Jewish Community Archives in Brasov, part III

I posted here and here about some of the material held in the archives of Brasov’s contemporary Jewish community. Today’s post will be a summary of the rest of their holdings.

First, apart from papers, the library contains numerous prayer books and paintings of past presidents. Above is a painting of the first president of the community, Aron Löbl, one of the founding members of the community (statutes signed in 1826) and president until 1851. It appears that the 1826 statutes exist in original, they were quoted in a recent publication, but unfortunately they cannot be located at the present time.

The oldest document other than prayer books and the painting is a book recording the minutes of board meetings, beginning in 1866 (see photos). The minutes books continue without interruption until about 1900, after which many years are missing. The information inside represents a veritable treasure chest for researchers looking at community life and construction of identity in the second half of the 19th century. The Brasov community underwent three waves of assimilation: records until about 1900 are kept in German, after which they are kept in Hungarian, and beginning around World War II, the language switches to Romanian. Though the language of record was often mandated by the ruling state, there was still a degree of personal choice in this multilingual region.

The community never assimilated 100% to one linguistic group or another – mixed in throughout the “Hungarian” period are German documents such as charts for determining the corresponding dates for solar and lunar calendars (for the years 1800-2000!) (photo) and a 1941 invitation to High Holiday services, which is only in German (photo). Perhaps most emblematic of the community’s fluid linguistic identity, inherent multilingualism, and border location are the trilingual requests to register as community members from the 1920s (photo).

Other documents of value to researchers are the numerous record books from the Jewish elementary school. Particularly fascinating is a book containing all school inspections beginning in the early 1920s (after Transylvania became part of Romania) and going to the 1950s. The Romanian government was intent on nationalizing its new minority populations as quickly as possible (see yesterday’s post as well) and the reports reveal official attitudes towards these populations, Romanianization measures taken, and the degree of cultural assimilation prior to the change in government. For example, the inspector who wrote the excerpt above (from 1922) is displeased with the fact that instruction takes place in Hungarian and German and expresses great astonishment that the nationality of some of the children is listed as Hungarian rather than Jewish. He also notes that by “keeping the school’s record books in Hungarian, the language of a foreign state, the educators of the school are put in a poor patriotic light.”