STEFANESTI (Ştefăneşti), town in Botoşani province, Moldavia, N.E. Romania. The first Jews settled in Stefanesti at the beginning of the 17th century. After the neighboring province of Bessarabia passed to Russia in 1812, Stefanesti became a border town and consequently began to develop. In 1814 the ruler of Moldavia authorized the settlement of additional Jews. In 1883, however, when the municipality bought land to sell to the inhabitants, the Romanian parliament prohibited the Jews from acquiring any property. The Jewish population numbered 628 in 1838, and 3,886 (76.5% of the total population) in 1886. The first synagogue was erected at the beginning of the 18th century; it was rebuilt in 1854. There were eight organized congregations, two formed by tailors; a mikveh built in 1854; and a primary school. Stefanesti was well known among Romanian Jewry for the ḥasidic "court" established there by the Friedman family, descended from the *Ruzhin dynasty. Abraham Mattathias Friedman acted as ḥasidic ẓaddik in the town for 70 years (1863–1933). After World War I, when Romania regained Bessarabia and the town was no longer on the border, its commercial importance diminished. The number of Jews decreased in 1930 to 2,361 (26.5% of the total).
In World War II the Jews of Stefanesti were deported to Botosani. From there they were sent to forced labor camps. A few returned after the war, numbering 870 in 1947 and 600 in 1950. In 1969 about 12 Jewish families remained in Stefanesti.
M. Schwarzfeld, Excursiuni critice asupra istoriei evreilor în România (1888), 31; V. Tufescu, Târguşoarele din Moldova şi importanţa lor economicaǎ (1942), 105, 140; PK Romanyah, 255–7.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.