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JASSY (Rom. Iasi), city in N.E. Romania, capital of the former principality of Moldavia from 1565. The community of Jassy was the oldest in Moldavia. Jews first settled there in the second half of the 15th century because of its position on the commercial route between Poland and Bessarabia and to the Danube port of Galati (Galatz). Their number increased when Polish Jews took refuge there during the *Chmielnicki massacres (1648/49). In 1650 and 1652 many Jews in Jassy were murdered by Cossacks. There were new disturbances in 1726 when the populace, incensed by a *blood libel, sacked the houses of the Jews in Jassy and desecrated a number of synagogues. The Jewish guild of Jassy obtained an order from the sultan to liberate the Jews who had been arrested in the blood libel case. In 1742 Prince Constantin Mavrocordat, wishing to attract Jews from Poland, exempted those who settled in the town from taxes.

At the end of the 18th century the Jews were concentrated in their own quarter. Several branches of commerce (cereals, livestock, wool, honey, cheese) were exclusively handled by Jews. By the middle of the 19th century they had taken the place of the Turks and Greeks as bankers and money changers. Many Jews were also occupied as goldsmiths, tailors, hatters, furriers, and shoemakers. A number of these crafts had their own unions, some possessing their own synagogues. When the Christian tradesmen and artisans tried to limit the activity of their Jewish counterparts, a decision was issued by the prince in favor of the Jews (1817). In 1831 Jewish merchants and artisans formed 43% of the total number of these occupations, and by 1860 their proportion had increased to 78%. The Jewish population numbered 4,396 families in 1820, 31,015 persons (47% of the total) in 1859, 39,441 (50.8%) in 1899, and 35,000 in 1910.


In 1835 and again in 1839 Prince Michael Sturdza initiated actions against the Jews, which were stopped only after the Jewish bankers had canceled his debts. In 1867 Jews having no legal documents of residence were declared vagrants wand expelled from the country. Diplomatic representatives of England and Austria presented their protests to the Romanian government; Emperor Napoleon III of France also intervened. However the persecution intensified during the last two decades of the 19th century, in particular after the Congress of *Berlin. Despite the recommendations of the Congress of Berlin, which threatened not to recognize Romania's independence, the Romanian political class refused to grant citizenship to the Jews.

Headquarters of the Antisemitic Movement

Toward the end of the 19th century Jassy became the center of antisemitism in Romania. In 1882 and 1884 two economic congresses were held there with the aim of promoting a boycott on Jewish commerce and industry. Through the activities of a "commercial club" during this period, 196 Jewish shops were closed down in 1892, and many Jewish tradesmen were expelled from the town. A number of Jews committed suicide in consequence. The University of Jassy became the center of antisemitism in Romania, with A.C. *Cuza, who taught at the university, as its main proponent.

Internal Organization

From 1622 to 1832 the affairs of the Jewish community of Jassy were administered by the "guild of the Jews," headed by the ḥakham bashi, who was the chief rabbi of Moldavia and Walachia, and three parnasim. From the taxes on kosher meat which it levied, the synagogues, talmud torah institutions, shelter for transients (hekdesh), and cemetery were maintained. After the guild was dissolved in 1834, associations were formed according to countries of origin (Russia, Austria, Prussia).

The first modern school for boys was founded in 1852 but remained open for only five years because of opposition from Orthodox circles. In 1858 the government began to press for the closing of the traditional Jewish schools and their replacement by modern schools in an assimilationist spirit. Some steps were taken in this direction from 1860 but the schools were unable to withstand the Orthodox opposition. Modern Jewish schools were again founded in 1893, after Jewish pupils had been expelled from public schools. There were 5,000 pupils (boys and girls) attending the community schools in 1910.

In 1834 the administrators of the hospital, which was founded in 1772, took over the management of the community affairs, receiving the principal income from the tax on kosher meat. The orphanage and an old age home were founded in 1890. In 1915 the Dr. L. Gelehrter Hospital for children was founded. The Caritas Humanitas association with a membership of 2,000 was active up to the eve of World War II, providing medical assistance and aid for widows.

Zionist Movement

There had been pre-Zionist groups at Jassy even before the *Ḥibbat Zion. In 1866 the Doreshei Zion association was founded, with the aim of creating a Hebrew library. From 1878 to 1898 the Ohalei Shem association propagated the Hebrew language and Jewish culture. The Yishuv Ereẓ Israel movement also had an important center in Jassy, headed by Karpel *Lippe, who had initiated the two above-mentioned associations. The poet Naphtali Herz *Imber, author of Ha-Tikvah, lived in Jassy at the end of the 1870s. Inspired by the ideas of Theodor Herzl, the Jewish community of Jassy founded nine Zionist organizations, which were amalgamated in 1919.

Spiritual and Cultural Activities

Jassy had long been the spiritual center for Jews living in both Romanian principalities (Moldavia and Walachia) through the influence of important rabbis who officiated there. The first of note, Solomon b. Aroyo, a kabbalist and physician to the prince of Moldavia, lived in Jassy at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. Nathan Nata *Hannover and Pethahiah b. David Lida served there in the 17th century. In the 18th century Ḥasidism began to spread to Jassy and brought a number of ḥasidic leaders there, including *Abraham Joshua Heschel of Apta, who lived in Jassy at the beginning of the 19th century. In the second half of the 19th century Jassy became a center of talmudic learning with scholars like Joseph Landau of Litin and Aaron Moses b. Jacob *Taubes. Among eminent ḥasidic scholars there the most important was Isaiah Schorr. In 1897 J.I. *Niemirover began his rabbinical activity and remained in Jassy until 1911.

Hebrew books were published in Jassy from 1842 onward, among them Eliezer b. Reuben Kahana's commentary on the Five Scrolls, Si'aḥ Sefunim; two editions (one with Yiddish translation) of Nathan Hannover's Sha'arei Ẓiyyon (1843); and the Likkutei Amarim of Shneour Zalman (of Lubavich; publ. 1843). Hebrew printing continued into the 1880s. Some Hebrew and Yiddish periodicals were also published in Jassy. A Yiddish biweekly Korot ha-Ittim was published from 1855 to 1871. For a year in 1872 the first Jewish all-Romanian newspaper Vocea apărătorului ("Voice of the Defender") was published. The weekly Rasaritul ("The East") was published from 1899 to 1901 by the Zionists, who also issued two annuals. In 1914 four numbers of a literary review, Likht ("Light"), were published in Yiddish, with the collaboration of Jacob *Groper, Abraham L. *Zissu, Motty Rabinovici, and Jacob *Botoshansky. The illustrations were the work of the painter Reuven *Rubin.

Jassy was the cradle of the Yiddish theater. In 1876 Abraham *Goldfaden first presented his operettas in Jassy. J. *Latteiner also had his own theater company, for which he wrote 75 plays. N. Horowitz from Galicia produced his operettas with a historical setting there.

Between the Two World Wars

In 1919 the community was reorganized. In the same year elections were held for the first communal administration. The community was recognized as a public body by the Ministry of Religions in 1927. In 1939 there existed in Jassy 112 synagogues, one kindergarten, three elementary schools for boys and four for girls, four religious schools (talmud torah), one yeshivah, one secondary school, one general hospital, one children's hospital, two sanatoriums for invalids, an orphanage, and an old age home. A Zionist weekly Tribuna Evreeasca was published in Romanian at Jassy between the two world wars.

In this period also Jassy, and especially the university, continued to be the center of antisemitic activities. Under the leadership of A.C. Cuza, the "National and Christian Defense League" (LANC) was founded in 1923. The head of the youth organization, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, founded the "Archangel Michael League" in 1927, which is also known as "All for the Fatherland" and the more familiar "Iron Guard," an extremist antisemitic organization. The continual troubles caused by the antisemitic organizations and economic persecution by the authorities led to progressive pauperization among the Jewish masses in Jassy. In consequence the Jewish population diminished from 43,500 in 1921 to 35,465 (34.4%) in 1930.

Holocaust Period and After

On Nov. 6, 1940, the Antonescu government had seized power. The persecution of the Jewish population began immediately, accompanied by arbitrary arrests, torture, extortion, confiscation of places of business, and attempts to stage trials on such charges as Communism. However, the Jewish community leaders soon managed to reach an agreement with the leaders of the Iron Guard, who promised to stop the persecution in exchange for the sum of six million lei to be paid in installments. Consequently, until the Iron Guard were forced out of the government (January 1941), there were few further antisemitic incidents in the city. The final installment of the "subsidy" was paid during the Bucharest pogrom, which occurred when the Iron Guard rebelled against Antonescu's government, and, as a result, the Jews of Jassy remained unharmed.

In the summer of 1941, on the eve of the outbreak of war against the Soviet Union, many German army units moved to Jassy. Before the first military operation in the area (on June 29, 1941) and the opening of the large-scale offensive on the southern front (July 2, 1941), antisemitic tension grew, as the result of rumors that Jews were signaling to the Russian planes bombarding the town, and had even dared to shoot at soldiers. On the eve of June 28, German and Romanian patrols, accompanied by local residents, murdered many Jews and rounded up thousands more in the courtyard of the police station, where they were shot the next day. Immediately afterward, 4,332 Jews were dispatched to internment camps, 2,205 of them suffocating en route from the terrible overcrowding in the death cars. The exact number then killed at Jassy is unknown; wartime Romanian secret police documents mention the number of 13,266 victims including 40 women and 180 children.

In 1969 there were about 2,000 Jewish families in Jassy, and 11 synagogues. Courses in Hebrew and Jewish history with about 80 participants were held. The population diminished steadily to a few hundred by the turn of the century owing to immigration to Israel and elsewhere. Those who remained were cared for through government and Jewish funds.


I.J. Niemirower, Ochire asupra istoriei comunităţii israelite din laşi (1907); idem, Scrieri complete, 2 (1919), 91–105; 529–531; M.A. Halevy, Comunităţile evreilon din laşi şi Bucrueşti, (1931); idem, in: Almanachul Ziarului Tribuna evreească, 2 (1938/39), 251–2; idem, in: Studia et Acta Orientalia, 1 (1957), 360; idem, in: Sinai, 1 (Bucharest, 1928), 7–10; M. Gaster, in: Anuar pentru israeliţi, 16 (1893/95), 12, 14; A. Turcu, ibid., 18 (1896/97), 184–7; W. Schwarzfeld, ibid., 12 (1889/90), 21–40; 13 (1890/91), 43–66; 17 (1895/96), 50–62; idem, in: Egalitatea, 5 (1894), 220, 228, 236, 251, 260, 269, 299; C. Drimmer, ibid., 32 (1922), 54; idem, in: Almanachul evreesc ilustrat pentru România (1932), 34–37; A. Hahamu, in: Calendarul almanah evreesc (1945), 169–71; E. Herbert, in: Journal of Jewish Bibliography, 2 (1940), 111f.; E. Feldman, in: Zion, 22 (1957); PK Romanyah, 141–76; M. Carp, Cartea Neagr, 2 (1948); M. Mircu, Pogromul de la Iasi (1947); I. Ludo, Din ord-înul cui? (1947); S.C. Cristian, Patru ani de urgie (1946). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: R. Ioanid, The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 19401944 (2000).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.