At Home, Again, In Timisoara
04/13/07
Staff Writer
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Timisoara, Romania — Among the nearly 200 Jews who attended the pair of seders in the Jewish community building here last week were members of the local community, a visiting family of Israelis and one man with New York City roots. Rafael Schwartz lived in Brooklyn and New Jersey for nearly 20 years. A native of Timisoara who moved to Israel at 11, Schwartz returned here 11 years ago to help his uncle regain ownership of the family’s apartment building that had been confiscated by the communist government. He is, he says, among several Romanian Jews-turned-Israelis to come back to Timisoara to resume their Romanian lives. “Basically, I’m happy here,” says Schwartz, 56, who, remarried with a young son, lives on a farm three miles outside of Timisoara, raising raspberries and organic fish. And snails. “I don’t eat them,” he says of the non-kosher delicacy. “I just farm ‘em.” Schwartz had moved to Israel with his parents in 1963 after his father, who had been arrested in 1958 for “Zionist activities,” was released from “the worst prison in the country.” Their Romanian citizenship stripped, they settled in Holon. Romania immediately seized the Schwartz’s three-story, 12-unit apartment building, subdividing it into housing for 75 Gypsies. Schwartz, a bass player, came to the U.S. at 26 for a nightclub job, later working as a police dog trainer and orange juice distributor. His uncle persuaded him in 1996 to come back. He got his Romanian citizenship restored, and took, at the authorities’ insistence, a Romanian name — Radu Croiutoru. Living on his savings, Schwartz spent $150,000 on attorney’s fees and other expenses before the government returned the property in 2003. The newly renovated site now houses 12 rent-paying families. “I’m just about breaking even now,” Schwartz says. “I was a pioneer here,” he says, urging other Jews dispossessed by communist governments in Eastern Europe to follow his path. “If there is someone who has been deprived of their property, they should immediately start fighting for it.” Steve Lipman PAGE 3 Letty Cottin Pogrebin: Ranks rabbis according to “activism, deeds oflovingkindness.” Rabbi Eli Goodman: Delivers mini-sermons via You Tube. ROMANIA-SORINSorin Rosen has studied here in preparation for the rabbinate in Romania. “I felt I had to give back to the community,” he says. Michael Datikash ROMANIA-SCHWARTZ Rafael Schwartz: Native of Romanian city who left four decades ago is among several who have returned. Steve Lipman PAGE 3 Letty Cottin Pogrebin: Ranks rabbis according to “activism, deeds oflovingkindness.” Rabbi Eli Goodman: Delivers mini-sermons via You Tube. ROMANIA-SORINSorin Rosen has studied here in preparation for the rabbinate in Romania. “I felt I had to give back to the community,” he says. Michael Datikash ROMANIA-SCHWARTZ Rafael Schwartz: Native of Romanian city who left four decades ago is among several who have returned.

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10/15/2009 - 09:30

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