The first Jewish organizations appeared in the republic in 1989. In Decemberthat year, the Moldovan Society for Jewish Culture (MOEK) joinedthe Va’ad of the USSR. Distinguished Moldovan architect S. Shoykhet, leader of the MOEK for many years, was decorated with the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress order “For Services to the Jewish Nation” in 2005.
In the early 1990s a Jewish Agency for Israel (Sochnut) office was opened in the state (director – Paula Lam-Khayim). A branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has functioned in Moldova since 1993. It supports a Chesed system with approximately 4,500 people in its care. For several years there was a conflict between the Joint and the Jewish organizations of Moldova for the premises of the community center in Chisinau which the Joint had begun renting out. The case went to courtover the right of possession of the historic part of the community center; the Joint lost the case. Simultaneously, it liquidated Cheseds in Soroca,Orhei, Dubăsari, and Bendery, citing small client base.
Among the republican umbrella organizations are: the Association of Jewish Communities and Organizations of Moldova (established in 1997, leaders since June 2007 – businessmen Alexander Pinchevsky and Alexander Bilinkis) and the Jewish Congress of Moldova, created in June 2003 by Moldovan Jewish entrepreneurs (president since June 2006 – A. Bilinkis). A joint administration for the AJCOM and the JCM was established in September 2007 (general director – Roman Aronov). Both organizations are members of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. A field session of the General Council of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress took place in Chisinau in September 2005. In order to describe and renovate the Jewish cemeteries of the state, the Dor le-Dor Charitable Foundation was established in the spring of 2003; it has invested $200,000 just into the Jewish cemetery of Chisinau. Unfortunately, in the fall of 2006 the officials of the Chisinau mayor’s office pressured the foundation to leave the Jewish cemetery. As a result, in March 2007 several graves were desecrated.
Also working in Moldova: the Republican Union of Jewish Great Patriotic War Veterans (leader – M. M. Bekker), the Association of Jewish Great Patriotic War Refugees (chairman – M. R. Rabinovitch), the women’s organization “Khava” (chairman – Zhanna Khramtzova), the Organization of Former Prisoners of Nazism (chairman – Shabs Royf), theHillel Jewish Students’ Cultural Center (established in November 1996).A branch of the Maccabi Movement was registered in December 2003.
In January 2004, the organization “Nadezhda Yevreyskoy Semyi” (Hope of the Jewish Family) was established to aid unemployed Jews in professional retraining. The “Tvoy Vklad V Yevreyskuyu Obshchinu” (Your Part in the Jewish Community) project was launched in February 2006, aimed at strengthening and developing the volunteer movement.
There are about ten religious communities in the state which belong to the Chabad Lubavitch movement and are led by the chief rabbi of Moldova Zalman Leyb Abelsky (since 1989). The Agudat Israel yeshiva has been working in Chisinau since the early 1990s. There is also a community of Mountain, Bukharian, and Georgian Jews in Chisinau, called Juhur.The Jewish union Tiqva Tzion has been offering higher education to Halakhic Jews in Chisinau since 2006.
There is a Jewish kindergarten in the state capital, as well as two lyceums with about 700 pupils – the Theodore Herzl ORT Jewish Technology Lyceum and the Rambam Lyceum. Summer camps are organized for children with the support of the Sochnut and the Jewish Family Service.
A new community center opened in Beltsy in August 2005, and another one called Kedem – in Chisinau in December 2005.
The largest cultural organization is the Cultural Center working in Chisinau since 1991 – the I. Manger Library. It hosts a Jewish artists’ club, music, dance, and drama groups; carries out much work on the club system; organizes exhibitions of books and applied art works; festivals; publishing and museum work.
Jewish music is very popular; concerts are given by the Vort Un Nign (Word and Tune) band, consisting of professors and associates of the Musical Academy, led by famous musician, journalist, and teacher Sergo Bengelsdorf (his memoir Life in a Jewish Culture was published in 2007).
The international Klezmer music seminar/festival Bessaraber Lied has been taking place in Moldova since 1999. The Shaliakh Jewish theatre performs in the capital. Die Goldene Shoshane band is based in Bendery.
On the 100th anniversary of the Jewish artist Samson Flexor in September 2007, an exhibition of his paintings was opened in the Chisinau National Museum of Art. In June 2008, his name was given to one of the streets in Soroca. In June 2008, the main theatre of Beltsy – the Vassile Alexandri National Theatre – premiered Cantor, a comedy by the American playwright A. Levine.
In August 2008, the Kedem Jewish Community House opened a personal exhibition of the works of the famous Moldovan graphic artist Eduard Maydenberg who has illustrated over 100 books, among them classical literary works and books by Bessarabian authors, and participated in international exhibition in Europe and Japan. Jewish motives are significant in his art.
The Community Jewish Book Festival (OFEK) has been organized annually since 1996. Days of Jewish Culture were held in October 2004.
Moldova is one of the few countries with continuing literary activity in Yiddish. The radio journal Yiddish Lebn has been coming out since 1990 (host – S. Bengelsdorf). Two books by Yiddish literature patriarch I. Schreibman (1913-2005) were published in 2003 and July 2007. A memorial was built on his grave in October 2007. A Yiddish Center has been working in Chisinau since 1993; since 2008 it is called Mame-Loshn and is a part of the I. Manger Library. The Kedem Jewish Cultural Center opened a literary-musical club in 2007. Republican festivals of children’s and youth art have been held since 1998.
Three Jewish newspapers are published in the republic: Istoki Zhizni (Sources of Life, published by the Chabad Lubavitch synagogue), Oliva (Olive, published by the Sochnut Jewish Agency), and Yevreyskoye Mestechko (Jewish Shtetl, published since 2003 by the Dor le-Dor Foundation).
The magazine Moldaviya Turisticheskaya (Tourist Moldova) began publishing a series of articles and photographic reports on Jewish sites in Moldova in July 2008.The Moldovan legislation on the rights of individuals belonging to ethnic minorities is the best developed out of all the states of the CIS. The republic ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by Moldovan state Parliament edict on July 24, 1997.
The fundamental legal act which finalized the legal status of the ethnic minorities was the Law of Republic of Moldova on July 19, 2001, “On the rights of individuals belonging to ethnic minorities and the legal status of their organizations”. On September 1, 1989, the Law “On the functioning of languages on the territory of the Moldavian SSR” was passed (complemented in 2003 with regard to the Moldovan Republic); according to it, the Moldovan language on the basis of Latin script is the official language of the state, Russian is used as the language of interethnic communication, and Hebrew and Yiddish are used to satisfy the ethnic and cultural needs of the Jews of Moldova. As a logical consequence, Moldova guaranteed the Jews the possibility of obtaining pre-school, elementary, secondary (general and professional), higher, and post-graduate education in their native Hebrew and Yiddish in 2001. On January 1, 2004, the Concept of Ethnic Policy of the Republic of Moldova came into effect. This statute proclaims the principle of inadmissibility of ethnic discrimination, and the Jews are named a constituent part of the united nation of Moldova. Thus, the Concept emphasizes: “The Moldovans – the state-founding nation – together with members of other ethnicities: Ukrainians, Russians, Gagauzes, Bulgarians, Jews, Romanians, Belarusians, Gypsies (Roma), Poles, and others, constitute the people of Moldova, for whom the Republic of Moldova is the common homeland.”
In September 2007, former head of the AJCOM Y. Tikhman and A. Pinchevsky were rewarded for their input into restoring the Kurki monastery complex. In July 2008, A. Bilinkis was decorated with the GloriaMuncii (Glory to Labor) Order for services to promoting historical andcultural heritage.
On March 25, 2006, the Chisinau Jewish community center opened a Tolerance Club for teenagers of all ethnicities. This is a joint project of the Moldovan Jewish organizations, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC), and the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine (KNGU). The Jewish community took part in the 7th ethno-cultural republican festival “Unity through Diversity”, organized in 2007 by the Bureau of Interethnic Relations in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, the mayors’ offices of Chisinau and Beltsy, Gagauzia political unit, the district councils, executive committees, and the ethno-cultural organizations of the state.
In 2008 the AJCOM and the JCM in cooperation with the Va’ad of Ukraine opened a youth tolerance camp.
Diplomatic relations with Israel were established in 1992; the embassy of Moldova in Israel was opened in 1994. In 2008, the first Israeli ambassador to the Republic of Moldova was appointed; prior to that, the ambassador to Ukraine represented the interests of Israel in Moldova. President of the Republic of Moldova Vladimir Voronin paid an official visit to Israel in November 2004. During this visit, copies of archival materials on the Holocaust, stored in the republican archives, were transferred to the Yad Va-Shem museum.
A Moldovan Parliament delegation, headed by its speaker Marian Lupu, visited Israel in November 2007. A parliamentary group of Israeli-Moldovan friendship is co-chaired by Knesset member Leah Shemtov and Moldovan Parliament member Arcady Pasetchnik. An official Israeli delegation, led by Vice-premier A. Liberman (native of Moldova), visited Moldova in October 2007 and July 2008. During the second visit in July 2008, President Voronin decorated A. Liberman with the high government award – the Order of Honor (Ordinul de Onoare).
The union of Israelis of Moldovan descent “Izvora” (leader – Arcady Brover) held its first meeting in June 2008. In October 2007 the municipality of Beltsy signed a cooperation agreement with the mayor of Migdal ha-Emek in Israel.
In November 2006 and December 2007, Israeli Cinema Days were held in Chisinau. In October 2007, the building of the Israeli Cultural Center was solemnly opened in Chisinau. In June 2008, the Brynkush Gallery in Chisinau opened a photo exhibition dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the independence of Israel.
In 2008, Moldova and Israel signed an agreement on cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and science for the years 2008-2011.
Economical relations are developing quickly. The Darkon Israeli businessmen association in Moldavia is presided over by Anataly Leybovitch.
A significant part of Moldovan goods exported to Israel consists of alcoholic beverages.
In Beltsy, the “March in Memory of Holocaust Victims” has been taking place each July since 2005; it is timed to the anniversary of mass executions of Jews in the city. Similar mass events are held annually in Dubăsari. In November 2005 the AJCOM initiated a three-day seminar “History of the Holocaust” in Chisinau for district education department inspectors supervising the teaching of history in the lyceums and schools of the Republic of Moldova. The Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sports initiated a Memory Week for Holocaust Victims at all schools and lyceums between January 27th and February 3rd, 2006. As part of the international educational project on the Holocaust and teaching tolerance, the travelling exhibition “Anne Frank – a History Lesson” was opened at the National Museum of Ethnography and Moldovan History in January 2007. The Moldovan Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticized severely the decision of the Romanian court to acquit George Alexeianu, who had been governor of Transnistria at the time of the war, and was to blame for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people on the Romanian-controlled territory between the rivers Dniester and Bug. He went down in history as one of the closest accomplices in crime of the Fascist dictator I. Antonescu.
In April 2007, the Moldovan Parliament passed amendments to the Law on additional social protection of disabled World War II veterans and their families, according to which former prisoners of Nazi camps in Moldova were to receive additional monthly compensations. In June 2007, the travelling book exhibition “Holocaust: Memory and Pain” opened in the Kedem Jewish Community Center.
There are Open University of Israel seminars on the topic of the Holocaust of European Jewry. The municipal authorities of Beltsy decided at the end of 2007 to name one of the city streets after the anti-fascist hero Musya Pinkenzon, who died in 1942; a memorial plaque in honor of his heroic deed was unveiled in January 2008 on the territory of the Jewish Community House of Beltsy. The leader of the Beltsy Jewish community Lev Bondar initiated in March 2008 a school composition contest called My Understanding of the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, there are to this day groups of opposing nationalist politicians in the state who deny the Holocaust; many schools still continue using textbooks published in the early 1990s which evade the issue. The Ministry of Education decided in May 2007 to introduce the “Tolerance – Lessons of the Holocaust” course into school curricula; in January 2008, the Moldovan Vice-premier V. Stepanyuk officially announced that new textbooks were being prepared with more attention to the Nazicrimes in the years of World War II.
However, the situation continues tense in this aspect, as in the spring of 2008 the European Committee against Racism and Intolerance recommended that Moldova should revise the contents of history textbooks and remove such information as discriminates the country’s ethnic minorities. Unfortunately, there are expressions of anti-Semitism as well. In September 2007 an International Book Salon opened at the Chisinau National Library, featuring the anti-Semitic book by Paul Goma, Red Week, claiming that the Jews were to blame for the annexation of Bessarabia by the USSR in 1940. After the Beltsy municipality decided to rename one of the streets after M. Pinkenzon, the Alliance newspaper which is close to the opposition – the supporters of union with Romania – published an article protesting against this decision. The journalist argued that M. Pinkenzon, who was killed by Nazis in the Krasnodar region, was allegedly
“not one of ours”. On February 23, 2008, a swastika was drawn on the Triumphal Arch in downtown Chisinau. The visitors of the popular Moldovan website www.forum.md regularly make anti-Semitic remarks. One of the nationalist historians, A. Petrenko, founded the Yevropeys koye Deystviye (European Action) party in 2007. A scandal is developing in Chisinau on account of a car dealership complex being built by the memorial to Holocaust victims.
In June 2008 the state Parliament adopted at the first reading the bill of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, prohibiting the publication and distribution in the Republic of Moldova literature with chauvinistic or nationalistic contents. However, the efforts of the government to resist anti-Semitism are so far insufficient; the authorities are yet to react to the Jewish community’s requests to construct a memorial to the victims of the Chisinau pogrom of 1903.
Jewish Studies research is concentrated to the Jewish Studies Department of the Interethnic Research Institute at the Academy of Sciences of Moldova and the Jewish Studies Group at the Institute of Cultural Heritage (head – Literature Professor, Doctor of Philology Rita Kleyman).
The main topics of Jewish Studies research conducted by Moldovan scholars are the 1903 pogrom and the Holocaust. 2004 saw the publication of the collection Chisinau Pogrom 1903: a Glance over a Century; in March 2005 the capital monograph by historian S. Nazaria Holocaust in Moldova came out. In November 2003 the new JDC-supported project was launched: Review of Jewish History and Holocaust Sites in Moldova. In the fall of 2007 in Beltsy, the program “Heritage School of Successors” began, intending to collect Holocaust testimonies. In the early 2008 the entrepreneur I. Rosenberg established the Zavet (Covenant) Foundation meant to find and immortalized Holocaust-related sites in the state. A Museum of Moldovan Jewish History opened in Chisinau in 2006. Over the time the Dor le-Dor Foundation worked at the Chisinau Jewish cemetery, its volunteers and employees managed to identify 17 thousand out of the total 24 thousand graves. The Foundation consequently published Necropolis, a book with a map of the cemetery and a list of surnames of the deceased. In January 2007, the Jewish Studies Department of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova began publishing the Moldovan Jewish Encyclopedia. In October 2007, the photographic album History in Stone, Monuments of Moldovan Jewish Material Culture (17th-21st Centuries) compiled by Mikhail Finkel, Yefim Goldschmidt, and Igor Teper, was published. The academic conference “Cultural Heritage of the Jews of Southern Moldova” was held in Comrat, the capital of the autonomous region of Gagauzia, on November 20, 2007. The Jewish National Movement in Bessarabia in the Interwar Period (1918-1940) by distinguished scholar Yakov Kopanski was published posthumously in June 2008. In August 2008 an International Summer School for Jewish Studies was organized in Chisinau by the “Sefer” Center together with the Center for Training and Professional Development with the aid of the Chais Family Foundation, the Avichai Foundation, and the JDC.