My grandfather was born in Iasi (pronounced “Yash”), Romania. He came to the United States with his parents, Max and Sophie, and his older sister Natalie, as a little boy. Max and Sophie had two more American-born sons after their emigration.

In 1941 the Jewish community in Iasi lost many of its members to a terrible pogrom. Soon after that, the rest of the Jews of Iasi were sent to die in Nazi camps.* What had been a center of European Jewish learning and culture now has a tiny Jewish population and two synagogues.

This knowledge was a shadow over my childhood. My father never spoke of it, but it haunted him. He had been too young to fight in WWII as his brothers had. Oh, how he wanted to.

I will be visiting Romania in May on a pilgrimage tour with the Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council. It just so happens that I will be flying into Bucharest with a few days to spare before being expected in Sighisoara to travel from there to my congregation’s partner church in Kadacs, Transylvania.

Iasi is a 7-8 hour train ride from Bucharest, but I have decided that I must go. Through an organization called Couch Surfing, I will be spending three nights in the guest room of a Romanian family.

What do I expect to see, to feel?

Nothing. I have no expectations. I am going simply to see what sites I can see related to my relatives’ existence and to pay my respects. I want to stand where they stood. I want to say to them, “I came to meet you, even if in spirit.” I want to read them the long list of names of their Weinstein kin who live today in the United States.

I want to read it twice, and to tell them that another little one is coming in June.


*This is apparently not true. The Romanians found their own solution to the “Jewish problem” independently of the Germans and murdered their Jewish citizens locally. I am grateful (?) to PB reader Bill Baar for referring me to Radu Ioanid’s chronicle of these horrors: The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944. http://www.amazon.com/Holocaust-Romania-Destruction-Antonescu-1940-1944/dp/1566632560.

4 Replies to ““Yash””

  1. Read Radu Ioanid’s: The Holocaust in Romania: The Destruction of Jews and Gypsies Under the Antonescu Regime, 1940-1944. http://www.amazon.com/Holocaust-Romania-Destruction-Antonescu-1940-1944/dp/1566632560

    For some reason there is a copy of it in my Church’s lending library. Someone dropped it off… brutal stuff to read because so much of it is about Romanians savagely turning on their Jewish neighbors without prodding.

    I never read the whole book. [Bill, “thanks” is an awkward word to use right now, but I am grateful for this reference. I just spent awhile on Amazon reading reviews of Ioanid’s book and have already learned a lot. I don’t know if I could bear to read the book itself; the reviews are sickening and heartbreaking enough. – PB]

  2. That’s just really inspirational, PB! That sounds like a spirit quest for you… I hope you connect with your history in ways you don’t even expect… and then blog about it! 😉

  3. Thank you PB – all very touching. ALL FOUR of our grandparents lived in the Jewish pogrom on the outskirts of Iasi, and immigrated to NYC in 1900. We have learned that they were Sephardi who themselves had emigrated from Spain in 1492 (part of the Exodus that was invited/permitted by Iasi to re-settle there) to escape certain execution in the Reign of Terror of Queen Isabella’s Inquisition. (See Nobel Prize-winner Elias Canetti for an alternate deep and relevant trajectory.) Our current ‘trail-tracing’ indicates that they came originally from Catalonia (well-established Jewish enclaves in area of Barcelona), while Canetti’s family escaped from further south – between Valencia and Cuenca, but not to Iasi.

    *** P.S. What was his (and Max’s) last name??

    [Hi Roger,
    Thanks for writing! Max was Weinstein-Bacal. Or maybe just Weinstein or just Bacal. We’re not sure. – PB

  4. I am Roger’s cousin and share half his ancestry. It was interesting to read your blog. Best wishes for a successful quest in Rumania.

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