia congregation remained within the *status quo ante faction . An Orthodox congregation was formed in 1908, and in 1932 it was joined by the original congregation of Alba Iulia, which had until then adhered to its status quo position. The pinkas (minute book) of the community for the period 1736–1835, written in a mixture of Hebrew, Yiddish, Judeo-Spanish, German, Hungarian, and Romanian, has been preserved. The *Neolog rite of the Hungarian Jews was almost entirely absent in this city. A Jewish newspaper, the Siebenbuerger Israelit, was published in 1883 for a short time. In the 17th century there were about 100 Jews living in Alba Iulia; in 1754, 54 taxpayers; in 1891, 1,357 persons; in 1910, 1,586 (out of a total population of 11,616); in 1920, 1,770 (out of 9,645); and in 1930, 1,558 (out of 12,282). As the area became a hotbed of the antisemitic *Iron Guard , conditions for Jews became difficult. In 1938 a bomb exploded in one of the synagogues. All the property of the community was confiscated in 1941, and the men were seized for forced labor. The Jewish population of Alba Iulia increased during World War II, however, as Jews were sent there from the surrounding areas by the authorities. Heavy fighting in 1944 caused an additional influx. The maximum figure was 2,070 in 1947. This was considerably diminished by emigration in the 1960s. At the outset of the 21st century the number of Jews living in Alba Iulia was very small, as it was in all of Transylvania and Romania.


S. Kohn, Héber kútforrások és adatok Magyarország történetéhez (1881), 104; Eisler, in: IMIT (1900), 316–32; (1901), 221–44; idem, Az erdélyi zsidók multjából (1901); idem, in: Sinai (Bucharest), 1 (1928); 2 (1929); 3 (1931); Krausz, in: Erdélyi Zsidó Évkönyv, 6 (1940–41), 78–84; MHJ, 2 (1937); 5, pt. 1 (1959); 5, pt. 2 (1960); 8 (1965); 10 (1967), index; M. Carp, Cartea Neagrǎ, 1 (1946); PK Romanyah, 277–9.

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

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