(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program blog; the views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jewish life in Romania

Last week I had lunch at "the Jewish Canteen." The Jewish Canteen is a kosher kitchen and dining hall that serves the 200 or so of the Jewish community in Cluj.  Talk about a small market segment!  You can't just go there on your own.  Non-Jewish people have to be invited by someone in the community.  You have to call in your reservation the day before, they only cook enough food for the people they have coming.
Nancy, Kent, Eleonore, and Jake at the Synagogue, Botoșani
   You walk down a street, turn into a parking lot for a TV production company and auto repair shop.  Walk around to the back of the building where there is a courtyard, and you will see the dining hall.  Go in the door, check in with the porter, pay, get your disposable yarmulke, and go sit down for lunch.  They bring it out for guests, but it looked like the locals went back in the kitchen to get their own.  The food was tasty and filling: a chicken broth, a bean puree with beef cutlet, pickle salad (murați), and a white cake for desert. 
     Jake Shulman-Metz and I were meeting with members of the Cluj Klezmer band to discuss venues for Jake's concert tour in June.  My department chair, who is Jewish, introduced us to a young man who is doing his doctoral dissertation on Jewish music,  he took us to the Jewish Canteen and introduced us to the members of the Klezmer band.
Jewish Transit House, Cluj
    Back in October, Duncan McDougall and I went to the Elie Wiesel Musuem in Sighet.  It was sobering to learn the extent of the Holocaust in Romania.  In the 1930 census in the county of Maramures there were 39,000 Jews, less than 4,000 in 1948.  At age 15, Elie Wiesel and his family were deported to Auschwitz where his mother died. Just before the Allied troops defeated Germany, the Germans moved the entire Auschwitz prison camp to Buchenwald, "The Long Walk."  Elie's father died from exhaustion on the walk.
    When the allies liberated Buchenwald, Elie, a 16 year old orphan, felt that he had no home to return to, so he chose to emigrate to Paris where he completed a degree in philosophy at the Sorbonne.
     A quote of Elie Wiesel from the museum : "Indifference is not a beginning; it is the end. And therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor--never the victim."

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