The present article tells the story of two different types of Jewish communities, the Ashkenazi Jews living in Lʼviv, the capital of what was once Galicia, region within the Habsburg Monarchy (1), and the Sephardic Jews living in Bucharest, the capital of what were once the Danubian Principalities (2). The few existing stories speak about a lost world. After the disappearance of these exotic and vibrant communities, Lʼviv and Bucharest lost forever one important thing: cosmopolitism.
The reconstruction of the flourishing old Jewish life of these areas turns out to be a difficult undertaking, even in those cases in which one can still encounter physical traces (e.g. the Lʼviv ghetto). On this account, maintaining alive the symbols of Jewish heritage seems to be an endeavour imbued with a sense of urgency. Yet, since, among others, this process triggered debates between, on the one hand, local authorities, scientists, and, on the other hand, international associations and non-governmental organizations, any element employed for attaining an active dialogue with the past is welcome. Such an element is literature under the form of travelogues and novels. These productions usually belong to the emancipated Jews.
Keywords: Central-Eastern Europe; urban studies; Jewish heritage; nineteenth century; social emancipation; Sephardic vs. Ashkenazi Jewry
In his classic article about the places of memory (the so-called lieux de mémoir), Pierre Nora makes the distinction between memory and history (3). Referring to their functions, the French historian considers that memory gives to remembrance a sacred tint, thus raising it above history, which is temporal, hence prosaic. In the cases in which, for various reasons, the re-construction of the chronological events is not possible anymore, their organization via memory based on literature, travelogues, memoirs, even oral accounts, may fulfill the task of filling the gaps left by the physical disappearance of people and archives.
Even in the happy cases when the apparent re-construction of past events is not problematic due to the existence of testimonies, the very attempt of bringing to surface “something that does not exist anymore”, out of the desire to represent the past as faithful as possible, represents a risky endeavour, always “questionable and incomplete” (4). Indeed, aiming at bringing the past back to life is a subjective process, to which memory has its own contribution. Memory filters the reality of the past through special lenses. It follows that its action will be twofold when the effort of establishing the “historical truth” is jeopardized. This is thanks to the quality of memory of being “open to a dialectic of remembering and forgetting (…) vulnerable to manipulation and appropriation, susceptible to being long dormant and periodically revived” (5).
Having said these, the following text has the ambition to enquire whether the cultivation of memory (e.g. also under the form of foundational myths) in the case of disappeared communities is an artificial and deceptive attempt, a construction resembling the one of imagined communities, meant to emphasize glorious deeds and hide ambiguous issues in the existence or even identity of that community. Finally, the paper will suggest that in some instances like the case of the Jewish community, the construction of an image via memory (e.g. under the form of literature in our specific situation) is not only natural, provided the external circumstances, but also salutary, since it represents the only means that assures the continuity between the existing community and the past existence. The preservation of what was in the past can be today achieved only at a symbolic level.
The attempt of re-creating vanished communities is a common practice today. The efforts to preserve the physical and spiritual remnants of lost communities have represented a constant challenge for the anthropologists, historians, and initiators of cultural heritage institutions alike; in other words, for those who are responsible for issuing a coherent and comprehensive narrative of the rise and fall of that particular community. This is also the case of what is generally known as Eastern European Jewry. The tragic disappearance of a significant part of this community in the Holocaust, as well as the massive and regular emigration (6) starting with the second half of the nineteenth century, impose now as many difficulties related to how these communities can be re-created. The detailed description of the state of the art concerning the physical and symbolic preservation of Jewish memory in Eastern Europe aims at suggesting the priority that the description of what was once Jewish life in the area should enjoy among researchers involved in this domain.
The traditions, the daily routines, the views of one of the most heteroclite European Jewish communities are worth being now re-created since this community was one of the most conservative, isolated and resistant to secularism of the Jewish populations of Austria-Hungary (e.g. the so-called Hasidic community (7) [see Photo 1]). Its specificity was regarded by the eighteenth and nineteenth century Viennese enlightened policies with suspicion, and compared to its disadvantage to the more emancipated Czech Jewry (8).
The Danubian Principalities tried throughout the nineteenth century to throw away the institutional and mental remnants of the centuries-old Ottoman rule, in favour of more constitutional types of government; their Southern area, Walachia, was the host of an important community of Sephardic Jewry. This community presented opposing features if compared to Ashkenazi Jews who inhabited the mentioned Galician lands.
The differences between the two communities were related to several aspects of which clothing, education, occupations, and religion held an important place. The Ashkenazi were wearing the so-called traditional outfit (including Oriental and Polish features) and were living in specially designated quarters [see Photo 2, 3 (9)]; this made the emancipated Jews (e.g. usually Viennese) notice ironically that their Galician peers looked as if in Jerusalem (10) (sic). The Jews of the Danubian lands, who did not reside in ghettos, were more similar to the locals in appearance, namely, they were wearing the outfit of the majority [see Photos 4, 5]. In the nineteenth century, the Sephardic Jews adopted the modern dress, far easier and faster than their Ashkenazi counterparts of Galicia or Moldavia (11), who were more Conservative. In the first part of the nineteenth century, the local Jews would dress in the Oriental outfit so enjoyed once by the Fanariot rulers: caftan, tweed jacket called “fermenea”, waistcoat called “giubea” (12).
These differences translated distinct features that expressed in turn a conflicting view of the world around: Ashkenazi Jews were more inclined to intellectual occupations/liberal professions like medicine, journalism, literature, whereas the Sephardic Jews were more oriented to trade. The former were far stricter in religious issues, whereas the latter more democratic, if we may say so. The Sephardic Jews felt enmity towards the Ashkenazi Jews, they would not practice inter-marriages with these. Naturally, all the described features seem like exaggerations in order to identify ideal types that necessary oppose each other; after all, intellectuals could be found in Sephardic community, whereas traders existed in Ashkenazi community, too. Yet, it can be safely said that the two communities assumed and stressed these differences, in order to differentiate themselves from the other ethnic minorities like Greeks, Armenians, etc..
Jews had lived in Lʼviv from the time of its establishment in the mid-thirteenth century (1382 is the year of the first documented description of the Jewish community in the city (13)); mostly merchants (the so-called “Jewish Street”, ulica Żydowska, was officially mentioned in 1387 (14)), they were Sephardic (15) residents who later mingled with Ashkenazi (16) immigrants.
In the mid-fourteenth century, after its conquest by King Kazimierz III, the town permitted Jews to establish a quarter of their own within the walls of the city. Two communities coexisted: “one consisted mainly of the richer Jews living within the city walls and the other consisted of the artisans, peddlers, and petty traders living in the outlying quarters” (17). Nevertheless, it was only with the civil emancipation of the Jews (e.g. full professional and residential rights), as of 1867, that they started to settle the center of the town. The communities here represented the economic elite of very conservative-Hasidic outlook who started to be contested, only around mid nineteenth century, by a liberal intelligentsia emerging from the circles of Germanized traders (18).
Jews in Bucharest dated since the mid-sixteenth century; the community mainly consisted of rich Sephardic Jewry, coming from Ottoman Empire (19). Salonika was one of the important centers of the Sephardic Jewry in the nineteenth century (20): the prominent economic place that Salonika occupied in the Ottoman Empire during medieval times, but also in the modern times, was due to the fact that the settlement has been connected to the major routes of European and Asian trade (21). The Jews of Salonika contributed to this trade, connecting the local market to the international one, and strengthened their legal status within the Empire by paying their taxes under the form of their most successful commodities (e.g. textiles and wool), which would go the Ottoman Army (e.g. the Janissaries (22).
The Sephardic Jews of Wallachia received legal rights in mid-seventeenth century. There were also Ashkenazi Jews established in Bucharest from Polish lands, in mid-seventeenth century (23). The impetus for this trend (24) was provided by the establishment of diplomatic offices of Austrian and Russian Empires in Bucharest in the years 1782-1798 (25).
Apart from the significance of tracing the identity of these lost communities, evoking the spirit of Galician and Romanian Jewry is more difficult and, thus, more rewarding, than dealing with the memory of physical objects such as architecture. There are multiple ways to recover the latter, among which the digital technology should not be neglected. Objects let aside, which are the means to replace the manifestations of human experience in the context in which the original voices are long gone?
THE DEBATES: THE IMPORTANCE OF MEMORY
The physical remnants like the buildings are eroding, whereas the people, the symbols are fading away under our very eyes. Therefore, the researchers, the journalists face the challenge of working with memories and local representations of the past. Nevertheless, the accuracy of these attempts will be closely related to the survival of this community in the mind of the future generations.
After the fall of Communism, Central and Eastern European towns such as Cracow, Lʼviv or Budapest, once home of a religiously and professionally heteroclite Jewish population, hosted various debates which were mainly related to the efforts of underlying the elements of the Jewish identity and to the methods of preserving the remnants of the rich Jewish life of the area. International historians, writers, journalists, philanthropists, associations and NGO-s initiated platforms of discussion and cultural events aimed at raising the awareness of the local public opinion on the actions to be taken for the salvation and reconstruction of buildings connected to the ex-Jewish communities, be them synagogues, religious schools, ritual bath houses, etc..
In contrast to cities where the old Jewish town was razed to the ground by bombs in the Second World War (e.g. Warsaw) or by fire (e.g. Salonika, the ex-Ottoman port) or simply altered following the plans of city-center modernization (e.g. Prague), the Jewish districts of the cities mentioned in the above paragraph escaped from shocks relatively intact. At worst, they were marred by the passage of time, to which the intentional neglect of the Communist authorities might be added. After 1989, this general context led to further issues.
The first of these concerned the physical that is architectural re-construction and renovation of the ex-Jewish districts. This debate was particularly relevant in the case of “Kazimierz”, the old Jewish town of Cracow, provided that its most important parts survived intact. Dilemmas on the manners in which the buildings were supposed to be conserved and later incorporated within the infrastructure of the city center monopolized the discussions. The comprehensive renovation of “Kazimierz”, including the strong focus on design details, was conceived as an antithesis of the bare architecture and symbolism of the extermination camp located nearby (e.g. Auschwitz).
The second aspect is closely related to the effort of putting back in place the Jewish districts. This evolved into a more intricate stance as it addressed the manners in which todayʼs inhabitants of cities like Cracow or Prague perceive their spatial relation in connection to what was in the past. Once with the process of urban development, the original placement of the Jewish districts did not match the area of the city center anymore, in other words, the old ghettos are nowadays within the center limits. An illustrative example is the mouvie “Schindlerʼs List”, in which, for the sake of underlining the centrality of the Jewish fate in the European history, the war-time ghetto of Cracow was placed inside “Kazimierz”, and, both set as if part of the city center in the 1940s (26).
The massive re-construction of the old Jewish districts meant the synchronization of their symbolism with the contemporary ones of the city center. Eventually, the renovations had as major implication the questioning of the attitude that the present-day population has in relation to Jewish values, past and present.
The final element, stemming from both physical re-construction of Jewish traces and symbolic positioning towards them, emphasizes the paradoxes after which memory functions. In the places inhabited by the Jewish communities, it has been noticed that the former popular spots in the life of the pre-war communities are now lapsing into oblivion, whereas the then not so popular spots are hailed now as places of memory per se (27). Consequently, among local people and international audiences, two camps have been formed: one that advocates the view according to which the physical remnants of the Jewish communities should be left as they are, since the people are long gone, hence a possible renovation would “condemn” the synagogues or the public schools to other usages than the initial ones. This view is usually accompanied by the comment that the places loaded with symbols such as the synagogues, community libraries, public baths should be left in ruin to remind everyone of the trauma experienced by the Eastern European Jewry (28).
The other camp supports the non-compromising opinion according to which, not only that the old Jewish towns should be entirely re-constructed, but also they should be imbued with the Jewish spirit. In other words, the efforts of photographing and documenting faded Hebrew characters on a wall in Lʼviv, or placing in Cracow the objects of domestic ritual in (e.g. mezuzah (29)) should be necessarily complemented by the effort to re-create the atmosphere of the old Jewish districts. The network of Jewish sensitivity has to be established via cafes, traditional food, etc. Eventually, the sight of the objects would direct the mind to the symbols. Assimilated Jews during Communist times enjoy now their return to Jewish roots via new shared Jewish experiences: “in cities like Warsaw, Wrocław, and Łódź, particularly since the ouster of the Communists in 1989, a number of totally assimilated people in their twenties and thirties (…) had formed active Jewish study groups, similar to havurahs [the Hebrew word for “fellowship”, here, a group of people who share similar interests related to Jewish spirituality]” (30).
The Galician born Dov Sadan wrote when evoking the Jewish district of Cracow: “I took pleasure in the sight of the gates with Latin inscriptions (…) but closest to my heart were glimpses of past beauty which had been preserved in the ghetto-a door, a doorknob, a symbol and suchlike, and in that gloomy atmosphere these relics were like appeals for light and air” (31).
THE PRESERVERS OF MEMORY
Today, the physical traces of Jewish life can still be seen, whereas the polemics on the manners, aims and extent of the process known as preservation of the Jewish heritage are being heard in the public press as well as vented by associations and public intellectuals known under the general label of critical intelligentsia. Photo exhibitions, literary gatherings, theatrical happenings are trying to make up a coherent narrative about the lost world of the Jews. Indeed, the last years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in the Jewish literature, in the less-known Jewish modernist writers or painters, Jewish lifestyle peculiarities; anthologies of Jewish culture seen through the eyes of local Jewish personalities but also foreign travelers have been published and promoted as alternative symbols of the city.
Lʼviv as a cosmopolitan city, described by many gifted writers, center of a dynamic cultural life, visited by individuals displaying a rich Jewish spirituality, are as many reasons for which writing about this place and its Jewish heritage might prove to be a difficult-intricate thing. In addition, the re-construction of the Jewish spirit is an all time high popular endeavor, as it has been explored and defined by an inquisitive group of scholars literate in Hebrew, Ukrainian, Polish.
It is therefore normal that such a place would attract interest. Its Jewish inhabitants represented about half the number of its population in the 1840s. Important trade hub in the Middle Ages, and host of the political and administrative bodies of the Austrian province of Galicia-throughout eighteenth and nineteenth century, the city was renowned for its multiethnic profile (apart from Jews, one would add Armenians, Poles, Germans, Ruthenians). The foreign travelers and visiting officials of countries having diplomatic ties with the Habsburg Empire admired Lʼviv (Leopolis-the city of lions) for its picturesque outlook. Yet, the vast green areas punctuated by the majestic linden trees, the spectacular facades of eclectic and neo-gothic palaces, and the refinement of the statues were shadowed by the colorfulness and human diversity of the Lvivian streets; a cheerful mob was noisily populating the central districts, where the most visible were Jews with their traditional outfit (32).
Consequently, we chose to present here the portraits of the Jews as one of their brethrens born in Brody, Galicia, by his name Iuliu Barasch, depicted them. Barasch represents an interesting source for this paper. The main reason consists of the fact that he was an emancipated Jew who recounted his extended travel in the years 1840s throughout Danubian Principalities, Bukovina, and Galicia for the liberal German publication Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (33). The Jews portrayed by him were presented neither from a literary, nor from an emotional, nostalgic perspective. This is because Barasch was one of those who advocated the cause of the Eastern Jewry from a modern perspective (e.g the so-called maskilim perspective) that stressed the access to secular education, and to printed press, the existence of newspapers in Hebrew, as well as national awakening, etc.. In which concerns Bucharest, Barasch was seconded by Isac Peltz, one of the most lucid, accurate and, at the same time, powerful intellectuals who described the Jews of Bucharest, and particularly the Jews in search for the otherwise meager daily living. The writings of Peltz, essentially naturalistic, provide a comprehensive image of Jewish Bucharest. This way, a holist image of the nineteenth century Jewry can be issued. Similar to his novels, Isac Peltz was born in Bucharest into a family of impoverished Jews. In interwar time, he became a journalist associated to the leftist circles. He suffered from the anti-Semitic laws in effect in Romania in the years 1940s (34).
Let us return to Barasch. As we shall see, his writings are reflecting both communities investigated in our study. Iuliu Barasch (Jehudah Ben Mordechay Barasch) was born in 1815 in Brody, an important international commercial center and leader of the anti-Hasidic movement in Galicia (35). His family was split a mother coming from a Hasidic Russian family and a more tolerant father, involved in commerce with luxury goods. In fact, in his adult life, Barash would have several attempts to get rid of his mother`s influence; as a five-year boy, he was sent to cheder (36), then, as a teenager, he was married into a traditionalist family, and finally, his professional destination, Jassy in Moldavia, was chosen by his mother on the account that the place was under the influence of Hasidism (37). Yet, supported by his wife as well, he would choose a liberal profession as he considered that the religious vocation places the individual at the mercy of a particular community, whereas the secular calling subordinates the individual to the interests of humanity at large (38). Consequently, he would enroll for the study of Philosophy in Leipzig where, in addition, he started to study medicine; in 1839 he moved to Berlin where he would finish his medical studies, becoming doctor in medical sciences, in 1841. In the same year, he headed Jassy where he participated in a public selection for an official medical position in Moldavia, but he failed so he went further to Bucharest, where he would occupy the positions of doctor of general medicine, and of oculist (39). In the next years, he would climb the professional and social ladder, by being appointed doctor-responsible for entire Southern counties of Walachia, then, surgeon at the first public school of profile, then professor with the prestigious pedagogical institutes of the time (i.e. Sf. Sava) (40). He would die young, in 1863, leaving behind a life filled with titanic deeds. In Walachia, Baraschʼs public activity was typical for the enlightened generation active around 1848. His activity was multiple, his effort tremendous, his results amazing: he established the first pediatric hospital in Bucharest, he was the founder of the first Jewish bilingual newspaper (published in Romanian and French); he was the staunchest promoter of Jewish emancipation in Romanian Principalities.
SYMBOLIC TYPES OF JEWS
What makes Barasch interesting for our study is that he analyzed the Galician realities from the double perspective of the two Jewish communities: he, a Galician Jew, forced to accommodate to the realities of Bucharest, re-discovered his “primary” identity, thus providing a more complex view of the Ashkenazi Jews of his time.
As an aspiring young doctor of the Southern Danubian Principality, Barasch visited his native Galicia in the years 1841-1842. The account of his travel appeared in several installments in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums, in the same period; it was published as an entire piece for the Romanian public only at the end of the nineteenth century. The time and the place of publication are full of significance because this paper represented in the 1840s the platform which drew the attention of the Western Jewry on the peculiar civilizational state in which the Jews of the Ottoman lands found themselves. It was in the pages of the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums that in the 1840 and 1841 a series of articles criticizing the ignorance of Jewish communities there (e.g. poor education), the “undue influence wielded by rabbis”, the traditionalist lifestyle (e.g. too early marriage) (41) reached the Western public opinion, and served to the crystallization of a trend against this state of affairs (e.g. the publication of the “Archives Israélites” can be considered a part of the phenomenon).
Concretely, in this paper, we refer to those pages of Baraschʼs travelogue which describe Lʼviv at the moment of his visit, that is before the ominous 1846 (42), and we analyze the image of the Jews revived by Baraschʼs attempt. Since Barasch tried to render an objective account, and the topics of his presentation were provided by the daily life of Lvivʼs Jewry, we identify those features that were the most visible for the eyes of the emancipated Jew of the last century. Apart from clothing, and general historical context, the most poignant element was provided by the profession of the Jews depicted. In the nineteenth century, the profession of any person was as important as the social category in which he was born, and the distinctive marks of the profession influenced the clothing, the environment, and, the character of the person. In a way, the urban history of the nineteenth century was only superficially related to the architecture. At a deeper level, it was related to the professional identity, both external (e.g. the symbols as displayed on the street), and internal (e.g. the professional prestige and the related mental framework). In other words, the Jewish spirit crowning Lviv in mid- nineteenth century could be apprehended by describing the most commonly met professions.
When referring to the main professional types encountered by Barasch and by the shortly described Isac Peltz on the streets of Lviv and of Bucharest, there should be mentioned firstly the small shopkeeper, and sometimes his wife who was carefully supervising the business of the family whenever the husband was lost in Talmudic ponderings; at this point, one should always keep in mind the delightful accounts of the Austrian writer L. von Sacher-Masoch who wrote unique short stories inspired from the life of Galician Jews (e.g. “Hasara Raba”), or of the modernist Galician Jewish writer Bruno Schulz who, many times, made allusions in his short stories to the Galician shtetls (e.g. “Dead Season”). In addition, a special credit would deserve the exotic and peculiar profession such as the one of the person in charge of arranging the marriages between the traditional Hasidic Galician families. The final category would concern those anonymous peddlers, season workers, tailors, barbers, artists, also those ragamuffins who populated the streets of Bucharestʼs Jewish district.
Upon arrival in the summer of 1841 in the Principalities, in a letter to his family, Barasch issued a harsh criticism of Bucharestʼs society and an important social document: the city was crowned by ignorance; despite what his family thought (i.e. a Jewish doctor would be very welcome in the region due to the absence of specialists), Barasch mentioned that the Jewish doctors were few (four among fifty Christian doctors), where the majority were Austrian (43). It should be added thought, that, in spite of the grey colours sketched, Walachia at the time could boast the fact that non-Christian doctors were allowed nomination in the public positions; in many places around, among which the case of the Russian Empire was the most notorious, Jewish doctors could not be appointed in state paid positions.
In the Principalities, Barasch deplored the state of religious ignorance encountered there (he added that the Sephardic Jews of Walachia were strictly minding their own petty business affairs (44)), yet he considered that this very ignorance could be the fertile ground for sowing the seeds of emancipation (i.e. by learning German, the Sephardic Jews of Walachia would be put in contact with the Jews of other places, hence German was the lingua franca of Jewish Enlightenment (45)).
We have to add that most of the Jewish community of Walachia resided in Bucharest (in 1860, out of 9234 Jews, 5934 were residing in Bucharest). In 1930, 10.9% of Bucharest population were Jews (69.885 Jews) (46). In 1749 there was the first official mentioning of a Jewish community residing on Calea Moşilor (47), the street that would become symbolic in the life of the richer Bucharest Jews. The poorer Jews could be met in Sfânta Vineri area (48), the place where petty commerce was usually going around [see Photo 6]. Barasch noted that most of those approximately 2500 Jews of Bucharest [as of 1841, R.G.] were minding very low-income jobs (inn-keeping, metal processing), usually in the neighborhood of the ex-court (49). The other writer, Isac Peltz, described the Jews of here as being “the poorest of the poorest, whose golden dream was America; the small shop-keeper who would not make the ends meet under the burden of the taxes and of the corrupted officials, would close his shop and seek asylum overseas” (50). Whereas this area was dedicated to business, the residential part itself [for the poor Jews, R.G.] was on Calea Dudeşti-Văcăreşti, and it got established in the seventeenth century (51); that last might be called the Bucharest ghetto.
Shared the views of the enlightened Jewry of the day, Barasch analyzed the background of the countries visited through these filters. Although the focus was on the lands located in the Western and Eastern parts of the San River, he constantly referred to the Jews of the Principalities in the attempt of drafting a comprehensive image of the issues that the Jewish world should confront. Accordingly, the most important were the keeping of the traditional outfit and the isolation of childrenʼs education from secular influences.
In relation to the first, Barasch noticed the “positive discrimination” according to which the public places of Lviv were interdicted to Jews because of their traditionalist gown (i.e. certain neighborhoods were opened strictly to those wearing the so-called “European outfit”) (52). Indeed, so radical were Baraschʼs views concerning the traditional clothing that, even Bucharestʼs environment of the non-intellectual Sephardic Jewry seemed to him more advanced in comparison to his homeland due to the fact that in Walachia Jews would wear the majorityʼs outfit. First and last, Barasch was against the idea of Jews adopting a clothing style that would isolate them from the wider community, irrespective of the type of that community (53) (i.e. he was the supporter of assimilation). In relation to the connection between education and religion, he commented that, so highly praised was the religious aspect in daily life in Galicia, that any family would do any material sacrifice to have a rabbi as one of their family members (54).
In 1841, Galicia had around 80.000 of Jewish families (55). In which concerns the occupational profile, the Jew of Western Galicia was a trader or shop-owner, but not necessarily of local products; rather, the fine Viennese merchandises were the goods sold by him. He would regularly travel to the capital to acquire them. His counterpart of Lʼviv controlled the transit trade between Vienna and Russia, and, this last, was also a frequent participant in the fairs of Brody and Leipzig [see Photo 7], these fairs provided fashionable merchandise to the Polish nobility. The perfect portrait of him was made by the modernist writer Bruno Schulz whose father was the proprietor of a small-shop of textiles and “colonial” merchandise (56). In the short-story “Dead Season” (Martwy sezon) published in the volume The Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass, Schulz described the synchronism existing between the shop and the biological habits of those administering it, as if the shop was a human, and those inhabiting it became some strange creatures, in turn. His father reached a total immersion in the harmonious world created by him:
For which of the present generation of cloth merchants still observed the fine traditions of the ancient art? Which of them still knew, for example, that a column of cloth bales, arranged on the shelves of a cupboard in accordance to the principles of the mercantile art, would emit at the touch of a finger running down them a tone like the scale of a keyboard? (57)
In the sleepy hours and stagnant atmosphere of summer, the entrance of a disoriented customer triggered a chain reaction in the shop, as if a mechanism of minuscule creatures started to function upon request:
Then a village yokel, barefoot and ragged, happened to stop hesitantly (…) This was an opportunity of the highest order for the shop assistants, and they descended the ladders in a flash, like spiders catching sight of a fly (…) So, was it tobacco he was after? Which brand? The very best? Macedonian? Amber-golden? (…) (58)
Lvivian Jew was also dealing with commerce, and this included proprietors of restaurants, coffee houses, and inns; Jews were also owners of distilleries and breweries. In fact, according to Baraschʼs ranking, the Jewish population of Lviv in the years 1840s could be split in: the category of lawyers, physicians and pedagogues, the so called intelligentsia; the category of craftsmen such as shoe-makers, tailors, carpenters, jewelers, lathemen; the category of the traders including, apart from what was mentioned before, the porters, the money lenders; the last category, the least numerous, of the army people, though the Jews were not allowed to occupy higher echelons in the Imperial Army (59).
Although not mentioned as such in his classification, Barasch described at length two positions which, one would say, were unusual, but, in reality, very familiar to Galician context. The first of these was the example of the Jewish wife of a traditionalist husband who replaced her companion in business-related doings. The situation could be met in the Hasidic families, as the husband was involved in his religious studies; many a times the woman was successfully administering the shop located in the town center (60). One of the nicest portraits of these characters, true life-comrades of their husbands in the purest spirit of the Judaic laws, as they proved to be, belongs to Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the son of the ex- governor of Galicia, and author of wonderful stories from the life of poor Galician Jews. The character Peninna Rosenstock of the short-story “Hasara Raba” was a beautiful and assertive woman who fiercely minded her familyʼs business in order to allow her husband time for the study; her husband was an “ilui” (a wise man) whose mission was foremost the study of the Judaic law:
(…) his clever industrious wife kept herself busy in the shop that father Rosenstock had set up for them in their house. She did, indeed, rule the household. At the mere wink of her eye, everything and everyone set off into a whirl of motion, whereas no one paid any attention to the quiet, wise man upstairs (…) The small, vaulted room where she sat enthroned, crowned by her headband, was always filled with people-she had a genuine ability to attract buyers. (61)
Nevertheless, the message of the story was an ironic one. In the same vein with Barasch who criticized the tendency of placing the religious positions too high on the social ladder, Sacher-Masoch implied that Peninnaʼs rich family made those sacrifices (i.e. her husband was from a poor family) in order to respect the social conventions of the traditional community; in the end neither Peninna nor her husband were happy, she because she started to despise her husband, and he, because he proved to be attracted by secular knowledge, becoming an outcast in the eyes of his society.
The other atypical profession described by Barasch was the one of the person who was in charge of arranging the marriages between various families in the traditionalist Jewish community. Barasch was critical at the address of these “mediators” on several accounts: firstly, the age of partnersʼ marriage was a very young one, hence the marriage itself and the action of the mediator became a sort of business; secondly, the ritual and stages of mediation invaded the privacy of the individuals involved, thing considered a taboo by the Hasidic community; lastly, the main characters, the partners were not allowed any autonomous decision, hence the traditional patterns represented an obstacle in the face of emancipation (62).
Barasch commented ironically on other sources of income as well, such as the roife (the barber) and the klezmer (the musician). These were typical appearances in the Bucharest ghetto as well, especially the barber who was, upon need, stylist, doctor or even pharmacist. The musician, the artist, was an improviser par excellance, and his everyday meager existence depended on the caprices of a restaurant owner (i.e. the father and the uncle of the main character depicted by Isac Peltz, Ficu, were…artists in this sense).
In Walachia, initially, Sephardic Jews were involved in money lending for the court, as the Phanariot ruler (63) needed money to support his luxurious lifestyle. Similar to the Ottoman Empire, Jews were physicians at the court (64), and, starting eighteenth century their predominant occupation, the trade (e.g. alcohol selling) was replaced by crafts and other industry-related businesses: textile, leather, food, glass processing; sometimes they mixed the production of the specific goods with their selling (65).
In the same fashion with the small shop-keeper who was the symbol of Lvivian Jew, the mark of the Sephardic Jews of Bucharest were the heroes described by Isac Peltz, namely a poor, destitute community with no lasting earning, forced to perform the lowest level jobs, from prostitution to antiquities selling. Inhabiting Calea Văcăreşti, the place where, as the writer commented ironically, one heard no dog barking, but the geese gaggling (66), was as if one was condemned to a life of no hope:
(…) near the inn, the small houses stood in a line, facing the street and perched on some steps. They were small shops of `colonial` merchandise, and glass, a photo workshop, a petty dance hall, behind, a sort of school, then a small saussage factory, and other promiscuous establishments with ragged and nostalgic owners, nostalgic as they were waiting endlessly for the clients. (67)
The mother of Ficu, the main character of Isac Peltz, would support her family as a sewer of shirts whereas his father was wasting the nights in drinking; the other relatives of Ficu were leading their petty existence dreaming of America and ignoring their more humble brethren; the uncle of Ficu was dying as incompetent and insensitive doctors paid no attention to him; the streets of the neighborhood were decaying because of lack of care from the part of the corrupted authorities, and these all were happening on a daily basis within the confinement of the district called Calea Văcăreşti.
This paper addressed issues related to memory and history by describing the case of Eastern European Jewry. Provided their tragic fate, namely their massive emigration in the last decades of the nineteenth century, followed by their disappearance during the Second World War, the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe represent a good starting point for a discussion on the role of memory in maintaining the identity of endangered communities.
As we have seen, the debates on how a community can be re-constructed are far from being settled. The trauma of the Holocaust still imbues the views. The camps who were more vocal, those who support the re-construction of the Jewish communities from the scratch (i.e. including the ruins of the buildings), as well as those who advocate the impossibility of bringing back to life (e.g. even in a symbolic way) something that ceased to exist in such a tragic way, brought into attention the complexity of the very concept of memory, its fluid nature. Many a times, memory proves to be an unreliable companion. This is more the case when the primary witnesses vanished. The communities of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews of Eastern Europe, once an important part of the population of the region, and active participants in society and economy, represent good examples of how memory functions. Their physical disappearance and the destruction of their possessions, accompanied by the fact that their remaining families live far from the places where these dramatic events took place, create a situation in which memory is put to trial at its best, if we may say so. In other words, the inherent subjectivity of the effort of bringing back to life these communities (e.g. stressing some features that were not relevant to the contemporaries of those communities) is blended with the subjectivity of todayʼs people who have an artificial representation of the ex-Jewish settlements and their general role to the societies of their time. Although our examples in the paper went in a different direction, it is worth mentioning here the case of the ex-Jewish cemeteries and places of ritual. In some cases, where their physical presence can be traced solely via old documents (e.g. maps), the memory of the relatives of those who once were burried there, or inhabited those small settlements come in collision with the memory of the young generations (e.g. those establihed in the region after 1945). In the end, we may talk about a polyphony of memories.
Therefore, the question is: what can be done in this respect? Are the physical re-constructions of the once thriving Jewish districts in the cities of Eastern Europe the right answer to the preservation of the identity of these communities who had a unique contribution to the modernization of the region? The answer is not very straightforward, since the buildings cannot exist if the spirit that populated them once is not there anymore. The symbolism does not exist anymore so then it should be re-built anew. In short, the ruin, the building without the attached symbol is a form without content.
Taking these into account, we appealed to that subject which, by virtue of its interplay of fantasy and reality, may provide a sense of how to cultivate memory among those interested in enriching the physical traces with symbolism, but also in those who need to shape for themselves a proper representation of what once was the Jewish population and its traditions. This is literature. Accordingly, we chose some examples of writers who evoked aspects of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, like Iuliu Barasch, Isac Peltz, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and Bruno Schulz. Above all, we placed Iuliu Barasch because he represents the interesting instance of an emancipated Jew who has a comprehensive perspective of the Jewry of his time. By his moderate and objective approach to Jewish life of his own time, Barasch is a precious source, but also an example of how can one have an analytical view towards a community. These features are needed by both camps that are part of the debate on memory.
(1) Habsburg Monarchy is the generic name given to the lands gathered since the Middle Ages under the command of the House of Austria (e.g. the Habsburg dynasty). In 1772, these possessions were enriched by a new province, which was called Galicia by the Viennese authorities. The name Galicia comes from the town Halych, which was the capital of a Ruthenian Principality in early medieval times. Up to the Austrian administration, this territory was under Polish rule; the Austrians conferred it once again the name Galicia as they intended to revive some Hungarian claims to this Principality, dating from medieval time. J.P.Himka, Religion and Nationality in Western Ukraine…, p. 12.
(2) These were political entities also known as Wallachia and Moldova, once important trade routes connecting the center of the continent with the south (the Orient). They were independent states in the Middle Ages, but starting with the sixteenth century, they gradually lost independence, entering the sphere of political and economic influence of the Ottoman Empire. After their unification in 1859, they came to be known as Romania, later Kingdom of Romania, name associated with the head of the state who was of Prussian dynasty (e.g. Hohenzollern). More details in Hitchins, Rumania 1866-1947, pp. 162-164.
(3) Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoirˮ, p. 3.
(4) Pierre Nora, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoirˮ, p. 8.
(5) Pierre Nora, op. cit., p. 8.
(6) Many a times, the phenomenon of emigration was accompanied by alienation: domestic rituals proved to be exoticisms in the eyes of the adopting countries.
(7) The Hasidic Jews were part of a deeply spiritual movement that spread all over Eastern Europe and got as far as United States via emigration. This movement was initiated by the Rabbi Baal Shem Tov in the eighteenth century in Podolia (region in todayʼs South-Western Ukraine). Closely attached to Torah, Hasidism is based on the conviction that the faithful Jew needs to have a continuous connection to God, therefore not solely through the holly texts. Hasidism submitted to Kabalistic practices (Kabalistic literature was authored by mystics who came from the Sephardic Jewish culture), and preached allegiance to the tzaddik, the mystical leader of the group who exerted a strong influence on his followers. Further details in Israel Bartal, Jewish Culture and Contexts …, pp. 47-49.
(8) W. O. McCagg, “Galicyski impas” in Dzieje Żydów w Monarchii Habsburskiej w latach 1670-1918, p. 157.
(9) See also the photo of a father and sons in Polish Lands-source http://www.zydzipolscy.pl/photo,id,212,letter,I,filter,city.html [accessed 04.11.2016].
(10) I. Barasch, Itinerary throughout Cracow, Galicia, Bukovina, Moldavia and Wallachia during 1841-1842, p. 25.
(11) The Jews of Wallachia originated in the Sephardic branch, whereas those from Moldavia from the Ashkenazi branch.
(12) Gabriel Asandului, Istoria evreilor din România (1866-1938), p. 28.
(13) L. Allerhand, The Jews of Lviv. A Story, p. 34.
(14) L. Allerhand, The Jews of Lviv. A Story, p. 34; two hundred years later, there was an established Jewish neighborhood in the town, as it contained around thirty houses, the names of the streets inspired from the crafts performed by the Jews inhabiting the places (Allerhand, p. 34).
(15) Sephardic communities were those Jewish communities who traditionally inhabited Iberian Peninsula (particularly Spain and Portugal). Following local persecutions in the fifteenth century, they spread all over the world, in the Balkan Peninsula but also in West Asia. In the Ottoman Empire, Sephardic Jewry reached prominent positions due to their connections with the wider European circles; in the sixteenth, seventeenth centuries, they were diplomats, they were court doctors, acting thus as interface between the Ottoman and the European worlds. See E. Benbassa, A. Rodrigue, E. Benbassa, A. Rodrigue, Sephardi Jewry. A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community 14th-20th Centuries (Chapter “Economy and Culture”), p. 38.
(16) Ashkenazi communities were those Jewish communities who traditionally inhabited the lands of the Holy Roman Empire; starting Middle Ages, they would particularly inhabit what is now labeled as Central and Eastern Europe. More information on the origins of Sephardic and of Ashkenazi Jews in Laurence Silberstein, Mapping Jewish Identities, New York University Press, 2000; Harvey E. Goldberg, The Life of Judaism, University of California Press, 2001; David Biale, Cultures of the Jews: a new History, Shoken Books, 2002; Alan Kevin Brook, “The Origins of East European Jews” in Russian History, vol. 30, nos. 1-2, pp. 1-22.
(17) POLIN. Studies in Polish Jewry vol. 12, p. 9.
(18) Op cit, vol. 12, p. 9.
(19) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), Histories and Images of Jewish Bucharest, pp.11, 13. Other Sephardic Jews of the Ottoman Empire like those of Rhodes: http://www.rhodesjewishmuseum.org/museum/family-photos [accessed 04.11.2016].
(20) More information about the Salonika Jews, including photos: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/sephardimsalonica.html [accessed 06.11.2016]
(21) “At the turn of the century [twentieth, R.G.], Salonika was connected by rail to Bosnia and Serbia and from there to Vienna, as well as to Istanbul” (see “Eastern Sephardi Jewry in the Era of Westernization” in E. Benbassa, A. Rodrigue, op.cit, p. 81.
(22) See “Economy and Culture” in E. Benbassa, A. Rodrigue, op.cit, p.40.
All these historical relations, telling for the life of the second most powerful community of Sephardic Jewry [the first was on the Spanish territory], came to an end in August 1917 when a fire destroyed most of the Jewish quarter of Salonika, causing material losses on a surface of 120 hectares, basically the entire old Jewish town; the synagogues, the houses of the 80% of the inhabitants, the infrastructure vanished in no time. The city lost forever its Jewish character, since the nationalist Greek authorities, not only that did not reconstruct the area, but they also used the opportunity to push the Jewish population to the city peripheries. See “Eastern Sephardi Jewry in the Era of Westernization”, pp. 97-98.
(23) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), Histories and Images of Jewish Bucharest, p.13.
(24) In a way, Bucharest witnessed beforehand the Yugoslavian case, where, after the dismemberment of the Turkish and Habsburg Empires, Sephardic Jews of here would be mixed with the Ashkenazi Jews of the Habsburg lands (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia). E. Benbassa, A. Rodrigue, op cit., p. 66.
(25) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op cit. , p.17.
(26) “What`s to be done?” in R.E. Gruber, Upon the Doorposts of Thy House…., p. 209.
(27) J. Webber, Rediscovering Traces of Memory. The Jewish Heritage of Polish Galicia, p. 14.
(28) R.E.Gruber, op. cit, p. 187.
(29) The word, “doorpost” in Hebrew, came to mean several things, of which the parchment where Torah lines (e.g. more precisely a Jewish prayer) are written and, at the same time, the case where this parchment is kept. Mezuzah is located on the doorframes of the house (usually at the entrance door) and it roughly symbolizes the fact that the specific household is guided after the Jewish laws. J. Webber, op. cit., p. 37. See also Alexander Poltorak, A Light Unto My Path: a Mezuzah Anthology. New York: Maon Noam, 2011.
(30) R.E.Gruber, op. cit, pp. 222, 223.
(31) See POLIN op. cit, vol. 12, p. 9.
(32) K. Dunin-Wąsowicz, ,,Obraz Krakowa i Galicji w XIX wieku w relacjach francuskich podróżników i pamiętnikarzyˮ (The Image of Nineteenth Century Cracow and Galicia in the Writings of the French Travellers and Memorialists) in W. Bonusiak, J. Buszko, Galicja i jej dziedzictwo (Galicia and its Heritage), pp. 126, 127.
(33) This publication of German language appeared in 1837 in Leipzig and it mainly displayed a secular outlook in which regards the life of Jewry settled all over the world (the focus was on the civil rights of the Jews). Later, the journal was published in Berlin by Rudolf Mosse, famous figure of the German publishing world of the nineteenth century. See http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1262-allgemeine-zeitung-des-judenthums [last accessed, 15th October, 2016].
(34) See O. Crohmălniceanu, ,,I. Peltz,” in Romanian Literature Between the Two World Wars, pp. 344–345.
(35) In Brody there was 80% Jewish population, of which many rich traders (Brody was a duty-free city inside the Austrian Empire). Secular schools in which German was the official language had populated the city since the end of the eighteenth century. The national loyalties of the Jews went in the direction of Vienna. It was only natural then that this environment of secular, rich and independent Jews would not submit to the Chasidic movement [version of radical Judaism comprising many elements of mysticism], being instead supporters of Haskalah [Jewish Enlightenment]. See W. O. McCagg, ,,Galicyski impas” in Dzieje Żydów w Monarchii Habsburskiej w latach 1670-1918, pp. 158, 161.
(36) The word “cheider” (room in Hebrew) refers to a type of elementary school for boys where they were taught the essentials of Hebrew and of the religion. It was established at the end of the eighteenth century, as a counter effort to the spreading Jewish Enlightenment. See among the many sources which refer to this: F. Kiryk (ed.), Żydzi w Małopolsce. Studia z dziejów osadnictwa i życia społecznego (The Jews in Southern Poland. Studies from the History of the Settlement and the Social Life). Przemyśl:bez wydawca, 1991.
(37) M. Schwarzfeld, Iuliu Barasch: The Man, The Work; Selected Writings, pp. 18, 19.
(38) M. Schwarzfeld, op.cit, p. 25.
(39) M. Schwarzfeld, op.cit, p. 29.
(40) M. Schwarzfeld, op.cit, pp. 40, 41.
(41) E. Benbassa, A. Rodrigue, op.cit , pp. 73,74.
(42) 1846 is known as the year of ,,rabacjaˮ, the bloody upheaval of Galician peasants against the noblemen who were Polish in the greatest majority. Since it is believed that the peasants were instigated by the Austrian authorities against the revolutionary Poles, the eternal “trouble-makers” in the Monarchy as they were fiercely fighting for their national interests thus undermining the fragile balance instituted by the Viennese authorities, the event became a mark of the province and serious warning that the nationality issues there represented a very unsettling reality (i.e. Polish nobles and Polish intelligentsia understood that the national allegiance of peasantry was not necessarily a Polish one).
(43) M. Schwarzfeld, op.cit., pp. 30, 31.
(44) I. Barasch, Itinerary throughout Cracow, Galicia, Bukovina, Moldavia and Wallachia during 1841-1842, pp. 127, 130.
(45) I. Barasch, op.cit., p. 134.
(46) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), Histories and Images of Jewish Bucharest, p.31.
(47) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op.cit., p.16.
(48) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op.cit, p.20.
(49) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op.cit., p.82.
(50) I. Peltz, Calea Văcăreşti, p. 54.
(51) A. Ciuciu, “Silent Witnesses. The Jewish Stores in the Dudeşti-Văcăreşti Quarter” , p. 197.
(52) I. Barasch, op.cit., p. 29. There are many places in his writing where Barasch kept returning to the uselesness (financial waste included) of some decorations of the womenʼs traditional outfit (e.g. the head bands made of precious stones that was mandatory for a young woman to have upon becoming a wife).
(53) I. Barasch, op.cit., pp.104, 116.
(54) I. Barasch, op.cit., p. 38.
(55) I. Barasch, op.cit., p. 16.
(56) It is true, not in Lviv, but in Drohobycz; yet, the content of the description is completely relevant to Lvivian context, as well.
(57) See http://www.schulzian.net/translation/sanatorium.htm, pp. 129, 130 [last accessed 16th October 2016].
(58) See http://www.schulzian.net/translation/sanatorium.htm, p. 134 [last accessed 16th October 2016].
(59) I. Barasch, op.cit., pp. 20, 21.
(60) I. Barasch, op.cit., pp. 28, 29.
(61) L. von Sacher-Masoch, “Hasara Raba” in A Light for Others and other Jewish Tales from Galicia, p. 46.
(62) I. Barasch, op.cit., pp. 26, 38-40.
(63) The name of the rulers in Danubian Principalities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; Phanar was the name of the neighborhood in Constantinople where these people of mixed Greek, Albanian origin were coming from; they occupied official positions in the lands under the Ottoman rule.
Later, in the nineteenth century, rich Jewish figures like Solomon Halfon, Manoah Hillel would become official money lenders of the state as the main financial supporters of the army.
(64) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op.cit., p.15.
(65) F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op.cit., p.17. The tailors represented such a powerful community that, throughout eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, their guild got the permission to establish their own house of prayer-see F. Waldman, A. Ciuciu (eds.), op.cit., p. 30.
(66) Henri Stahl quoted by A. Oişteanu, “The Occupational Profile” in The Image of the Jew in Romanian Culture. A Study of Image in Eastern-Central European Context, p. 214.
(67) I. Peltz, op.cit., p. 89.
The Photos explained:
Picture 1: Hasidic Jew, old photo-source https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/248120260690619270/ [accessed 02.11.2016]
Picture 2: Ashkenazi Jews in Central and Eastern Europe-source Fortepan: http://fortepan.hu/?tags=judaism&x=13&y=6&view=query&lang=en&q=
Picture 3: Ashkenazi Jews, most probably traders-source https://ro.pinterest.com/pin/287526757439968124/ [accessed 06.11.2016]
Picture 4: Turkish Jews of the Late Ottoman Period-source http://yingce.tumblr.com/post/13695419441/turkish-jews-ottoman-empire [accessed on 06.11.2016]
Picture 5: Typical Sephardic Dress of a Bulgarian Jewish Girl-source http://fyeaheasterneurope.tumblr.com/post/21200873158/young-jewish-girl-dressed-in-a-characteristically [accessed 05.11.2016]
Picture 6: Bazaar where one can find Sephardic Jews; most probably taken in Sarajevo around the turn of the century, but illustrative for the entire Ottoman area-source Fortepan: http://fortepan.hu/?tags=Sarajevo%2C+&x=10&y=8&view=query&lang=en&q=
Picture 7: Postal card having in the background a Synagogue; most probably located in Hungary, but the market square resembles the city centre of all cities of Central and Eastern Europe having a majority of Jewish population-source Fortepan: http://fortepan.hu/?tags=judaism&x=17&y=6&view=query&lang=en&q=
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