R O J E C T S
F E A T U R E S
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.
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:
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.
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.
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).
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
Romanian Jewish Community
Romanian Authorities, local and national
Educational Institutions in the U.S. and Israel
Oradea's Religious, Academic, Artistic and Business Leaders
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
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…"
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