The former headquarters of Ceausecu's personal guard.
manian and East European Jews who were in the
forefront of the Communist movement in the days
when they believed it would right all the world's
wrongs. Most are Nazi concentration camp
Being professionals, most had important govern-
ment or management positions, which didn't allow
them the luxury of practicing their Judaism.
These are also, on average, the people who don't
qualify for regular assistance from the Federa-
tion of Jewish Communities in Romania because
their pensions are too high.
According to Federation's records, it provides
assistance to 2,000 low income Jews in Bucharest,
or almost 25 percent of the community.
Some of these professionals of my parents' gen-
eration, after they retired or were kicked out,
registered with the Jewish community and became
involved in its activities. Most of them, uncom-
fortable with the community's religious expecta-
tions, remained isolated in their own way of living
as Jews in Romania.
In the last 20 years, over 200,000 Jews left Ro-
mania, most of them for Israel. What's left is a
community of 20,000 — most over 60 years of age.
There aren't many births or marriages, Jewish
federation officials said.
"The remaining young Jews are taught to be
good and loyal citizens of Romania, to work hard
in school to get their degree, and never forget that
their future is in Israel," said Theodor Blumenfeld,
general secretary of the National Federation.
The aging and shrinking Romanian Jewish com-
munity stays alive largely because of the American
Jewish Joint Distribution Commmittee, which aids
overseas Jews. The Joint spends $4.2 million a year
on social, welfare and medical services for Roma-
nian Jewry — more than it spends on any other
East European nation.
The centerpiece of these services are programs
for the aged, including old-age homes, clinics,
homemaker services, meals on wheels and grants
to the needy of food, clothing and cash.
During the December revolution, "It was busi-
ness as usual," Blumenfeld said. "It was a young
people's revolution. Two members of our Commu-
nity died in front of the university, where the fights
were the fiercest. One was 19, the other 28. But our
older constituency came to temple every day. Also,
out of the eight trucks which deliver kosher food
daily to about 700 people, two had some trouble
getting through the barricades."
Dr. Marcel Saragea, a former deputy minister of
health, is retired but serves as director of the main
Federation old age home. He said there were some
tense times during the December revolution.
"We had heard a rumor that, because of some
ammunition warehouse nearby, we would be at-
tacked," he recalled. "My administrator and I went
into the garden and cut ourselves a couple of big
sticks. Thus armed we spent the night waiting. We
must have been pretty funny, two old people with
two sticks trying to defend almost two hundred
Marcu Segal, Melamed Torah at the Coral Temple, has up
to 150 students.
At A Glance
• Population: 20,100
Jews; 9,114 in Bucharest
and 10,986 in 157 other
• Organized Jewish
• Synagogues: 78
• Cemeteries: 744 in
• Kosher Restaurants:
• Age: More than 60
percent of Romanian
Jews are over 60
• Education: 22 com-
munities offer Talmud
Torah classes to a total of
almost 400 students
• Population Changes
In 1988*: Over 6 percent
of Romania's Jews left
the country and 4 per-
cent died, while births ac-
counted for less than one-
half of 1 percent.
Source: The Federation of
Jewish Communities in
*The last year for
which figures are
even older people. Thank God nobody came."
Most of the older Jews have family abroad. If
they wanted, they could probably leave any time,
no questions asked. Why do they stay?
"All my life I've taken care of myself," said Nick,
77, whose son is a doctor in New York. "I've worked
hard, I've had a lot of responsible positions, and
now I am retired. I have an above average pension.
I have a nice place to live and I've lived here all
of my life. I know the place. I still have a couple
of friends left. Most of all I am my own boss.
"If I go to Israel, I have to learn everything, the
people, the places, and toughest of all, the lan-
guage. At my age, that's very hard, and I would
be no closer to my son than I am here. If I go to
New York for good, I have no pension at all, no
financial independence, and what's scariest, no ac-
cess to medical insurance for three years. God for-
bid, I get seriously sick, I bankrupt my son and
his family. So I go visit them once every two years
or so. And then I come back home!'
My parents are in the same situation. It's "too
hard to change so late in life (and) too hard to live
so far away from your loved ones," my father said.
But the future in Romania is uncertain. The new
freedoms could bring anti-Semitism, Jewish
THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS