The Artifacts Collection
Artifacts in the Synagogue
The Tailors’ Synagogue, Hârlău, Romania
The façade of the Torah Ark of the Tailors’ Synagogue of Hârlău consists of a number of fragments that form two tiers of decoration depicting the theme of “musical instruments” set in foliage. The façade arrived at Yad Vashem in pieces and was reconstructed. The doors of the Ark are painted green and are inscribed with the passage “Our Father, Our King, open the gates of Heaven to our prayers”. Other details on the Torah Ark are hands with fingers spread in the fashion of the priestly blessing, a peacock, and a crowned shield. Recently discovered photographs of the synagogue interior from 1962 before the synagogue was closed, show the Torah Ark when it stood in all its glory.
At the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries, Hârlău had a vibrant and established Jewish community. Five synagogues served the community and served as a focus for assorted community activities. In 1910 over two hundred merchants and craftsmen were active in Hârlău, among them tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, carpenters and others. As the community flourished, anti-Semitic persecution intensified until nearly half of the community left the city, though the Jewish population remained at the same level because many of the Jews from surrounding villages moved to Hârlău.
During the Second World War, in the autumn of 1940, thousands of German soldiers were stationed in Hârlău and the mayor actively supported organized persecution of the Jews. This policy and repeated damage and theft of Jewish property caused many Jews to close their stores and flee, effectively bringing the economic life of the town to a standstill.
With the fall of the Iron Guard party in Romania, the leaders of the Jewish community managed to bribe the new mayor and the Chief of Police to agree to protect the Jews who returned to the town. This agreement saved most of the Jews of Hârlău until the town’s liberation by the Red Army in the spring of 1944. Today there are only twenty Jews in Hârlău and only the Great Synagogue remains.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection,
Donated by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, Bucharest