Bucharest is home to one of the oldest and most important Jewish communities in Romania. Sephardi Jews arrived here in the 16th century. Around the beginning of the 17th century, during the Cossack uprising, the first Ashkenazi Jews came from Ukraine and Poland. A sacred brotherhood, a charity box and a prayer house were registered in 1715.
Some of the synagogues built during the 18th and 19th century also featured ritual baths (mikve). By 1832, 10 holy houses had been established. Their number would increase significantly before the end of the century, almost every one having its own Rabbi and cult performers.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish population in Bucharest numbered 40,000 people with 70 temples and synagogues. From this great number, only a few survived the brutality of history – fascism and communism – and two still serve the city”s present Jewish community.
Museum of the Jewish History
Housed in the magnificently preserved Great Synagogue (1850) in the city”s historically Jewish neighborhood, this museum traces the history of Romania”s Jewish population. The displays include a collection of books written, published, illustrated or translated by Romanian Jews, a small collection of paintings of and by Romanian Jews (many of the same artists” works hang in the National Museum of Art) and memorabilia from Jewish theatres including the State Jewish Theatre.
Built in 1857, the red brick temple (noted for its magnificent Moorish turrets, choir loft and organ) is the largest active synagogue in Bucharest.
In a busy side street going towards Piata Amzei from Magheru Boulevard stands the only other functioning synagogue in the city apart from the Choral Temple. Services take place at Sabbath hour on Friday and Saturday evenings.