|MOINESTI: (Bacău judet)|
On the hill, the ascent eases up. A plateau opens up timidly toward homes and orchards, although a short distance ahead, the ascent resumes. With strained breathing, the passerby discovers, to the right, the panorama of the city. It's a bizarre combination of old homes and modern villas, old square-shaped buildings on which the stucco barely stands, and other newer buildings with windows and patches of thermal isolation in colors that seem too bright. The hospital building, the pride of the city, distinguishes itself towering, in a blue tint, just like the red rooftop of the City Hall. Everything is concealed between ridges and elongated hills, which extend far, toward the horizon. The city is buried in the green of the parks and of the untouched nature patches, which, surprisingly, continue to exist in this corner of Romania. Hidden, surrounded by wire, an old oil drill reminds one that for hundreds of years, oil was the heart of this little town, the lively fluid which transformed the town, throughout centuries, from a merchant community into an industrial city and, presently, into a municipality.
On the other side, an alley enters the pine forest, toward another nature patch, this time, touched by humans. Two restaurants and a few small wooden homes, until recently surely the only place in city where you could find overnight accommodations, have grown over the past few years among the tall and slender pines. I remember, during my childhood, that we would come here Sundays, at the beginning of June, to pick berries, for me the most delicate fruit left by nature for earthlings. I wonder what might be left now of the berry meadows of my childhood? In front of us stands tall, a house, solid and well-maintained, with closed wooden shutters and a door that appears to not have been opened for a while. Next to the house's wall is an iron gate, sealed with a lock the size of a fist, pointing to the entrance into the Jewish Cemetery.
The Cemetery is the only evidence of Jewish presence in this place hidden among the hills. An ancient settlement, mentioned in history as far back as 1437, Moinesti has become, in the mid1800s, a tradesmen's market, where forestry and oil exploits completed the range of occupations of the 688 inhabitants (in 1832). Here, at the crossing of the mountain with the hill, inhabitants of nearby settlements would arrive at the market to sell their grains, wines, or cattle and to purchase oil fuel and lumber. Around that time in history, there were about 200 Jews in Moinesti. However, Jewish presence in the area dates back another hundred years in history, based on the inscriptions on the gravestones, hidden at the other end of the Cemetery.
When you enter through the gate, the cemetery appears like a park whose boundaries are not visible. A feeling of calm and peace envelops your soul and mind. A few acacias, oaks, and pines are lined up along the fence that runs along the street. Among the gravesites, plum trees, nut trees, and about three sour cherry trees have grown over the years, perhaps planted by the hand of a housekeeper, who knows when. I recall savoring, in that area, the most wonderful, bitter cherries left for lovers of strange aromas, full of flesh as much as you can get off the pit, and bitter enough to give the jam that surprising, intriguing taste, without filling your mouth with wormwood when you eat them right off the tree branch. A wonder that this grew on the tree every year, in the shape of small polka dots, of a dark red, almost black color.
In the shadow of the aligned fruit trees are laid out the gravesites, row after row, ascending on a smooth ridge, then descending toward a valley. They are impressive gravesites, built of marble or massive granite, with ornaments made of forged iron or floral inscriptions in relief and letters that still preserve traces of paint. Others are made of common river stone, encrusted with veneer/metal of a noble essence. The oldest gravesite dates back to 1740. On the darkened stone already covered with moss, the letters, which once formed a name, are almost washed by time. You can almost decipher something that looks like Dovben Iehuda. Somewhere, approximately in the center of the cemetery, a massive "stibl" made of stone rises up, a sign of the faith of those resting inside, but also of their wealth. On the exterior, a massive marble plaque shows that a family is interned, a husband and a wife. The inscription on the stone, according to a legacy transmitted from one generation to the next, was written by the Rabi Arie Rosen himself, the father of His Excellence, Dr. Moses Rosen, whose Moinesti roots are well- known.
In a row with the other gravesites, there is a stone that intrigues. Although not distinguished from the surrounding ones, this stone has a half moon on it, instead of the Star of David. The name on the gravesite, Iurist Elias, deceased in 1912, in no way suggests an explanation. Most likely, the mystery of the strange inscription will remain eternally unsolved. Somewhere, further down the hill, three gravesites, next to each another, are inscripted with Cyrillic letters. They belong to Russian soldiers from World War I who died on the Moldavian front and brought to Moinesti to be buried, because there is no other Jewish Cemetery in the area.
Back toward the gate, alone, in the shadow of a contorted walnut tree, stands a small gravestone, at the head of a similar gravestone: a child who lived no longer than a few years until the end of the 1960s. A few meters ahead, the trail created by the few visitors leads through the grass along the front of a house with closed shutters. This is the funeral home, the place that houses what is still left of the contents of the last synagogue in Moinesti, after it was demolished. Inside, there are a few wooden benches and a few objects of worship, on which the dust has settled over the years, since they have not been moved. No one prays there any longer. The only time a prayer is heard in the Moinesti Cemetery is when someone dies. The nearby somewhat larger Bacau Jewish Community ensures that rituals are carried out accordingly. How can one find ten Jewish men nowadays in Moinesti, who can assist in reading the Kaddish?
The Jewish population of Moinesti will become extinguished in a few years. The town from where the first group of Jews headed toward Eretz Israel, thereby inaugurating Alya, will disapper from the Jewish Community lists. Only a few monographs of those who lived there during the flourishing times of the village of Moinesti will be left behind, testifying that the famous Tristan Tzara, with his real name of Samuel Rosenstock, was born in Moinesti, a memory to those who, like me, have scattered all over the world and throughout the Cemetery and the Osoiu Hill. From all those, only the Cemetery is eternal. The Leolam Foundation, meaning Eternity, was born from the initiative of four former Moinesti residents, scattered all over the world: the sisters Josephine and Beatrice Kohlenberg and the brothers Hedi and Rinel Enghelberg. Josephine lives in France, Beatrice in Canada, Hedi in the United States, and Rinel in Israel. They are all bound by a profound love for their native place, where they grew, and a burning desire to not allow the disappearance of what once was one of the most vibrant Jewish communities of Romania.
US Commission Report No. ROCE-0062 Map Alternate name: Lucacesti.
The cemetery is located at str. Eternitatii no. 2, Moinesti, Bacău judet, Moldavia region, 46°26' 26°32', 38 km from Bacău. Present town population is 25,000-100,000 with under 10 Jews.
The 1831 Census registered 49 Jewish families. The 1899 Census registered 457 Jewish inhamolinestibitants. The 1930 Census registered 1733 Jewish inhabitants. 18. In World War I, many local Jews were killed. Prominent residents include Dov ben Iehuda, Avram Arie Rosen-scholar rabbi and Dr. Smuel Grinberg (1879-1959), poet and writer. This Jewish cemetery was established in the 19th century. Noteworthy individuals buried there include Dov ben Iehuda (died 1732) and Ghidalea Westler (died 1903)-scholar rabbi. The last known Jewish burial in cemetery was in 1992 (Avram Samoil). The Conservative cemetery is unlandmarked.
The isolated urban hillside has no sign or marker. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is entirely closed. A continuous masonry wall and no gate or a gate that locks surround. The pre- and post-WWII size is 150 m X 100 m. 500 - 5,000 gravestones are visible with none in original location. More than 75% are toppled or broken. Vegetation overgrowth is a seasonal problem, preventing access. Water drainage is good all year.
No special sections. Gravestones date from the beginning of the 19th century through the 20th century. The marble, granite, limestone, sandstone, slate, and other material gravestones are flat shaped stones, flat stones with carved relief decoration, double tombstones, and sculpted tombstones. Inscriptions are in Hebrew, German, and Romanian.
The national Jewish community owns the property now used for Jewish cemetery purposes only. Adjacent properties are residential. Compared to 1939, the cemetery boundaries enclose the same area. Occasionally, private visitors (Jewish or non-Jewish) and local residents stop.
The never vandalized cemetery has no maintenance, but the regular caretaker, who is paid (occasionally.) The preburial house has a tahara (table), a catafalque, and wall inscriptions. Vegetation is a moderate threat. Weather erosion and pollution are slight threats.
He visited on July 16, 2000 and interviewed Nastase Constantin, str. Eternitatii no. 12, Moinesti, Bacău judet. Phone: 363412; and Kohlenberg Raphael, Moinesti; Phone: 361089. [June 2002]
Rafael Kohlenberg, president of the community, (Str. V. Alecsandri, Bl. A2-2, Apt. 7, 5478 Moinesti, Romania, Tel. 034/36-10-89 (home address). has a list of readable gravestones in the cemetery. Cemetery has two sections, the older of which is not recorded in Kohlenberg's list. Older cemetery is overgrown. Some stones date go back to 1740. Fixed surnames were not acquired until the 1950s. Source: "Researching Jewish Romania On Site" by Paul Pascal.
Current Jewish population: 0-100. Mr. Kohlenberg speaks French and Romanian. He made a handwritten list of tombstones that partially indexes the unlandmarked, inactive cemetery. One copy of the list exists. Cemetery hours are by arrangement. The earliest Jewish community dates from the early 1700s with tombstones dating from 1740. Jews comprised more than half of the population. Tristan Bara (writer) lived there. The town was a major early hotbed of Zionism. Jews were deported to Bacău during W.W.II. The last known Orthodox burial was 1995. The isolated urban site, at the crown of a hill, but in the center of town has a sign. The cemetery is reached by turning directly off a public road. Access is open with permission. A part-time, illiterate caretaker lives nearby and has the key. A broken masonry wall and a locking gate surround the cemetery. The current size is 400x300 meters. Men and women are buried in alternating rows. The 1,000 to 5,000 18th and nineteenth century tombstones date from 1740. 75% of the surviving stones are toppled or broken. The sandstone rough stones, flat shaped stones, finely smoothed and inscribed stones, flat stones with carved relief decoration, double tombstones, sculpted monuments, multi-stone monuments, horizontally set stones, some with Sephardic inscriptions, flat-low in-ground plaques, obelisks, or mausoleums have Hebrew and Romanian inscriptions. Some tombstones have traces of painting on their surfaces, iron decorations or lettering, bronze decorations or lettering, portraits on stones, and/or metal fences around graves. The local Jewish community owns the site used for Jewish cemetery and a caretaker garden. Adjacent properties are agricultural and residential. The cemetery is visited rarely. Current care: occasional clearing or cleaning by authorities and the regular caretaker. The caretaker is allowed to use the land to graze his cow as payment. Within the limits of the cemetery is a chapel. Weather erosion is a serious threat. Vegetation overgrowth is a constant problem, disturbing and damaging graves and stones. One of the world's very prominent Jewish communities is dying out, leaving this large cemetery without guardian or catalog. Mr. Kohlenberg is in ill-health and cannot reach all the grave sites. On 27 July 1997,
, 3514 Woodlawn Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98103, tel. 206/632-3881 completed this survey. He visited the site on that date when he interviewed Mr. Kohlenberg. He used a partial list of names compiled by Kohlenberg as documentation.
Added July 2012
[UPDATE] Photos by Charles Burns [March 2016]
|Last Updated on Monday, 28 March 2016 22:36|