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PROPOSAL & PLAN ---------------------------------------------- October, 2005

Jewish Museum & Family Learning Center in Oradea, Romania

Concerning the History and Fate of the Jews of Northwestern Transylvania

A Timely Project

This proposal concerns the creation of a new Jewish Museum and Family Learning Center in Oradea, Romania, to focus broadly on the lives, contributions and fate of the Jewish people of Northwestern Transylvania.


Create a highly participatory, interactive, and vibrant institution that meets certain vital cultural and educational needs of both Jews and non-Jews, all ages and backgrounds, in the city and region.

Serve the non-Jewish local and visiting population to promote understanding and appreciation for the lives, contributions and fate of the Jewish community of the city and region, in ways which help instill tolerance and foster multicultural exchange.

Serve the small Jewish community and the increasing number of Jewish visitors, to honor and preserve the heritage of preceding generations, build esteem and encourage Jewish continuity. :

Recent developments make the present moment particularly opportune for such an effort.

The International Elie Wiesel Commission on the Holocaust in Romania recently completed its work. Its conclusions and recommendations, accepted by Romanian authorities, include the creation of museums, memorials and learning centers. Among the Commission's recommendations: “Local authorities, particularly in former centers of Jewish populations, should be encouraged to find ways to recognize their prewar Jewish communities as well as to commemorate the Holocaust.”

Romanian Gov’t establishes National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania. In June, 2005, the Romanian Government committed to creating and funding a National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, as a public institution with a staff of up to 30 people, including 15 historians.The Institute’s mission is to work for the preservation of the spiritual heritage of the Jewish Communities of Romania, and to memorialize the victims of its Holocaust.

We are involving members of Elie Wiesel Commission in our work and will meet with the leadership of the new Institute in October, 2005.

Since 2001, Dedicated to the Commission’s Vision and the New Institute’s Mandates

Efforts by the Lempert Family Foundation (LFF) since 2001 have resulted in the completion of a number of projects in keeping with these recent developments:

The renovation and rededication of the Monument to Deportees in Oradea's Jewish Community, erected by survivors in 1946; installation of explanatory plaques in four languages and replacement of an old, deteriorated fence around the monument with a new custom fabricated fence for enhanced security and esthetics.

The submission and recent acceptance by Oradea's authorities of a proposal to create a new monument honoring and teaching about the Oradea’s Jewish community.

The creation of a major Web site dedicated to preserving the memory of Oradea's Jewish Community (www.OradeaJC.com).

The video documentation of the processes and events associated with these projects.

Proposed Location

The City                     Oradea was once home to a large and vibrant Jewish community, before Hitler's rise and World War II. By the 1940s, of the city's 90,000 people, about 30,000 were Jewish, representing the 2nd largest such community in what was then Hungary – 2nd only to that of Budapest. An estimated 25,000 – 38,000 Jews, including those from the city and surroundings, were deported to Auschwitz in May, 1944, from two ghettos in the city.
                                        Today Oradea is a bustling city of over one-quarter million people, about two-thirds Romanian and one-third Hungarian. A small Jewish community of a few hundred people remains.

The Building                  With its large Jewish population, Oradea once had 27 synagogues and prayer houses, of which three are today of the size and stature appropriate to a museum and learning center. Of these, one in particular seems to be well suited based on a combination of factors including condition, size, potential costs and location.
                                        On the main thoroughfare known as Primariei Street, the "Teleki Street Synagogue" (known as that because the name of the street through much of the 20th century was Teleki) sits a few buildings from Rahovei Square.

The building is currently rented by the Jewish Community to a working vegetable market operation for needed revenue (Jewish tradition permits this use of synagogue buildings no longer used for their original purposes).

The third largest of Oradea's synagogues, it was built in the 1920's, partially destroyed in the pogrom of 1927 and rebuilt and rededicated in 1928.

Before the Holocaust, over one hundred people from the neighborhood would come to pray on an average Sabbath. On high holidays, as many as 400 people would come. After the Holocaust the synagogue stayed in use and Bar Mitzvahs were celebrated there as recently as 1960.

Of modest proportions and in need of a good deal of renovation and restoration, the building appears to be on a firm foundation and there are no obvious structural problems.

Its ground floor is 334 square meters (3,600 square feet) and the upstairs gallery is 212 square meters (2,280 square feet).

Proposed Partnerships

We are in the process of establishing informal partnership with major Jewish organizations in the U.S. and Israel, including identifying specific common initiatives. A parallel effort is underway to work with interested parties in Bucharest and Cluj; and we are a known group in Oradea. The goal is to establish and maintain the new institution with wide international support. Proposed roles for these parties are:

Memorial Foundation for Jewish Heritage in N.W. Transylvania

New NGO, located in Oradea, in formation, being organized and underwritten in part by the Lempert Family Foundation.

Responsible for planning and management of building renovation and restoration.

Works with other partners to provide and install content, archival materials, interactive applications, etc.

Partial funding; fund raising.

Romanian Jewish Community

Project management, contractor selection, staffing, partial funding.

Romanian Authorities, local and national

Approvals, municipal supervision, contractor selection, partial funding.

Educational Institutions in the U.S. and Israel

Educational programming and guidance, content development.

Oradea's Religious, Academic, Artistic and Business Leaders

Guidance, content development, partial funding.

Support for the Concept

The possibility of establishing a new museum was discussed in meetings initiated by the Lempert Family Foundation (LFF) in Oradea in 2003. Support for the concept was expressed at that time by Oradea's Mayor, Petru Filip; the president of Oradea's Jewish Community, Felix Koppelman; the director of Oradea's Cultural Museum, Aurel Chiriac; and others.

Since 2002, LFF has benefited from the work of a volunteer four-person steering committee. Our associates in Oradea include part-time contractors, a project manager, a translator and a videographer. We have estabished relations and stayed in contact with top city and county officials, church leaders, artists, educators, physicians, journalists, Roma (Gypsy) leaders as well as many in the Jewish community. We have benefited from the expertise of renowned historians in the U.S., including leaders from the Advanced Holocaust Studies Dept. of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In April and May, 2005, N. Lempert and P. Lorincz, representing LFF, met with leaders and representatives of a wide range of organizations in Israel and in Oradea, listed here. The goal was to solicit ideas, suggestions, questions and support. While many and diverging views were expressed, there was agreement from all corners that the project’s aims are worthy and a workable plan could be implemented. A list of specific institutions and their proposed roles in the early phases of the project appears on pp. 9-10.

Current Initiatives & Next Steps
As of September 20, 2005

Efforts are underway to establish the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Heritage in Northwestern Transylvania as an operating entity in Oradea. Documents fulfilling legal requirements will be submitted in October. Potential Board Members and members of the Academic Steering Committee are being contacted.

Communications with prospective partners are ongoing. Under discussion are the details of an arrangement with the Center for Jewish Art, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, to survey and document the synagogue in preparation for its renovation.

A series of meetings with the prospective partners in Romania, including those located in Bucharest, Cluj and Oradea, is being scheduled. Meetings in Bucharest will be coordinated and attended by members of the Academic Steering Committee.

These and other early initiatives are guided by the tasks identified on p. 9 as Phase 1. An updated report on all developments will be posted on the Web site, www.OradeaJC.com.


Posted: Sept. 25, 2005

The Teleki Street Synagogue, possible home for the proposed learning center, pictured before the Holocaust.

"Local authorities, particularly in former centers of Jewish populations, should be encouraged to find ways to recognize their prewar Jewish communities as well as to commemorate the Holocaust…"
The International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania


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