THE JEWISH CEMETERY
The Jewish cemetery in Alba Iulia is the oldest in Transylvania and among the oldest in Romania. Its beginnings are related to the construction of the bastion fortress, the oldest document that certifies it is dating back to 1752. But even before, the Jews had a special status in Alba Iulia. Prince Gabriel Bethlen granted privileges in 1623 and 1625, including the right to live in Alba Iulia, to trade, to wear their specific garments. For more than two centuries (until 1840), Alba Iulia was the only city in Transylvania where Jews had the right to live, but not to have property. Thus, the Jewish community in Alba Iulia became the largest in Transylvania. This was also important in economic terms in Alba Iulia. The first businesses in the town, towards the end of the nineteenth century, were initiated by the Jews: the mill, the alcohol factory, a slaughterhouse and the power plant.
In the twentieth century, however, the number of Jews has fallen more and more, with only 20 people at the 2011 census.
According to recent statistics, there are 810 Jewish cemeteries registered in Romania, of which more than 750 are in settlements where there are no longer Jews.
Another record of the Jewish cemetery in Alba Iulia is that it has been used continuously from the 18th century to the present. It was also used by the Sephardic (Spanish rite) Jewish community and the Ashkenazi Jews (from the German influence area, Yiddish speakers). The cemetery includes 2038 graves and 1960 funerary monuments. Stilistically, most of them contain baroque or neoclassic elements, with specific Jewish culture (ritual washing, menorah, David’s star etc.), but also various other symbols, such as willow, frequent on late sumptuous monuments. The funerary inscriptions have preserved exclusively the Hebrew language until the middle of the nineteenth century, in order to contain later German and Hungarian texts engraved on the back of the monuments. Such things also show how Jewish society evolved in step with the dawn of modernity, from conservative tradition to a more open society. In fact, any cemetery is a mirror of the evolution of the community it represents.
Scientific consultant: Tudor Roșu, PhD historian
Translation made by: Ciprian Dobra, PR expert
The centuries-old cemetery in Vasile Alecsandri Street is an integral part of the Israelite community in Alba Iulia. It is the oldest in Transylvania and among the oldest in Romania. A record of the cemetery discovered in Alba Iulia suggests it has existed for nearly 300 years. In addition, it was used by both the Sephardic Jewish community of Spanish rite and the Ashkenazi Jews in the area of German influence.
The sacred dimension of the Jewish cemetery is extremely important. As a result, its monuments cannot be affected by human intervention and the tombs can no longer be used again.
One of the most important funerary monuments is the tomb of Rabbi Ezekiel Paneth who built the first brick wall synagogue in Transylvania in 1840.
The funeral stones of the Jewish cemetery are particularly interesting. Not only are they unique due to their shape and size, but also because of the inscriptions, ornamentation and symbols painted into the stone by the original craftsmen.
The cemetery includes 2038 graves and 1960 funerary monuments. Stylistically, most of them contain baroque or neoclassic elements with specific Jewish cultural motifs, such as the ritual washing, the Star of David, and the olive tree.
In contrast to the traditional simplicity of Jewish graves, the most prosperous families in Alba Iulia built monumental crypts in the early 1900s. Their construction reflects the integration of rich Jews into the Hungarian community of Alba Iulia.
The funerary inscriptions were given exclusively in Hebrew until the middle of the nineteenth century, when they were eventually translated into Hungarian and German texts, which were engraved on the backs of the monuments. These updates reflect how Jewish society evolved in step with the dawn of modernity, from conservative tradition to a more open society.