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The Romanian Rabbi and His Deal with the Devil

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BUCHAREST -- Throughout history, Jews faced challenges as a minority in foreign lands. Sometimes, they sought protection from the country's ruler. Moses Rosen, the chief rabbi of Romania's Jews, played this role for four decades, seeking special protection for the Jewish community from the country's dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.

Rosen was successful in obtaining freedom of worship and emigration for the Jewish community. Under his leadership, 57 synagogues were renovated, and Hebrew classes, kosher meals, shelter, and medical care were provided to the Jewish population. Most significantly, he helped more than 300,000 Jews emigrate to Israel, reducing the country's Jewish population to a mere 21,000.

In return, Ceausescu's demands were high. He received money for every Jew who left the country, which reportedly went into his personal fund. Moreover, Rosen cooperated in presenting Ceausescu as a pragmatic leader with an acceptable human rights record, allowing Romania to maintain favorable trade relations with the West.

Now, with Ceausescu gone, Rosen's actions are being scrutinized. Critics argue that he was Ceausescu's agent, contributing to a conspiracy that prolonged the dictator's oppressive rule. While some believe Rosen should retire, he refuses to leave Romania and stands by his actions, stating that he did it all to protect his people.

Moses Rosen: A Man of Influence

Moses Rosen, the chief rabbi of Romania's Jews, was instrumental in securing protection and privileges for the Jewish community in Romania during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. Through his diplomatic efforts, the Jewish community was allowed to thrive in a state that otherwise suppressed religious freedom. However, as Romania transitions to a new era, Rosen's actions are being reevaluated by both his supporters and critics.

Protecting the Jewish Community

Born in northern Romania, Moses Rosen assumed the position of chief rabbi in 1948. He faced a demoralized Jewish community, with the aftermath of the Holocaust and communist rule taking its toll. Rather than confront the regime directly, Rosen chose a more subtle approach to secure concessions for his people. He believed that working quietly and making allies within the government would yield better results.

In his efforts to protect the Jewish community, Rosen faced opposition from both Jewish communists and Zionists. However, he managed to gain support from Ceausescu, who recognized the political benefits of being seen as tolerant towards the Jewish population.

Balancing Diplomacy and Compromise

Throughout his tenure as chief rabbi, Rosen engaged in a delicate balancing act. He needed to maintain Jewish education, synagogues, and culture to preserve Jewish identity while cooperating with the regime to secure emigration rights for Jews.

Rosen played a crucial role in negotiating with Ceausescu for the emigration of Jews to Israel. While the dictator initially objected to allowing Jewish professionals to leave the country, Rosen suggested charging the Israeli government for their training expenses. This approach led to payments for each emigrating Jew, a significant source of income for Ceausescu.

Praise and Criticism

Rosen's influence over Ceausescu gained him recognition and awards from Jewish organizations worldwide. Still, there were those who criticized him for collaborating with the regime. Some Jews felt that he compromised too much to secure the community's well-being, while others questioned his sincerity.

After Ceausescu's fall, the relationship between Rosen and the new Romanian government became more strained. Critics accused Rosen of aiding the dictator and contributing to the perpetuation of a totalitarian regime. Despite these challenges, Rosen defended his actions, asserting that everything he did was for the benefit of the Jews in Romania.

The Legacy of Moses Rosen

The future of Romania's Jewish community remains uncertain. As the country transitions into a democratic era, the community faces new challenges, including rising nationalism and potential antisemitism.

While some criticize Moses Rosen for his cooperation with Ceausescu's regime, others acknowledge the difficult choices he faced. His efforts to protect and preserve the Jewish community are evident in the synagogues and religious institutions that still stand in Bucharest.

As Romania moves forward, it is essential to remember the complex history of the Jewish community and the role played by Moses Rosen. Whether one views him as a shtadlan or an agent, his impact on the fate of Romania's Jews cannot be denied.

Conclusion

Moses Rosen's role as the chief rabbi of Romania's Jews during Ceausescu's rule was marked by both praise and criticism. While he successfully protected the Jewish community and facilitated emigration, he did so by cooperating with the dictatorship. As Romania faces a new era, the legacy of Moses Rosen remains a topic of debate.

FAQs

Did Moses Rosen collaborate with Ceausescu willingly? Yes, Moses Rosen worked with Ceausescu to secure protections and privileges for the Jewish community in Romania. He believed in a pragmatic approach to safeguard Jewish interests.

1.      What were the benefits of Rosen's cooperation with the regime? Rosen's collaboration allowed the Jewish community to practice their faith, renovate synagogues, and provide essential services to the aging population. It also facilitated the emigration of more than 300,000 Jews to Israel.

2.      Why is Rosen's legacy controversial? Some criticize Rosen for cooperating with a dictator and contributing to the perpetuation of a repressive regime. Others acknowledge the difficult choices he faced to protect the Jewish community in Romania.

3.      What challenges does Romania's Jewish community face today? As Romania transitions to democracy, the Jewish community faces potential risks, such as rising nationalism and the reemergence of antisemitism.

4.      What is the importance of preserving Jewish cultural institutions in Romania? Preserving Jewish cultural institutions in Romania is crucial for maintaining the community's identity and heritage. These institutions serve as a reminder of the Jewish presence and history in the country.

 

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