“Birlad” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Romania, Volume 1
(Romania)

46°14' / 27°40'

Translation of “Birlad” chapter from Pinkas Hakehillot Romania

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1969




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Toby Sanchez

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to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Romania,
Volume 1, pages 17-21, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1969


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(pages 17-21)
 

Birlad, Romania (Barlad, Berlad)

Translated by Alex P. Korn

 County capital of Tutova, on the Barlad River. It is also a train station between Iasi and Galati, 51 kilometers from Tecuci, 52 kilometers from Vaslui and 142 kilometers north of Galati. In the fifteenth century it was already known as a commercial center, thanks to its geographical location on the road connecting Galati with Suceava and Iasi.

Jewish Population

YearNumber % of Jews in General Population
1803120 
1820204 
1831401 
18592,00117.9%
18995,88324.2%
19105,000 
19303,72714.2%
19413,063 
19423,224 
19473,100 

Until the End of World War I

The Beginning of Jewish Settlement:

Jews first settled in the town during the first half of the seventeenth century. We know this from inscriptions found on gravestones in the old Jewish cemetery located in the centre of the city. In a document dating from the year 1738 there is mention of a “starosta” [Polish: a community leader] who stood at the head of the Jewish guild, which is assumed to have been established as far back as the preceding century. The traveler Boscovici relates about the Jews who dwelt in the city in the year 1762. A Romanian certificate from 1769 deals with Jewish merchants of Barlad and also, at the same time, informs us that there was a “Street of the Jewish Storekeepers”.

Economic Life:

Barlad served as a wheat marketing centre for all the neighbouring counties. In the year 1887, out of the 954 merchants, 389 were Jews. The large flour mill serving the county was built by Jews.

At the end of the nineteenth century the Jewish population's economic situation deteriorated due to persecutions against them, and it was the middlemen and merchants who suffered in particular. The Romanian merchants in Barlad opposed the discrimination against their Jewish colleagues, and in 1898 presented their objections to the ministry of Commerce in Bucharest opposing the decision by the local office of commerce to remove the Jewish middlemen.

Persecution:

In the year 1867 the Christians brought a libel against the Jews in Barlad accusing them of killing a monk. The rabble fell upon Jewish homes. The government ordered an investigation into the matter, and the Minister of the Interior announced in parliament that the Jews were at fault in this incident. In 1868 another riot occurred because of the feud between a Greek and a Jew. In the year 1870 the French consul protested against the persecution of the Jews in Barlad and demanded intervention by the responsible world powers. (See below.) In the year 1886 a new wave of persecution occurred which brought about the beginnings of Jewish emigration out of the city.

In the fall of 1899 emigration from Barlad increased. Every two to three days about ten to fifteen families left. At the beginning of 1900 the flow of emigration had been established to such an extent that it was from Barlad that the initiative to emigrate spread throughout the country. It became the movement known as “Emigration on Foot”. In the spring of that year two organized groups of “Emigrants on Foot” left the country, one of them consisting of seventy-two souls and the second of thirty- eight.

In addition to the persecutions in the city itself, the county head forced the Jewish residents of the towns and villages to leave the agricultural centres; and, the evacuees came to the county capital, where they also joined the movement for emigration. (See below.)

The total number of Jews who left Barlad between the years 1899 and 1902 came to six hundred. The emigrees even published a newsletter for themselves, “Emigrantii”, “Dati Ajutor” and a newsletter for women with the Hebrew name, “Bat Ami” [”Daughter of My People”].

In 1907 an anti-Semitic club was established by teachers, priests and political leaders. This club incited the students of the gymnasium [high school] to riot against the Jews. Two of the students who took part in the riots were expelled from the school, and, in protest against their expulsion, the others organized and equipped themselves with axes and clubs, and burst into the Jewish quarter destroying and looting. Eighty shops owned by Jewish merchants and craftsmen were damaged during the rampage.

Organization of the Jewish Community

From an inscription found on a gravestone in the Iasi cemetery we learn that in 1831 a Rabbi Binyamin Bins, who had served as vice-president of the Jewish community at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Barlad, was killed and there buried.

A progressive leadership was organized in Barlad in the year 1870, but disbanded in 1885 because of the rift between followers of the more orthodox rabbi and the supporters of the modern rabbi, Rabbi Isaac Taubes (See below). The meat tax was abolished, and the community institutions became impoverished.

In 1896 activities of the Kehillah [Jewish self-government] were renewed and with them the meat tax was restored. In 1901, alongside the Kehillah an “Assistance Council” was in operation, because the Kehillah had ceased tobe able to supply all the needs of the community. The soup kitchen for the community's poor was supported by monies from the Jewish Colonization Association. In 1891 the hospital was revived after it had been closed during the crisis in the community; it had been necessary to reestablish it, because the city hospital had stopped admitting Jewish patients. In the year 1899 a new special building was built for the Jewish hospital.

Education:

A modern public Jewish school was founded in Barlad in the year 1873, with the initiative of the bureau of the “Bnei Brit Tzion” (”The Covenanters of Zion”] and with the support of the community. From 1875 the school was maintained by the Bnei Brit but, because of a lack of means, it was closed in that same year, and was re-opened no less than seven years later. In 1883 it was closed again and then opened a third time in 1896, with the renewal of the community's activities. In the year 1874 the office of the Bnei Brit also opened a public school for young women, which closed within a year. In 1882 evening classes for adults were held.

In the year 1910 the boys' school had 236 students, and the girls' school 235 students. In the “cheders” [traditional religious schools; “cheder” = “room”] 200 boys were being educated. In the governmental schools there were 30 male and25 female students in that year.

Rabbis:

Among the rabbis that served in Barlad mention must be made of Rabbi Isaac Taubes (1834-1920), who was a descendent of Rashi [Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhakil, grandson of Rabbi Aharon Moshe Taubes from Iasi and the son of Rabbi Michael Taubes from Vaslui. In 1862 he gained official recognition from Prince Cuza as rabbi of Barlad. Rabbi Taubes was the first rabbi in Romania who gave his sermons in the Romanian language. He participated in the struggle for the granting of rights to Jews, and in the battles against anti-Semitism and against the “Jewish oath”. In 1868 he published a pamphlet in Romanian which was translated later into English and German by the Alliance Israelite Universelle on the topic “The Jews of Romania and the Bratiano Government”. In 1872 he anonymously published a booklet on the persecution of Jews in Romania. This booklet also was translated by the Alliance into English, French and German, and caused a stir in the Romanian parliament. In the same year Rabbi Taubes started 'a propaganda campaign in Europe for the granting of aid to the Jews emigrating from Romania. Due to his influence a conference of Jewish leaders was convened in Brussels to discuss the matter, but the idea was not accepted by them. In 1891, Taubes published a pamphlet which was a polemic against the famous anti-Semitic leader, Ceaur-Aslan. Rabbi Taubes worked to establish secular schools in Barlad, Husi, Tecuci, Vaslui, Braila and in other places. He translated the poems of the Romanian poet Vasile Alecsandri into Hebrew. Also, he published articles in the Hebrew press on the situation of the Jews in Romania. (On his importance in the field of Halacha [Jewish religious law] see below).

In Barlad, there also served Rabbi Shimshon, the son of Rabbi Moshe Thene, who was born in 1857, and began his term in 1889. Among his works are “Midot Chachamim” [”Qualities of the Wise”] (Sighet, 5669 [1909/10]) and “Ziv HaShemesh” [”Radiance of the Sun”] (Sighet, 5670).

Zionist Activities:

In the year 1881 a branch of the movement “Yishuv Eretz Yisrael” [”Settlement in the Land of Israel”] was established in Barlad. In 1883 a group of twenty families was organized in order to purchase land in Israel and to emigrate there. In the year 1896 the association of “Bnei Tzion” [”Children of Zion”] was established, and in 1897 a branch of “Chovevei Tzion” [”Lovers of Zion”] in memory of Max Nordau was founded in the city. For the support of this branch, a tax on meat, bread and kerosene was imposed. In the year 1898 a women's association was established called “Bettulat Bat Yehudah” [”Virgin Daughter of Judea”]. In 1910 a Zionist culture club named after Max Nordau was established by the students of the gymnasium. At the head of this club stood Michael Landau, who served as representative in the Romanian parliament. All the students who participated in the establishment of the club were expelled from the gymnasium for one year. Between the years 1913 and 1919 a monthly Zionist publication called, “Bar Kochba”, appeared in Barlad.

Between the Two World Wars

Public and Political Life:

In 1918, 235 of Barlad's Jews received Romanian citizenship, and citizenship was granted to an additional 736 Jews in 1919.

Barlad's Jews participated in public life, and their representatives took part in the city council. Among them was the local rabbi, Dr. I. Taubes, who served as a permanent representative. In the elections that took place in 1930 four Jewish members were elected to the city council.

Jewish participation in Romanian political parties had a bad effect on Jewish communal unity. In 1919 the Jewish self-government [the Kehillahl renewed its activities and a new council was elected. In 1920, Jews who were members of the People's Party of General Averescu succeeded in obtaining appointments to a new council of the Kehillah. The council was appointed by the county leader and by the mayor. This caused a rift in the community, which led to the diminishing of its income; and, the hospital and soup kitchen next to the school were closed because of the resulting budget deficit. The Jewish community council ordered a general meeting in order to come to a decision on raising the rate of the meat tax. During the meeting an argument broke out, and several speakers blamed the council on the interference of Romanian political parties in the internal affairs of the Jewish community. The council was forced to disband, and in its place was chosen a new council with representation from the synagogue and the local Jewish organizations. The new council made public a statement of principles that put an end to the interference of Romanian political parties in the life of the Jewish community. In the year of 1921, the Kehillah acquired the status of an official legal body.

In 1926 the Jewish cemetery, which had been destroyed during the First World War by the Russian army, was renovated. In 1934 the meat tax was canceled and in its place direct taxes were instituted. In 1930 the Jewish community's boys' school received the status of a public school.

Just before the outbreak of the Second World War there were eight synagogues and prayer rooms, and three Jewish cemeteries, two of which were ancient.

Persecution of the Jews:

In the period between the two world wars Barlad was a center of pogroms. The Christian teachers in the government gymnasium, headed by the school principal Cezar Ursu,, used to regularly incite the students against the Jews. Their pogroms increased when the students in the Romanian universities began to demand a “numerus clausus” against Jews. Whenever the Jewish youth had any kind of cultural event, they used to organize anti-Semitic demonstrations.

The Jews convened a protest meeting and demanded the establishment of an official inquiry into the riots, which should include on its board two representatives from the Jewish community. They sent representatives to the county head, and demanded that he take action to restrain the students by making an announcement expressing the authorities' reservations concerning the violent actions against the Jews. The chief of police suggested to the Jews that they close their stores during the riots, and the authorities did not take any action.

In October of 1922 the riots reached new heights. The pretext was the raising of the blue and white flag side by side with the Romanian flags on the occasion of the celebrations in honor of the king's coronation. The students broke into the Jewish quarter, smashed windows and destroyed everything that came their way. The police reacted by arresting several Jewish merchants. Among the instigators of the riot were some of the local leaders of the Peasants' Party. However, their own party did not view their actions favourably and it forced them to resign.

In December 1922, a group of Jewish youth was about to organize a hobby display. The Christian students who arrived from the university of Iasi opposed this, and the police forbade the setting up of the display. That same day the students ran wild and destroyed Jewish homes, while the police stood at a distance. one Jew shot his pistol in defense and injured one of the attackers. He was arrested together with his wife and his mother, and the three of them were tortured in jail, so much so that the mother died from the torture. The lawyers' society forbade its members to defend the Jew, and the administration of the Jewish community was forced to make a public statement decrying the action of self defense. The head of the community resigned his post. The incident became a matter of discussion in parliament in Bucharest, and the Jewish representative, Dr. Adolf Stern, a famous leader of the Romanian Jewish community, proclaimed at the meeting the full right that of Jews to self-defense.

Personages:

In Barlad was born the poet A. Axelrad (1879-1965), who began his literary activities under the influence of “The Emigration on Foot” (See below).

During the Holocaust

The sufferings of the local Jews increased during the days of the terror of the “Iron Guard”. In November 1940, Jewish males were taken for forced labor. After a short time the academics among them were let go. This was the result of protests from the Romanian academic community, who threatened that they too would come to work together with their Jewish colleagues.

Four Jewish students were arrested and convicted of promulgating Communist opinions. They were brought to Vaslui and were tortured there in order to extract their confessions. At the trial, which took place on November 19, 1940 in Galati, they were acquitted.

With the outbreak of war between Romania and the Soviet Union in June of 1941, all the Jews from the villages of the county were deported into Barlad. These included Plopana, Murgeni, Avramesti, and Radeni, and also some from Beresti and Falciu. In the spring of 1943 the hospital, the old folk's home and the bath-house were confiscated by the “National Centre for Romanization”.

The economic results of the oppression against the Jews are reflected in these statistics from the year 1942: from a total of 325 Jewish craftsmen and laborers, there were 125 without work; out of 294 Jewish clerks only 136 were employed; among 428 Jewish merchants and industrialists 254 were active and from 43 Jewish academics, only 23 were employed. In this year only 24% of Jewish professionals were able to work in their professions.

Activities of the Community:

With the expulsion of the Jewish students from the government gymnasium, the community founded a gymnasium of its own, which had, in 1940, eighty students; ninety-three in 1941 ; and fifty in 1942 and 1943. In the elementary school 180 children were enrolled in 1940 and 1941, 186 children in 1942, and 161 in 1943.

Because of the diminishing of sources of income, the community was forced to increase its support for families lacking means. In 1940 two hundred families were under its support; in 1941 it supported about three hundred families; in 1942 and in 1943 about six hundred families.

The community gave aid also to the Jews who worked in the forced labor units in Stoisesti and in the county of Tutova, in Turcoaia in the county of Braila, in Alexandreni in the county of Tighina in Bessarabia, in Suroaia and in Siret of the county of Focsani. It sent them clothes and medicine, and took care also of the children. Moreover, groups of children who passed by on their way to the forced labor camps through the train station at Barlad were supplied by the Jewish community with money and food.

When the orphans returned from Transnistria, the Barlad community received 167 of them, established a hostel for some of them, and took them under its wing until their emigration to Israel.

With their retreat from the advancing Red Army, the Al German forces under the command of General Woehler came into Barlad. The general suggested exterminating all the Jews of the place under the pretext that the Jews were trying to trade with his soldiers. Only the developments on the front, which were to the disadvantage of the Germans, spoiled this plan. Four Jews of Barlad, who were suspected of being Communists, were exiled to the camp at Vapniarca. They returned some time later.

After the war, life returned to normality, and the community continued its regular activities.

The chief of police in the time of the Holocaust, Ion Hagiu, who persecuted the Jews during his tenure, was sentenced in 1949 to three years in prison.

Bibliography (Hebrew entries only)

The General Archives for the History of the Jewish People RM 82; RM 160.

Archives of Yad VaShem: JM 1220; 011/12-2; 011/7-53; 011/6-5; 011/18-1 (326-29)

Archives of M. Karp: I,22; 111,420; VI,24.

Archives of V. Filderman: 18(83); 19(44); 21(8)

Kloyzner,

Israel: Chibbat Tzion in Romania. Jerusalem, 5718


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