Romania Jewish Tours provided us with historical background, visits to significant Jewish sites, and memorable experiences. Our guide, Eduard Popescu, the owner/manager of Romania Jewish Tours is knowledgeable, pleasant, and eager to share information and anecdotes about Jewish history and present day life of the Jewish people in Romania.
My husband and I spent a day with Eduard visiting Jewish Institutions in Bucharest and were impressed with his knowledge of and contacts in the community. Popescu was educated in Jewish schools and has a lifelong relationship with many of the Jewish community's leaders.
The Great Synagogue was the first stop on our tour. This building has a classical Baroque design and was constructed in 1847. A chapel was added in 1909 for small services and daily prayer services called minyans.
Mr. Streja, a longtime member of the congregation, guided us through the complex as he commented on some of the events in Jewish history in Romania. Bulletin boards depicted articles about World War I Jewish heroes as well as events leading up to and during the Holocaust.
Jewish Theater still exists in Bucharest. Thanks to the support of the local Romanian population, the theater was never closed, even during World War II (WWII). We were psyched and ready to see a performance, even though we don’t speak Yiddish, but it was sold out. While we missed out personally, we were glad to hear that it is vibrant and in demand.
The Jewish History Museum is housed in the former Union Temple and was partially funded through the efforts of Dr. Moses Rosen. We learned that prior to WWII, there were 800,000 Jews in Romania. Half of them survived, but most of the survivors left during Communist years. Today there are 10,000 Jews in Romania and 5,000 in Bucharest.
There is a Jewish Community Center in Bucharest which serves as a social and spiritual center for the remaining Jewish population. Buses run every day and Friday night to bring in elderly residents to the center. It includes a meeting place for teens and a radio station.
You can find Shalom Romania under call letters www.jcc.ro
We then visited the Filantropia Jewish Cemetery. It started in 1863 and is located behind a wall near the center of Bucharest. A lot of history is contained on the grounds. Eduardo told us that there are 800 Jewish cemeteries in Romania.
Popescu was able to take us into the Floral Synagogue which is presently being remodeled. Remodeling is partially funded by the Joint Distribution Committee aka JDC and the Romanian government and should be completed by the end of 2014.
The Holocaust Memorial in memory of the Gypsy as well as the Jewish victims of the Nazis is a must see. It was designed by Romanian born Peter Jacobi and funded by the Romanian government. Putting a positive spin on a structure bringing out the memories of horror is difficult. Jacobi uses combinations of granite and rusted squares to depict the sadness.
A railroad track is shown on the ground as well as a fragmented Star of David.
The seven meter high building has a glass roof and metal beams. Light and shadows are reflected on the floor of black, polished granite.
The Chabad has a facility and welcomes residents and visitors.
It would be extremely difficult to visit the various Jewish institutions in Bucharest unless you knew the city. Edward Popescu aka Romania Jewish Tours knows the city and the Jewish leaders that are part of it. He was able to gain us into sites that we would not have been able to on our own. Romania Jewish Tours is also active in search your roots in all parts of Romania.
Edward specializes in one-to-one or small group tours custom designed for the specific requests of the tourist. He is personable, professional, and knowledgeable and we would recommend him highly. Popescu also manages Medieval Tours, which focuses on general Romanian tours.