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The Cultural Institute of the Coral Temple…An Institute deserving its rebirth

– The thought that will preside the rebirth 
– The academic reason of the Institute 
– A way towards recognition of the value and merits

The community leaders of the Romanian Jews left the mark of their personality – with “a focus” on a direction or another – to a certain becoming of the community: Adolf Stern and Wilhelm Filderman represented “the integrating trend”; A.L. Zissu, Benvenisti etc. – “the Zionist-immigration trend”; lacob Niemirower, Al. Safran and, after 1948, Moses Rosen – “the Jewish cultural trend”.

Nicolae Cajal, himself between this great personalities of the community, is convinced by the fact that our moral and human level, but also our relationship with the climate and the times we’re living in, is best expressed at the cultural level, in the effort we make for the affirmation and becoming of the community life.

Because, who will want, over the years, to know the deeds of the Jews of today and here, he will have to come close, realistically, to the cultural work made, to the social-cultural institutions which we perpetuated, even developing them.

Forever, the success of the initiative of all those community leaders depended of the manner in which the intellectuals and the good people of this community engaged themselves in realising the projects: be it social or assistance institutions, or be it religious or cultural institutions.

But this people doesn’t miss today, when it becomes necessary to complete the double “troika” of the existing Jewish cultural institutions (the first -“Realitatea Evreiasca” magazine, “Hasefer” Publishing House, the Centre for the study of the Romanian Jewish history; the second – the museum, the archive, the cultural centre) and, in time – why not? – a new forum, not institutionalised and without “schemes of the posts”, meant to reunite, as in an academy, intellectual forces happy to confront their opinions and contributions, in a domain or another, with the ones of the future members – titular, correspondent or honorific- of the mentioned institution, new and old in the Jewish world.

Because we have in mind the respective “Academy” to continue the valuable tradition of a prestigious community institution from near past, named the Institute of Culture of the Coral Temple (I.C.T.C.), born in 1936, when in Romania lived almost 800,000 Jews, equilibrated settled on a pyramid of age.

Instead today, the local Romanian Jews number less than 10,000 persons, the third age representing 3/5, from whom – it is true – people with high qualifications make the most of them.

In interactive situations, their capital of knowledge, their experiences and creativity make them worthy of our appreciation and prestige. Not to talk about the bridge that could be made with “the middle generation ” and the young one.

It would be a blessed moment to pass away the courier!

There are many motifs to salute the initiative of reactivating I.C.T.C., after a pause of 55 years – a very long one -, in which little remember the beauty and the results of this institution.

Let’s remind them, here and now, but not before mentioning that, between 1995-1996, there was another tentative to revive this institution, through the so-called F.C.E.R. Commission of Culture, which – due to the weak mobilisation, due to the lack of interest from the part of some “founding members” – had a short-lived existence.

Let us pray, with the occasion of the following autumn celebrations, that the new Institute will have a different destiny.

Because, if in the first half of the time passed by from the reaffirmation of the minorities, some creators still trifled with “the global assimilation”, in the second half became more evident that nothing stops the Jew of our time to take part to the globalisation process as member of an ethic group, as the Jewish ethnic group, and not as a “freischwebend”, free-floating outside his source.

In the evening of October 6th, 1936, the Jews from Bucharest, through its cultural elite, inaugurated in the conference room of Coral Temple the activity of the Institute of Culture of the Coral Temple (I.C.T.C.), the highest institute as importance among the co-religionists – and not only for them.

On the inauguration it was revealed that: “Our new cultural institution tries to incorporate in great understanding everything cultural in the country we are born in and our parents.

In the same time, it tries to be more attentive to all that represents creation of the Jewish heart and intelligence in the past and today” (from the inauguration speech of the founder of this institute, M.S. Zentler). So look, that is why!

At the moment of 1936, the Jews from the Romanian countries were deeply engaged in all the branches of the national culture (science, literature, arts, etc) and affirmed, in the same time, their own spirituality and religious and secular tradition. The institutions working to this end were many: I only mention a few, that lasted longer: the cultural society “Saron”, founded in 1913, at the initiative of M. Schwig; the association of the university people “Unirea”, founded in 1909; the cultural circle “Libertatea”, dating back to 1915; at last, the society “Cultura” or different “popular universities” belonging to Romanian Jews Union, to the Student Zionist Society, lodges (“Noua fraternitate”, “Lumina”), the Sefardic association etc. Between the wars, there were forums for organising the history researches of the Jews (the “Sinai” society, the Institute of Jewish-Romanian history). Around the education establishments (religious and secular), but also around the religious institutions, the cultural concerns were daily, with the local Judaism cultivating with great skill the cultural-cultural “symbiosis”.

This situation didn’t excluded deviations on one sense or another, existing not few Jewish creators assimilated, who ignored the Judaism – they indulged themselves in institutions pertaining to the gentiles – and people of culture incapable of surpassing the religious dogma and showed themselves as supporters of isolationism.

The originality of the Institute of Culture of the Coral Temple consisted in the wish to cultivate the science, the letters and arts under the roof and the name of the most modern cultural institution in the country.

Around it there had been founded a series of secular institutions, among the most recent being the library, the museum and the history archive – with its publication – the bulletin of library, museum and history archive (B.B.M.A.) year I, no. 1, January-February 1935.

There was intended the immediate creation of a Judaic Academy of the Coral Temple, destined to become “a desk for disseminating the Jewish thought, the place for carrying through the work of scientific research of our past in Romania, but also of the universal truths which constitute the value of the Judaism ” (B.B.M.A., year II, no. 1, p. 4).

On March 10th 1936, it is signed a constitutive document of the Association of B.M.A.T.C. friends with specific statutes for its transformation in the Judaic Academy of the Coral Temple.

The reason of naming the new institution an “academy” was especially motivated by the fact that until then – not a single Jew had access to the Romanian Academy except Gaster, whose presence was only a honorific one – and only after he, as an exiled person, became famous abroad.

Even it was more and more evident the tentative of the Jewish intellectuals to create their own “Academy” – as long as their most important personalities didn’t have the right to accede to the Romanian Academy -, at last, the name of this new prodigious institution will become the Institute of Culture of the Coral Temple whose statutes in 9 articles mentioned: “the «purpose» is to cultivate and disseminate the literature and art, especially the Jewish ones, and regarding the Romanian Judaism”. (article 1); the publication in the bulletin of the library of the museum and the history archive (B.B.M.A.), of the communications that will be uttered (pct. 2) by the titular, correspondent and honorific members (pct. 5).

The first founding members of I.C.T.C. were: M.S. Zentler, Dr. l. Blum, Dr. I. Brucar, Professor J. Bick, Dr. M.A. Halevy, Dr. O. Kauffman-Cosla, Engineer Max Marcus, Dr. I. Niemirower, G. Silvian, A.L. Zissu (see B.B.M.A., year II, no. 2, December 1936). After that, they will be successively co-opted, in the different scientific reunions held between 1936-1940, another 20 titular members, and between 1945-1948, after the restart of the activity cancelled between 1940-1945, another 20.

The first public act of I.C.T.C., after its founding, was to elect Rabbi Moses Gaster as honorary member. Dr. I. Niemirower, the honorary president of this Institute, made a wide presentation, in his homage speech, of the great merits of “the illustrious Rabbi who in his life united science and faith, Judaic and universal science…”

Doctor Gaster is a celebrity of both Romanian and Israel science” (id). Dr. M.A. Halevy honoured the welcoming in the Institute, in the same meeting, of Horia Carp, and G. Silviu uttered the reception speech for A. Toma, E. Furtuna, and E. Relgis.

One by one, there will be received in the Institute – until 1940 and then between 1945-1948 – personalities of the Romanian-Jewish intellectuality, culminating with Chief Rabbi Dr. Al. Safran, in the meeting that took place on January 19th 1945, and with Dr. W. Filderman, president of F.C.E.R., on October 7th 1946.

From the word of lawyer A. Schwefelberg on the occasion of including among the titular members of the last mentioned, we are citing: “This is the place to underline the good thought that presided the founding of this «Institut». Created in moments when the Jews were persecuted de facto and then de jure, excluded from the cultural life of the country, it represents a kind of Academy of the Romanian Jews…

But the permanent reason of this «Institute» is, of course, that that the works of its members have a specific Jewish interest – which not excludes at all their universal value – specialisation which, if sometimes reduces the extension of these works, permits in some cases an increase in profoundness. All the academies were accused of having members of an uneven value and that some values, left outside, can surpass the others already inside.

This normal imperfection, especially with the «spontaneous generation» of such an institution, doesn’t diminish its importance and utility, as much as the fact that the «Nobel» Prize is not awarded to all who might deserve it (and who, perhaps, don’t compete), doesn’t diminish its value. The acceptance of Dr. Filderman in this «Institute» is recognition of the value of his writings…”

Examining, after all those years, of the reception speeches, as well as of the answers and communications uttered on those occasions, increases our sorrow of not reproducing them, along with the themes disputed in the ordinary meetings in an ad-hoc anthology that would emanate not just the flavour of a period, but also the desire of the Jewish-Romanian intellectuality to affirm its specificity for themselves and for others.

As I said in many occasions, the Jewish intellectuals adopted in the modern society different approaches towards their Judaic roots: on the extreme were the ones that rejected it or acted dogmatic and fundamentalist in respect to it, rejecting every form of aculturation.

But between extremes, we have a wide range of positive attitudes. Those grouped around I.C.T.C. demonstrated the equilibrium between the innovation and tradition in the contemporary Judaism.

But there still are today Jewish creators that reject the Judaism, incapable of understanding the relationship between tradition and innovation. But we must not forget that there are limits that really close horizons, others – apparent delimitation that leave room to the infinite.

The Judaism represented, along with Greek civilisation and Christianity, a ferment of the European culture, and the Jews and their specific culture (here used in the widest sense, the ethnologic one) in contemporary times, a ferment for what it is called today… globalisation, meaning the «universality» of the values of the human individuality. (Harry Kuller)

Moments in the activity of the Institute of Culture in the years 1938, 1944, 1945, and 1946:

a) During the year 1938: 
January, 27th – the celebration of M. Schwarzfeld, on the occasion of his 80th birthday (communications: Dr. I. Niemirower, Dr. M. A. Halevy, A. Luca-Axelrad, J. Aberman) 
March, 10th – communications and commentaries to works – Dr. I. Brucar, Dr. M. A. Halevy, A. Axelrad-Luca
March, 31st – the celebration of Dr. I. Brucar, on the occasion of his 50th birthday (communications – Dr. O. Kauffman-Cosla, M.S. Zentler, Dr. I. Niemirower, Professor C. Radulescu-Motru, M. Schwarzfeld, Dr. Th. Lowenstein 
May, 31st – the importance of I.C.T.C. (communications – H. Carp, Dr. M. A. Halevy, M. lancu, Dr. I. Brucar).

b) During the years 1944-1946: 
· November, 10th 1944 – resuming of the I.C.T.C. meetings 
· January 28th 1945 – debating the program of activity 
· March 25 1945 – the celebration of writer Eugen Relgis (communications – Dr. Al. Safran, Dr. J. Aberman) 
· May 20th 1945 – the reception of new members: Dr. L. Mayersohn; Doctor docent M. Cajal (communications about the members who passed away: H. Carp, M. Schwarzfeld, B. Kanner – uttered by A. Axelrad, J. Aberman, I. Grubea) 
· January 10th, 1946 – M. Marcus, president of I.C.T.C., a speech for the reception of Engineer A. Rosenzweig (communications – l. Grubea) 
· February 28th, 1946 – reception and communications: Dr. S. Bainglass, I. Grubea 
· March 17th, 1946 – L. Mayersohn presents doctor docent M. Goldstein – the man and the work 
· April 7th, 1946 – commemoration of 160 years from the death of M. Mendelssohn (communications – M. S. Zentler; M. Marcus; Professor G. Oprescu; minister M. Ralea; Dr. Al. Safran; J. Aberman) 
· May 3rd, 1946 – the reception of Doctor Sig. Cohl (communications – Dr. L. Mayersohn) 
· May 12th, 1946 – the reception of S. Gregore (communications – Dr. Al. Safran, S. Gregore).


Centuries of living together

“Every generation left a sign of its passing…”(E. Religis)

“The way of treating Jews represents a kind of political and social barometer, with which one can establish, with some exactness for all the countries, the intellectual and moral state of every period” (Moses Gaster)

“…our instinct and desire to live as Jews made as act with a renewed intensity in spiritual and religious domains. We wanted to rise our children, to form our youngsters as we had the certitude of duration. It was the unshakeable proof of our faith in the eternity of the Jewish people” (Alexandru Safran)Centuries of living together

In the Romanian countries, the presence of Jews is signalled from old times, especially at the princely courts, or as tradesmen and even farmers.

The historian Carol Iancu reminds – in his volume “The Jews from Romania (1866­1919) from exclusion to emancipation “­ that a rise in the Jewish population in Romania has been signalled in the middle of the XVII century, and especially at the beginning of the XIX century, as confirmed by the chart of prince Caragea (1817).

I.B. Brociner would prove, based on old documents ­ mentioned by Dr. M. Beck in an article published in “Israelite Magazine ” (1910) ­, that “it must have been Jews, both in Moldavia and Walachia, before the moment when those appeared mention in history as well-established principalities”.

The oldest news came from the XV-XVI centuries, mentioning dates regarding “a killing that took place in Bucharest” (Abraham Feller, “Toladot”), and in the XVIII century, the destruction of some synagogues in Bucharest.

The rule of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the first prince of the united principalities, really meant an important moment in the lives of Jews in the principalities, who were given civil and political rights, favourable conditions to the indigenous or naturalised Jews.

We remind the attitude of the great political Mihail Kogalniceanu, but also of some legislators and political and cultural personalities.

Thus, G. Costaforu had the courage to mention: “…if we ask them things, we should give them rights “.

Also, the beginning of the history of the Jewish communities in Romania – as it was said by the late Savin Solomon, our contributor, in articles published in “Revista Cultului Mozaic”­ is linked especially with the existence of the religious institutions, which were and still are not only praying houses, but also places to study the history of the Jewish people. It is one of the reasons for which we open this mini-monograph with the history of some religious institutions.

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