A land of sprawling green valleys, craggy mountains and haunted gray castles, Romania is still virtually unknown to American Jews, despite a complex and ancient Jewish heritage in this far eastern corner of Europe.
Straddling the Balkans and Central Europe, worshipping in the Orthodox Church and speaking a Romance tongue, Romanians have a unique and potent culture. The country itself is only in its second century; the area within its borders has at various times been under the rule of the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Bulgarian and Austro-Hungarian empires.
Like most members of his generation, who grew up in communist Eastern Europe during the last years of communism, Sorin Rosen had no Jewish education or upbringing. “Nothing at all,” he says.
Like many Jews from former Iron Curtain countries who belatedly discovered their Jewish roots, Rosen became interested as a teen in learning what he had not as a child. After visiting some distant relatives in Israel, he became active in several Jewish organizations in Bucharest, his Romanian hometown.
Like some, he drifted toward religious observance.
Jerusalem — Rabbi Yosef Carmel, an Israeli Army veteran and founder of an advanced training center for Israeli rabbis, received an unexpected call from overseas the other day.
The call was from an Israeli, a secular businessman whose real estate dealings in Romania with a religious Romanian Jew had become strained.
A lawsuit, with 400,000 euros at risk (more than $500,000), was pending.
Don’t go to a civil court in Romania, a Bucharest rabbi advised the Israeli — call Rabbi Carmel.
Timisoara, Romania — As a child Luciana Friedman attended the community seders here each year with her parents and grandparents.
As a young adult, she comes with her husband. And she comes as a leader of an emerging part of the city’s small Jewish community.