Cajal, Nicolae

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CAJAL, NICOLAE (1919–2004), medical scholar and communal leader in Romania. Born in Bucharest, the son of the physicist Marcu Cajal, he studied medicine at Bucharest University and Caritas School for Jewish Students of Medicine (during the Holocaust period), became a doctor in 1944, and began work as a microbiologist. He taught virology at Bucharest University, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, becoming a professor and head of the Department of Virology (1966). As deputy director (1953–67) and director (1967–94) of the Institute of Inframicrobiology of the Romanian Academy, he published some 400 scholarly works in this field and edited the Revista Romana de Virusologie ("Romanian Review of Virology," 1967–2004). He was a corresponding member (1964) and member (1990) of the Romanian Academy, becoming president of the Section of Medical Sciences. He was also president of the Consultative Council for Research and Development of Romania (1991–95) and president of the Menachem Elias Foundation and Hospital created through the will of Jewish banker Jacques Elias (1921). Cajal was active in the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Romania. After the death in 1994 of Chief Rabbi Moses Rosen, who had served as president, Cajal became the first elected president of the Federation since the 1989 revolution, serving from 1994 to 2004. He fought against post-Communist antisemitism, proposing the "real semitism" thesis, the idea of a cultural and intellectual dialogue between Jews and non-Jews. Cajal attempted to rebuild Jewish life in Romania, developed existing Jewish institutions, and encouraged the founding of others, such as a school and publishing house. He used his personal relationships with members of the Romanian leadership in order to obtain the return of Jewish community property nationalized by the Communist regime. Cajal developed good relations with Israel and with the Romanian Jews living there and in other countries.


"Cajal-80," in: Caietele culturale, 5 (1999).

[Lucian-Zeev Herscovici (2nd ed.)]