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Timisoara

TIMISOARA

TIMISOARA (Rom. Timişoara ; Hung. Temesvár ), city in the Banat, Transylvania, W. *Romania; between 1552 and 1716 an important center of the Turkish administration; subsequently within *Hungary until 1918. The city comprises several quarters, whose individual development is still evident and affected the history of the local Jews who established separate communal organizations in them. The first Jews arrived in Timisoara before the Turkish conquest by the trade route between *Turkey and Central Europe. At first they came temporarily, on business, but by the first half of the 16th century there were permanent Jewish settlers. The oldest tombstone in the Jewish cemetery dates from 1636 commemorating the "rabbi and surgeon" Azriel Asael. The beginnings of communal organization date from that era. When the Austrians captured the city from the Turks in 1716, the peace treaty included a provision permitting the Jews there to choose either to retreat with the Turks or to remain under the Austrians. Some chose to remain. There were then about 12 Turkish-Sephardi families. In 1736 R. Meir *Amigo of Constantinople and four other Sephardi Jews were authorized to settle in the city. Amigo organized communal life and did much to help the Jews of Timisoara. As the economic situation of Timisoara began to improve, Jews were attracted to the city from other parts of Hungary and as far away as Austria and Moravia. They mainly engaged in commerce.

When under direct Austrian rule, however, the situation of the Jews in Timisoara was more difficult than in any other part of Hungary. The Jewish legislation (Judenordnung) of 1776 for Jews in the Banat region placed many restrictions on the Jews of Timisoara but their situation improved when the region was returned to Hungary in 1779.

Two synagogues, one Sephardi and one Ashkenazi, were built in 1762. The Sephardi congregation continued to exist independently until after World War ii. A magnificent synagogue was erected for the main Ashkenazi congregation in 1862. After the Hungarian General Jewish Congress of 1868–69, the community of Timisoara declared itself Neologist. A separate Orthodox congregation was formed in 1871. An Orthodox synagogue was built in 1895. After World War ii the congregations were unified by government order.

The Jewish population numbered 155 in 1716; 220 in 1739; 72 families in 1781; 1,200 persons in 1840; 2,202 in 1858; 4,870 (c. 15% of the total population) in 1890; 6,728 (9.2%) in 1910; and 9,368 (10%) in 1930.

In general, the Jews of Timisoara were well-to-do and were able to finance ample communal activities. A ramified educational network was established. Efforts were made to found a Jewish school in 1825. Two schools were opened in different quarters of the city in the 1840s. Between the two world wars, under Romanian administration, two Jewish high schools were established, one general and one commercial. The language of instruction was Romanian, although Hebrew was also taught. The Jews continued to speak Hungarian and German in Timisoara, where German culture was more widespread than in the other towns of Transylvania.

Timisoara was an important Zionist center. A Zionist organization was founded there between the two world wars. Timisoara was the headquarters of the Zionist Organization, *Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet le-Israel), and Palestine Foundation Fund (*Keren Hayesod) in Transylvania. The National Jewish Party was active in the city, and won support in the elections. Between 1920 and 1940 the periodical of the Transylvanian Zionist Organization, Uj Kor, was published in Timisoara. These organizations tried to continue after World War ii but in 1947–48 they were forced to disband.

Throughout the period between the two world wars the community suffered from antisemitism. In 1936 the *Iron Guard attacked a Jewish theater audience, exploding a bomb in their midst; two Jews were killed and many were wounded.

Holocaust and Contemporary Periods

From 1940 the position of the Jews deteriorated, because of economic restrictions and confiscations. In 1941 many Jewish men were sent to forced labor. The Jewish population, which numbered 10,950 in 1940, increased to 11,788 in 1942 because many Jews from surrounding areas were concentrated in Timisoara, the local Jewish community having to support them. Later all the communal property was confiscated, including land. Until 1945 Timisoara was the center of the German organizations of the Banat region. In 1944 the local German civilian organization also took action against the Jews, but in September of that year the Red Army entered the city.

After the war the National Jewish Organization, formed to assist the Communist Party program, established a branch in Timisoara, and its leaders attempted to liquidate Zionism and impose Communism. Jews were accused of underground Zionist activity, and some were imprisoned, including the author Ezra Fleischer. There were 13,600 Jews in Timisoara in 1947, but their number gradually decreased through emigration to Israel and other countries; 3,000 Jews remained in 1971. The communal organizations still functioned, there was a rabbi, and religious services were held. Although their numbers continued to dwindle, Jews played a part, mostly after 1989, in the renewal of the city's and district's general cultural life.

bibliography:

mhj, 3 (1937), docs. nos. 149, 152–3, 227, 354, 360–367, 369, 370–458, 477; 8 (1965), 280; 9 (1966), 429; 10 (1967), 285; 11 (1968), 325, 423, 462; 13 (1970), 45; pk Romanyah, 1 (1969), 308–15 (incl. bibl.); S. Yiẓḥaki, Battei-Sefer Yehudim be-Transylvanyah (1970), 59–68, 174.

[Yehouda Marton]

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