Monday, August 15, 2011

Exploring Jewish Iasi

I honestly don't feel very Jewish; in recent years I've resonated more with invented ritual and Pagan practices. Nonetheless, the primary reason I am an American and not a Romanian was the Jewish persecution my grandfather and great grandmother experienced prior to their migration to New York City in the mid-1890s. Thus my only connection to their lives was tracing down the remainders of Jewish life here in Iasi.

Equipped with the address of the main synagogue I was directed to a local bus. One of the passengers told me approximately where to get off; then I proceeded to wander in the wrong direction. I approached a young guy who spoke a little English and helped me sort it out. Eventually we found a plain yellow building and were told by the attendant that it was "closed." Then I found a rabbinical looking man and asked if he might have known anyone from the Moskovici (Moskowitz) family. He wasn't sure, but maybe. He and some other rabbi-types agreed to pose for a picture. Then after requesting to use the building bathroom, somehow the attendant decided the synagogue wasn't "closed" and let me in to take pictures. It is small...there are perhaps 400 Jews living in Iasi today. After making a small donation, he warmed up and encouraged my photographic exploration. He suggested that I go to the Jewish Cemetery that sits above the city to continue my exploration.

After wandering in a local park park and buying some Romanian-made lace table cloths, I decided to continue on my little pilgrimage. I approached a kind taxi-driver and explained that I wanted a lift to the cemetery and then a ride back to my hotel, being that my head was in the clouds regarding directions. He agreed to do it for 30 lei ($10) which seemed like a bargain to me.

Upon arrival at the cemetery he joined me in my search for Moscovici (Moskowitz) gravestones. We found several...who knows they could be relatives:) We looked high and low for the stone of Sura Moscovici my great grandmother, but didn't actually find hers. We did see a lot of Rosentals, Goldenbergs, Markovicis, and Hirshs. It was altogether beautiful! My driver seemed more determined than I to really find my true great grandmother's gravestone. To me it didn't really matter. I was more looking to connect with a feeling of rootedness. And that I did feel. At the cemetery I chatted with some Jews from Israel whose families had left Romania in 1938--they commented that they return to this piece of homeland every so often. It was my first time. Inside I felt tears of joy that I had finally arrived, for however remote my connection to here might in fact be.

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